Winners and Losers from James Comey's testimony

Chris Cillizza, CNN Editor-at-large | 6/8/2017, 4:20 p.m.
In the highest-profile Congressional testimony in decades, fired FBI Director James Comey spent nearly three hours detailing his interactions with ...
Fired FBI chief James Comey appears before the Senate intelligence committee on Thursday, June 8, 2017. POOL

(CNN) -- In the highest-profile Congressional testimony in decades, fired FBI Director James Comey spent nearly three hours detailing his interactions with President Donald Trump -- a forced and awkward relationship defined, according to Comey, by a series of lies told about him by Trump.

We live-blogged the whole thing here. And I wrote some analysis of the debate over whether Trump is a liar, as Comey said, here. But I also jotted down a bunch of notes about the good, the bad and the just plain strange -- John McCain, I am looking directly at you -- from Comey's testimony in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

My best and worst are below.


  • James Comey: You could tell the former FBI director had done this before and had prepared relentlessly for today's hearing. He was relaxed -- or as relaxed as you can be in a setting like this one -- and low-key. He was the textbook "Just the facts, Ma'am" G-man that we're used to seeing in the movies. He seemed entirely ready for all the questions thrown at him. And while he made Trump's life -- and Republicans' by extension -- much more difficult, he also gave Republicans something to seize on with his description of former Attorney General Loretta Lynch's insistence that he call the Clinton email investigation a "matter." (More on that below.). If you hated Comey heading into this hearing, you left it feeling that way. But, for people more on the fence about him -- and his role both in the 2016 election and after it -- Comey did himself some good. Or at least he didn't do himself any damage.

  • Richard Burr/Mark Warner: Bipartisanship is a very hard thing to come by these days in Washington (or anywhere). But, Burr, the Republican chairman of the Intelligence Committee and Warner, the Democratic vice chair, ran a hearing that was the epitome of what people want from their government: Good, hard questions from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to a former public official. Listening to their opening statements, closing statements and the questions they asked in between, you'd be hard-pressed to know which one of Burr and Warner was a Republican and which was a Democrat. Plus, as a bonus for people like me who have to write on all this stuff, the hearing started on time and ended early!

  • Angus King: The Maine Senator isn't all that well-known to people outside of his home state, where he spent eight years as governor before coming to Washington in 2013. This hearing should change that. King was the single best questioner of Comey in either party -- he's an independent who caucuses with Democrats in the Senate -- as he repeatedly elicited substantive and informative answers on the former FBI director's meetings with Trump as well as, by my count, three times Comey claimed Trump didn't tell the truth about them.

  • Daniel Richman: Comey said that, upon hearing of Trump's tweet that recordings might exist of their conversations, he reached out to a longtime friend at Columbia Law School to make sure that some of the notes of his conversations with Trump leaked out -- and, Comey hoped, triggered the appointment of a special counsel. That Columbia Law professor? Daniel Richman. And, yes, of course, the Columbia Law School website collapsed almost as soon as Comey mentioned it. Congrats, Daniel Richman! You are officially the most famous law professor in the country! (For today, at least.)

  • "No fuzz": Before today, I had never, ever heard this phrase before. But it's clearly one of Comey's favorites, as he used it at least twice as he sought to make sure a point was very clear. I typed "no fuzz" into Google. It's apparently not a terribly common phrase but it is a band!

  • Thomas Becket: Comey and Angus King found common ground on a famous quote from Henry II about Becket, who was then the Archbishop of Canterbury: "Will no one rid of me of this turbulent priest?" Becket was murdered by Henry's men soon after. (Comey was comparing that situation to Trump's "hope" that the FBI director could find a way to drop the investigation into fired national security director Michael Flynn.) Of course, Becket wound up dead so maybe he's not a "winner" in the traditional sense. But he was later venerated as a Saint, so he's got that going for him.