Maine Senator Angus King asked Mr. Comey this question: “You said [Trump] said, ‘I hope you will hold back on [the investigation] of this.’ But when a president of the United States in the Oval Office says something like ‘I hope’ or ‘I suggest’ or ‘would you,’ do you take that as a directive?” Mr. Comey responded: “Yes. Yes, it rings in my ear as kind of, ‘Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?’” Senator King answered: “I was just going to quote that in 1170 [of] Dec. 29 Henry II said, ‘Who will rid me of this meddlesome priest?’ And then the next day he was killed. Thomas A Becket. That’s exactly the same situation. We’re thinking along the same lines.”
And so a little background: Henry II was the King of England from 1154 until his death. Thomas Becket was his best friend, and chancellor (being appointed in 1155). In 1162 Becket was named Archbishop of Canterbury (while it was still a Catholic office). Henry assumed his best friend would chose loyalty to him over loyalty to Pope Alexander III.
He was wrong. Becket disagreed with Henry on several occasions which caused great anger in the king. In 1170 Henry famously cried: “Will no one rid me of this troublesome priest?” Four of those present interpreted this as a directive to kill Becket. On December 29, 1170 they killed Becket.
Mr. Comey no doubt used this image to interpret his conversation with President Trump on February 14th. By all accounts Mr. Trump asked Attorney General Jeff Sessions and aide Jared Kushner to leave the room, and then said this to Mr. Comey: “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”
Mr. Comey did not see this as “I hope” but instead as “You will.” The fact that Mr. Comey was later fired makes his case stronger. He felt he was being ordered to stop the investigation in the same way that King Henry’s knights believed they were acting on orders from their king.
As a footnote, Mr. Trump’s son appeared on Fox News and said this: “When he tells you to do something, guess what? There’s no ambiguity in it, there’s no, ‘Hey, I’m hoping.'” (You can read the article in the Washington Post).
I doubt Mr. Comey will become a saint as St. Thomas Becket did, but I loved his reference.