The reprieves could well be temporary, but Donald Trump survived the day. Three developments aided his cause.
First, in a prepared statement for a Senate hearing, former FBI director James Comey added no new sensational details in regard to interference by the President with his work. He confirmed, as Mr. Trump has claimed, that he told the President he was not under investigation on the controversy surrounding Russian interference in last fall's presidential election.
Second, two top intelligence officials let Mr. Trump off the hook in Senate testimony by refusing to confirm or deny reports that the President asked them to intervene with Mr. Comey to get him to back away from an investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn. If confirmed, the Washington Post reports would have fuelled a case for obstruction of justice against Mr. Trump. "I don't believe it's appropriate for me to address that in a public session," said director of national intelligence Daniel Coats, one of the officials. He and National Security Agency director Michael Rogers indicated they didn't feel they were under pressure from the White House.
Third was the choice by the President of a new FBI director, Christopher Wray. Many feared Mr. Trump would name a political partisan who would blatantly do the bidding of the President. But his choice of Mr. Wray was viewed as reasonable.
On the Comey statement, Mr. Trump chose to express satisfaction. His lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, said, "The President feels completely and totally vindicated. He is eager to continue to move forward with his agenda."
That was taking things way too far. Mr. Comey will be peppered with questions by senators at a hearing Thursday where much new and potentially incriminating facts could emerge.
Striking in the Comey statement is the degree to which it reveals Mr. Trump trying to meddle with the legal system. He attempted to put pressure on the FBI director to be a team player, to carry the President's message. There were nine separate conversations. Mr. Comey makes it clear how uncomfortable the President made him feel, how it was clear Mr. Trump did not appreciate the independence an FBI director is supposed to have.
No doubt senators will try to draw Mr. Comey out on this on Thursday.
At one point Mr. Trump wanted to know from Mr. Comey what could be done to "lift the cloud" over him from the investigation, because it was hampering his capacity to govern.
Mr. Comey was affronted by the President's approach in meetings to the point where, he says, "I took the opportunity to implore the Attorney-General to prevent any future direct communication between the President and me."
Mr. Trump has denied that he demanded a pledge of loyalty from Mr. Comey. Mr. Comey's statement was fascinating in making it abundantly clear that this was hardly the case.
Detailing one meeting, he writes, "A few moments later, the President said, 'I need loyalty, I expect loyalty.' I didn't move, speak, or change my facial expression in any way during the awkward silence that followed. We simply looked at each other in silence. The conversation then moved on, but he returned to the subject near the end of our dinner."
At that point, the President repeated "I need loyalty," to which Mr. Comey replied, "You will always get honesty from me." Mr. Trump paused and then said, "That's what I want, honest loyalty." Mr. Comey said, "You will get that from me" but went away thinking "it is possible we understood the phrase 'honest loyalty' differently."
Mr. Trump can be pleased by the Comey affirmation that he was not a target of the investigation into Russian meddling in the election campaign. Mr. Comey volunteered that fact to Mr. Trump. But of course new information could emerge or could have already emerged that draws the investigatory net closer to the President.
As for the heads of the intelligence bodies staying mum on what Mr. Trump told them, that is hardly exoneration. They would very well tell all in sessions with former FBI director Robert Mueller who has been appointed special counsel to do a separate investigation on Russian collusion.