Former FBI director James Comey’s June 8 testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee was memorable for many reasons: It was the rare congressional committee hearing that was viewed as must-see TV. It gave Americans a first-hand account of what might have occurred during Comey and President Donald Trump’s closed-door meeting soon after Trump took office. For a few hours, it turned “lordy” into a meme.
But many people also likely remember a seemingly confused and out-of-sorts John McCain struggling to formulate a question about Comey’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while serving as secretary of state and how it may have compared to the former FBI director’s probe into possible Russian hacking during the 2016 presidential election.
RELATED: Sen. McCain through the years
John McCain through the years
John McCain through the years
UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 27: TV RATINGS--Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John McCain, R-Ariz., during hearing on the TV ratings system. (Photo by Douglas Graham/Congressional Quarterly/Getty Images)
20th August 1992: The Republican Senator from Arizona, John McCain, speaking at the Republican National Convention. A fomer prisoner of war for several years in Vietnam, he contested his party's nomination for the 2000 election. (Photo by Consolidated News Pictures/Getty Images)
HANOI, VIET NAM: U.S. Sen. John McCain, a former POW, looks 31 May 1993 at a display of personal belongings of American POWs at the joint POW/MIA archives center in the Hanoi Army Museum. McCain is with U.S. Sen. John Kerry and a delegation on a two-day visit aimed at obtaining more access to archives dealing with the fate of missing U.S. servicemen. (Photo credit should read HOANG DINH NAM/AFP/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - MAY 18: MCCAIN'S DAY--Sen John McCain, R-Ariz., relaxes in his office at about 2:15 p.m. (Photo by Scott J. Ferrell/Congressional Quarterly/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - JUNE 02: McCAIN BILL--John McCain,R-Ariz.,during a press conference on the McCain Bill and tobacco legislation. (Photo by Douglas Graham/Congressional Quarterly/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, : US Senator John McCain, R-AZ, chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation begins the start of a hearing on the investigation of the scandal surrounding the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC 14 April, 1999. AFP PHOTO/Mario TAMA (Photo credit should read MARIO TAMA/AFP/Getty Images)
HANOVER, : US Senator John McCain speaks to reporters 27 October,1999 in Hanover, New Hampshire. McCain criticized sugar, oil, and corn (shown behind) subsidies and linked them to 'soft money' campaign contributions. (ELECTRONIC IMAGE) AFP PHOTO Luke FRAZZA (Photo credit should read LUKE FRAZZA/AFP/Getty Images)
MANCHESTER, : Republican president hopeful John McCain greets supporters as he arrives at a debate forum sponsored by a local television station 02 December, 1999, in Manchester, New Hampshire. McCain will debate the other Republican candidates seeking the party's presidential nomination. (DIGITAL IMAGE) AFP PHOTO/John MOTTERN (Photo credit should read JOHN MOTTERN/AFP/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - CIRCA 2000: John McCain addresses a shadow convention at the Annenberg Center of the University of Pennsylvania. McCain was booed when he asked suppoters to back his former primary opponent, George W. Bush. The shadow convention was put on near the site of the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia to highlight issues that the organizers say the major parties are ignoring. (Photo by Harry Hamburg/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
CAMDEN, UNITED STATES: GOP presidential hopeful US Senator John McCain (R-AZ) waves during an 'Old Fashion BBQ and Stump Meeting' on the front yard of a supporter's house 08 January 2000 in Camden, South Carolina. (ELECTRONIC IMAGE) AFP PHOTO/Paul J. RICHARDS (Photo credit should read PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)
PETERBOROUGH, NH - JANUARY 30: Republican presidential hopeful Sen. John McCain (L) and his wife Cindy are showered with confetti following McCain's final town meeting 30 January, 2000 in Peterborough, New Hampshire. (ELECTRONIC IMAGE) (Photo credit should read C.J. GUNTHER/AFP/Getty Images)
GREENWOOD, : Republican presidential hopeful John McCain makes a point 14 February 2000 during a town hall meeting at the American Legion Post 20 in Greenwood, South Carolina. McCain is campaigning heavily in the southern state against Texas Governor Geroge W. Bush ahead of the 19 February 2000 primary. (ELECTRONIC IMAGE) AFP PHOTO/Tim SLOAN (Photo credit should read TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images)
THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO -- Episode 1789 -- Pictured: (l-r) Senator John McCain during an interview with host Jay Leno on March 1, 2000 -- (Photo by: Paul Drinkwater/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - APRIL 30: Sen. John McCain, R-AZ, at a Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee hearing on climate change. (Photo By Tom Williams/Roll Call/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 12: TEMPORARY GUEST WORKERS--Witness Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., during the Senate Judiciary Immigration, Border Security and Citizenship Subcommittee hearing titled 'Evaluating a Temporary Guest Worker Proposal.' (Photo by Scott J. Ferrell/Congressional Quarterly/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - JUNE 28: SENATE POLICY LUNCHES--Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., talks to reporters after the Senate GOP policy luncheon. (Photo by Scott J. Ferrell/Congressional Quarterly/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON - SEPTEMBER 20: U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) addresses The Northern Virginia Technology Council's Titans breakfast at the Capitol Hilton September 20, 2006 in Washington, DC. McCain spoke on a variety of subjects, including telecommunications legislation, net neutrality, research and development tax credits, immigration, and Internet taxes. He also addressed the rift that he and several other Republican senators are having with the White House over the Geneva Conventions. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
KABUL, AFGHANISTAN - JULY 04: US Senator John McCain (C) holds a press conference at ISAF HQ in Kabul, Afghanistan on July 4, 2017. US Senator John McCain visited the headquarters of NATO-led mission after his visit at Pakistan. (Photo by Haroon Sabawoon/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, July 13, 2017 -- U.S. Senator John McCain is swarmed by reporters as he leaves a meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. July 13, 2017. Senate Republicans of the U.S. Congress on Thursday unveiled a new healthcare bill that they hoped can fulfill their long-time goal to 'repeal and replace' the Affordable Care Act. (Xinhua/Ting Shen via Getty Images)
Discover More Like This
BACK TO SLIDE
In an interview with Esquire, as part of a larger feature on the relationship between McCain and his longtime BFF and Senate colleague Lindsey Graham, McCain has finally laid bare what was behind the bizarre line of questioning: It was all Graham’s fault.
