- - Tuesday, June 13, 2017

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

I shall not beat around the bush. As readers of this column perhaps suspect, I have admired former FBI Director James Comey for most of his public career, beginning in 2013. That he is a friend of former FBI Director Robert Mueller makes me admire him even more. Mr. Mueller is a man of integrity and discretion. Mr. Mueller would not befriend a man of dubious character.

Yet from July 2016 on, I have begun to wonder about Mr. Comey. His public actions have become erratic, increasingly erratic. To the point that he is becoming, to my mind, unhinged. To come to the point, I do not believe he has become duplicitous and I do not think he is a liar. It seems that I am one of the few in Mr. Comey’s corner to believe that he is unraveling in plain public view. In a word, he has had some sort of breakdown, and no one in official Washington dares to say it. It is a curious development. Already there are Democrats claiming President Trump is unhinged. Yet time and again, Mr. Trump’s judgments have only been validated — not so with the former director of the FBI.

In public, Director Comey appears calm, preternaturally calm. In fact, the other day when he appeared before the Senate Intelligence Committee he seemed sedated. He was lucid but spoke in a monotone. It was disconcerting. I would not be surprised if he were on marijuana — medical marijuana, that is. Did he leave the Senate chamber only to burst into uncontrollable sobbing in private? Was he overcome by a sudden nervous tick? Where did he go after delivering his famous and often self-incriminating three-hour testimony? Was he quietly taken away to his former offices in the FBI building, there to fall into paroxysms of mad blinking, frantic clutching of the hands, perhaps howls and gurglings. It has happened before. You followers of the arts will perhaps remember the sad downfall of Commissioner Charles Dreyfus in those famous scenes from “The Pink Panther” series of yesteryear.

During Mr. Comey’s testimony to the Senate, the language he used was surprisingly petulant in the way that a millennial is petulant when Mommy or Daddy tells the millennial it is time to go to bed. Rather than sounding like a former director of the world’s foremost law enforcement agency, he seemed distraught. At one point he said that something former Attorney General Loretta Lynch had said to him “gave me a queasy feeling.” At another point he said of something that President Trump said to him, “I took it as a very disturbing thing, very concerning.” There were other troubling moments in his remarkable testimony. In “The Pink Panther” movies, Commissioner Dreyfus became visibly deranged when the name of Inspector Clouseau was mentioned. Is this to be the fate of former Director Comey?

He has been acting oddly ever since the summer of 2016. Remember his long catalog of obvious felonies Hillary had committed. And then came his about-face: He said no prosecutor would prosecute her. But he was not authorized to comment publicly on the case he had amassed. All he had to do was hand over his findings to Attorney General Lynch. Then in October just before the election, he opened his investigation once again. Then he closed it. Again he was not authorized to speak out, but he did, and Hillary has been blaming him for her defeat ever since — along with the Russians, misogyny and now the Democratic Party, and — who knows? — possibly Bill.

It is erratic behavior like this that suggests to me that former Director Comey is en route to a crack-up. In his testimony last week, he said he had told Mr. Trump three times in private that the FBI was not investigating him. Yet he refused to say this in public and he actually leaked it to The New York Times, not The Washington Times, The New York Times. Elsewhere in his testimony he said that Mr. Trump’s discussion with him regarding Gen. Michael Flynn’s firing had made Mr. Comey uncomfortable. But Mr. Comey did not report the discussion to Attorney General Jeff Sessions as was required by law. Rather, Mr. Comey leaked a memo criticizing the president to — again — The New York Times. And there was the memo that he wrote in the wee hours of the morn about his encounters with the president. Somehow, one of his senatorial questioners got him to admit that he had leaked the memo to a Columbia Law School friend. Mr. Comey instructed his friend to leak it again to the Bad Times not to the Good Times.

Following the behavior of James Comey is not easy. But at this point in our inquiry I think we can arrive at two judgments. First, Mr. Comey is in need of medication and possibly therapy, and second, no one can find any crime that Donald Trump has committed. It is as the president says — a witch hunt.

• R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. is editor in chief of The American Spectator. He is author of “The Death of Liberalism,” published by Thomas Nelson Inc.

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