It turns out that, according to the inspector general, investigators “found no evidence that Comey or his attorneys released any of the classified information contained in any of the memos to members of the media.” And, contrary to some speculation in right-wing media, the document includes no finding that Mr. Comey was untruthful or incomplete in his answers to investigators. But Inspector General Michael Horowitz is still not happy with Mr. Comey’s conduct: the former director “violated F.B.I. policy and the requirements of his F.B.I. employment agreement” when he provided information contained in one memo to The New York Times through an intermediary. Mr. Comey did the same, the inspector general argues, when he retained copies of the memos without authorization to do so after leaving the bureau and did not notify the bureau after learning that one memo contained “six words” that the F.B.I. later deemed to be classified.
It’s a bit hard to take these concerns seriously in light of the events that moved Mr. Comey to disclose the information to The Times in the first place: The president of the United States threatened to disclose possibly nonexistent “tapes” of his conversations with Mr. Comey, the substance of which involved the president’s effort to quash an F.B.I. investigation into a former close adviser. As the former Justice Department spokesman Matthew Miller put it, the report “basically faulted Comey for speeding on his way to tell the village that a fire was coming.” Mr. Horowitz knocks Mr. Comey for setting “a dangerous example” for F.B.I. employees who might be tempted to follow in his footsteps — but if other F.B.I. employees are routinely facing crises comparable to what Mr. Comey dealt with, the country is in dire shape.