McCain told the magazine’s David Usborne that he wasn’t having a senior moment, he wasn’t feeling symptoms of glioblastoma — the form of brain cancer he was diagnosed with weeks after the hearing — and he certainly wasn’t tired from staying up late the night before watching baseball. Instead, he was all ready to fire away with his planned questions when he got a note from his buddy Graham. That’s when everything went awry.
“I had these questions laid out that I had discussed and, honest to God, two minutes before it was my turn, [the aide] hands me this app from Lindsey,” McCain said, according to Esquire. Usborne clarified he meant “email,” not “app.” During the hearing, a staffer handed him a phone so he could read the email and the screen went black. He registered that Graham’s note had something to do with Clinton, but without a passcode, he couldn’t reopen the phone. He was on his own.
RELATED: McCain in the US military
John McCain military capture and rescue
John McCain military capture and rescue
A photo taken by a French cameraman in 1967 shows US Navy Airforce Major John McCain lying on a bed in a Hanoi hospital as he was being given medical care for his injuries. John McCain was captured in 1967 at a lake in Hanoi after his Navy warplane was downed by the Northern Vietnamese army during the Vietnam War.
P368426 01: (File Photo) Senator John Mccain Is Pulled Out Of A Hanoi Lake By North Vietnamese Army Soldiers And Civilians October 26, 1967 In Hanoi, North Vietnam. Mccain's A-4E Skyhawk Was Shot Down By A Surface-To-Air Missile. Mccain Broke Both Arms And His Right Knee Upon Ejection And Lost Consciousness Until He Hit The Water. (Photo By Getty Images)
P368426 04: (File Photo) Senator John Mccain In A Hanoi Hospital During The Vietnam War November, 1967. (Photo By Getty Images)
P368426 06: (File Photo) A Statue Commemorating October 26, 1967, The Day Lt. Cmdr. John Mccain Was Captured By The North Vietnamese Army, Stands In Hanoi, North Vietnam. (Photo By Getty Images)
P368426 05: (File Photo) A Mug Shot Of Senator John Mccain As A P.O.W. Taken By The North Vietnamese Sometime Between 1967-73 (Photo By Getty Images)
HANOI, VIET NAM: This file picture taken in 1967 shows US Navy Airforce Major John McCain lying on a bed in a Hanoi hospital as he was being given medical care for his injuries. McCain was captured in 1967 at a lake in Hanoi after his Navy warplane was downed by the Northern Vietnamese army during the Vietnam War. One of his rescuers said 24 February 2000, McCain was well treated after being pulled from the lake by villagers. McCain said that upon capture he was beaten by an angry mob and bayoneted in the groin. (B/W ONLY) AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read AFP/Getty Images)
Discover More Like This
BACK TO SLIDE
“I was looking at it and, naturally, the message fades,” he said. “I think, ‘What the f*** am I going to do here?’”
Moments later, it was his turn to ask questions.
“In the case of Hillary Clinton, you made the statement that there wasn’t sufficient evidence to bring a suit against her, although it had been very careless in their behavior, but you did reach a conclusion in that case that it was not necessary to further pursue her,” his question began. “Yet at the same time, in the case of Mr. [Trump], you said that there was not enough information to make a conclusion. Tell me the difference between your conclusion as far as former Secretary Clinton is concerned and Mr. Trump.”
Perhaps speaking for the more than 18 million people who reportedly tuned in for the hearing, Comey began his reply by simply stating: ““I’m a little confused, Senator.”
Neither McCain nor Graham remembers today what Graham’s email said. But McCain said he owed it to his friend and colleague to try and remember on the fly. “I can’t tell you how important our relationship is, and I knew that this must be important. So I started out trying to remember what was on the app, and, anyway, to make a long story short, I f***ed it up.”