On Thursday afternoon, 19.5 million Americans tuned in to see former FBI Director James Comey’s blockbuster testimony in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee—about the same number of people who tuned in to Game 2 of the NBA Finals.
And golly, Comey didn’t disappoint. The 6-foot-8 intelligence expert accused President Trump of lying repeatedly and reiterated the already reported contents of the Comey memos, alleging that the president pressed him on pledging his loyalty during a tense closed-door meeting, pressured him into ending the bureau’s investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, lied about the FBI being in “disarray” and losing “confidence” in Comey, and ultimately terminated him over his reluctance to dial down the Trump-Russia investigation.
“Now, it was undeniably dramatic, but the notion that Comey was fired because of the Russia investigation isn’t exactly new or controversial. It is easy to forget that Trump himself suggested as much in an interview just a month ago,” said John Oliver, referring to Trump’s sit-down interview with NBC News’ Lester Holt.
Yes, the Last Week Tonight host addressed the bombshell Comey testimony on his program Sunday night. Oliver found himself taken aback by the following Comey line about Trump: “I was honestly concerned that he might lie about the nature of our meeting and so I thought it really important to document.” “He is describing his meeting with the president like someone who thought he was about to be murdered,” joked Oliver.
But “the most tantalizing” aspects of Comey’s testimony, Oliver asserted, came when Comey said he couldn’t discuss whether he felt Trump was guilty of colluding with Russia “in an open setting,” and how Attorney General Jeff Sessions was “going to” recuse himself because the FBI was aware of “facts that I can’t discuss in an open setting that would make his continued engagement in a Russia investigation problematic.”
Meanwhile, President Trump bizarrely claimed “total and complete vindication” while at the same time arguing that Comey lied during his testimony.
“Just think about what he’s saying there: Trump is essentially claiming that he’s been vindicated by testimony that he’s claiming is false,” said Oliver. “At this point, he’s become a walking logical paradox. I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if he just starts tweeting things like, ‘I just traveled back in time and killed myself. VERY UNFAIR!’”
Oliver marveled at how even Fox News found Comey’s testimony “very damaging” to President Trump. But the “most infuriating” and “truly pathetic” reaction to it, he said, came courtesy of House Speaker Paul Ryan.
“The president’s new at this—he’s new to government—and so he probably wasn’t steeped in the long-running protocols that establish the relationships between DOJ, FBI, and White Houses,” said Ryan. “He’s just new to this.”
“There are so many problems with what he just said, but the main one is that there are undeniable times when the excuse ‘he’s new to this’ is fair: If you work at a daycare and on your first day you mix up the three Olivias, no big deal. You’re new here. But if on your first day you set up a Baby Fight Club, that is not OK and you should have known that before you started,” joked Oliver. “And a president attempting to shut down an investigation into a subordinate is pretty firmly the latter option here, and you want their supervisors to look into that—even if the first rule of Baby Fight Club is you can’t talk about Baby Fight Club in an open setting.”