Private citizen James Comey gave everyone with a stake in Thursday’s Senate hearing a certain measure of what they wanted.
Seasoned and direct, Comey delivered testimony that resonated with the broad-based impression of President Donald Trump as truth-challenged and heedless.
Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Mark Warner (D-Virginia) asked the former FBI director early on why he took notes on presidential meetings.
“The nature of the person,” he replied in part.
“I was honestly concerned that he might lie about the nature of our meeting, and so I thought it really important to document.”
And in the end, Comey said, the president lied about him, and about the bureau itself — despite repeatedly praising the job he was doing.
Comey called Trump’s Twitter bluff suggesting at least one of their conversations had been recorded.
“Lordy, I hope there are tapes,” he testified.
But while Democrats and Trump critics soaked up his hard-hitting account, fans of the president expressed relief and even claimed vindication.
They stressed that Comey did not hand the Congress a fully-grown, ready-made criminal case against the president.
That’s no small thing, given how all has gone lately at the White House.
Comey not only confirmed telling Trump he was not the target of FBI investigation during his tenure, the career law man stopped short of claiming to know the president colluded with Russia during the campaign or obstructed justice.
Republicans could also play up Comey’s account of how the actions of Loretta Lynch, as attorney general under President Barack Obama, bothered him during his investigation of Hillary Clinton’s e-mails.
He said it made him “queasy” when Lynch told him not to call the e-mail probe an investigation but a “matter.”
“That language tracked the way the campaign was talking about the FBI’s work and that’s concerning,” he said.
It made for one dramatic display. But media skeptics got a piece of the action, too. Comey heatedly denied one New York Times story from February about phone records and intercepted calls allegedly showing certain Trump-Russia contacts.
And those inclined to see Comey as a clever bureaucratic player got to hear him tell of how he got a friend to leak a story about his written meeting memos.
“I thought that might prompt the appointment of a special counsel,” he said.
Indeed, a special counsel is now conducting that FBI probe.
At the same time Comey reinforced what seems to be a bi-partisan consensus view in the Congress (though not at the White House) that Russian meddling in last year’s election amounts to a serious matter still worth exploring.
“There should be no fuzz on this whatsoever,” he said. “The Russians interfered in our election during the 2016 cycle. They did with purpose. They did it with sophistication. They did it with overwhelming technical efforts.”
As political drama, it had something for everyone.