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Perfect Casting Helps Make ‘The Comey Show’ A Hit

Deadline logo Deadline 6/9/2017 Lisa de Moraes
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TV news outlets still are happily gnawing over James Comey’s riveting performance before the Senate Intel Committee looking into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. Late-night hosts have taped the day’s programs and are about to get their crack at Comey’s performance, which had held the country captive for nearly three hours.

The Comey Show was a barn-burner. It had Russian hookers, and a murdered saint. Comey called Trump a liar. Trump called Comey a leaky liar. A good time was had by all.

Right-wing news outlets pronounced Trump the hands-down winner.  More liberal media called it a very bad day for Trump and a big win for Comey, handing him special-merit badges for his “Lordy, I hope there are tapes!” gag, and for explaining he had not wanted to talk to reporters camped out at the end of his driveway after his firing because “I worried that it would be like feeding seagulls at the beach.”

Fantasy casting already is underway, with Kevin Smith suggesting Nathan Fillion is the only possible person to play Comey in the inevitable premium-cable movie, while others favored Kyle Chandler, Vince Vaughn, or, yes, Tom Cruise.

Pundits who compared this to the Watergate and the McCarthy hearings did not oversell. The former FBI director’s mesmerizing account of his interactions with Trump already had been forecast to be the stuff, ratings-wise, of the M*A*S*H finale and latter-day Super Bowls rumored to have broken sewage systems in major markets as viewers glued to their seats throughout the proceeding finally all got up simultaneously to relieve themselves. It was so big the broadcast networks dumped their daytime fare to cover. So big that Nielsen plans to issue a collective audience stat on Friday, an exercise usually reserved for presidential inaugurations and State of the Union Addresses among Washington-set events.

In maybe the most stunning revelation, Comey revealed that, after he was sacked and Trump tweeted at him ominously…

James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!

…Comey woke up at 2 in the morning and realized leaking to the press was just the right touch, turning over memos he’d written about his conversations with Trump to a pal, so they could be leaked to the New York Times. Comey testified he’d hoped that might trigger appointment of a Special Counsel to investigate.

Walking up to Thursday’s The Comey Show, Trump flew to Cincinnati to celebrate Infrastructure Week on Wednesday. While Trump had his back turned, Comey dramatically announced to the world that he had been fired because Trump had demanded his loyalty after informing him meaningfully that loads of people wanted his job, and had pressed him to drop a probe into Trump’s former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, and had repeatedly pressured him to publicly declare Trump was not under investigation – and, most tantalizingly, had insisted to Comey he did not hang out with Russian hookers. Comey pulled off this stunt with flair, asking the intel committee to release to the public the remarks he’d send them that were billed as his opening comments for Thursday’s committee appearance.

But Comey chose not to perform those seven gripping pages at the top of Thursday’s The Comey Show. Instead, looking as attractively haggard as Jimmy Stewart in his big scene in Mr Smith Goes To Washington, the ousted FBI director opened with a passionate message: In sacking him, Trump “chose to defame me and the FBI saying the organization was in disarray and poorly led” and that “he had lost confidence in its leader.”

“Those were lies, plain and simple…I’m so sorry the FBI workforce had to hear that,” Comey added, ever more Capra-esquely.

“I want the American people to know this truth: The FBI is honest, the FBI is strong and the FBI is, and always will be, independent,” concluded the guy Trump called a “showboat” and “grandstander” to Lester Holt – and a “nut job” to the Russians, when he had them over to the Oval Office.

Saying he would like to take a moment to address his former FBI colleagues – since Trump had sacked him while he was recruiting at FBI HQ in Los Angeles and not allowed the chance to say goodbye to them in person – Comey said into the TV cameras: “I am sorry I did not get the chance to say goodbye to you properly.” He called his service with them, “the honor of my life.”

“I will miss it for the rest of my life. Thank you for standing watch, and thank you so much for doing so much good for this country.”

In one of the most highfalutin moments of the made-for-TV testimony, Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) asked Comey if, when a President of the United States in the Oval Office says something like “I hope” or “I suggest” in re knocking off the Flynn probe, “do you take that as a directive?”

“Yes, yes, it rings in my ear as kind of ‘Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?’ ” Comey responded, to the delight of King, who chimed in, “I was just going to quote that in 1170, December 29, Henry II said, ‘Who will rid me of this meddlesome priest?’ and the next day he was killed, Thomas Becket.”

“That’s exactly the same situation,” King added enthusiastically. “We’re thinking along the same lines,” he beamed.

After Thursday’s testimony wrapped, Trump’s personal lawyer had held a presser to call Comey a leaky liar, and called for Comey to be investigated over his having leaked what he insisted were privileged docs to the press. Marc Kasowitz also insisted the New York Times began quoting leaked intel before Trump’s tweet, though CNN fact-checked that one and declared it Fake News.

And, anyway, Comey got in the final punch of Thursday when, during the closed hearing with the committee that followed his public testimony, the senators learned of an alleged undisclosed third meeting between Trump’s Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Russians.

Sessions, you’ll recall, recused himself from Russia probes after failing to disclose two other meetings with Russians that occurred when he was part of Trump’s election effort.

During his public testimony, Comey took some heat for not blowing the whistle when Trump buttonholed him and said he’d like the Flynn probe dropped. Comey said he had gone to the AG, but had gotten stiffed, declining to discuss Sessions further.

In the closed hearings, senators learned the bureau is investigating whether Sessions met with Russians a third time, based on intercepted Russia-to-Russia communications.

The Comey Show ended with a bang as news outlets began describing Sessions in terms of being Trump’s key “problematic” figure.

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