"Nobody has ever been charged for hoping something, right?" This was Idaho Republican Sen. Jim Risch's question to former FBI Director James Comey regarding President Trump's "hope" -- privately expressed to Comey -- that he would let the investigation of Mike Flynn drop.

You could extend this line of thinking to the conclusion that Trump's comments are perfectly innocuous. And indeed, some of Trump's die-hard supporters have already been inclined to do so. But I don't think you can really get away with this.

Comey's explanation was that he took Trump's expressed "hope" as an order. To judge for yourself whether this is reasonable, pose this scenario for yourself:

You're writing an article at work. Your boss comes to you and says he "hopes" you remember to use proper SEO in writing your headline. Now, do you think he's just innocently employing the optative, not necessarily expecting you to act on it but merely to note that he has hopes in life? Or is he telling you that you'd better do this, and that you're going to hear about it again if you don't?

Seems pretty obvious to me. This is how we frequently use the word "hope" in the English language. It might even be how we use most often use it in everyday conversations -- to soften the edge of a command, even a strong command.