In November 1170, Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, excommunicated three clergy who crowned Henry II at York. It was a serious breach of ecclesiastical protocol, that held only Becket could coronate a king.
Upon hearing of Becket’s actions, Henry reportedly said “Will nobody rid me of this meddlesome priest?”
Since the words of the king, regardless of their context, were interpreted as a royal command, four knights rode to Canterbury to bring Becket to account for his actions. When Becket refused, the knights killed him. Henry learned a powerful lesson.
Donald Trump told then-FBI Director Comey, after dismissing his own boss and every senior advisor from the room, “I hope you can let this go,” about investigating Michael Flynn, and the entire Russia investigation.
Comey said he took that and other phone calls with Trump exactly as King Henry was interpreted by the four knights. It was a command. But it was an improper command.
This put Comey into an impossible situation. (“That’s a nice career you’ve got there, it would be a shame for you to lose it.”) Eventually, Comey was going to get to the point where he gets fired. He must have seen this.
For every tweet, remark, nuance, or statement Trump makes, many of them have the effect of royal commands. This totally undermines Trump’s arguments about courts using his campaign statements, tweets, and various offhand remarks against him.
Comey’s testimony about the “meddlesome priest” may have more far-reaching effects than just spilling how much he mistrusts the president.
[EDIT: In order to assuage the pedant class who pointed out it’s Henry II not Henry VIII, I offer mea culpa. I got it right this time, and the image is Thomas Becket. I must brush up on my history of English kings.]