The long-awaited Inspector General’s report on the FBI’s handling of the Hillary Clinton investigation makes for depressing reading for anyone who cares about American democracy. Self-government depends on public trust in its institutions, especially law enforcement. The IG’s 568-page report makes clear that the FBI under former director James Comey betrayed that public trust in a way not seen since J. Edgar Hoover.

We use the Hoover analogy advisedly, realizing that the problem in this case was not rampant illegal spying. Though IG Michael Horowitz’s conclusions are measured, his facts are damning. They show that Mr. Comey abused his authority, broke with long-established Justice Department norms, and deceived his superiors and the public.

While the IG says Mr. Comey’s decisions were not the result of “political bias,” he presided over an investigating team that included agents who clearly were biased against Donald Trump. The damage to the bureau’s reputation—and to thousands of honest agents—will take years to repair.

The issue of political bias is almost beside the point. The IG scores Mr. Comey for “ad hoc decisionmaking based on his personal views.” Like Hoover, Mr. Comey believed that he alone could protect the public trust. And like Hoover, this hubris led him to make egregious mistakes of judgment that the IG says “negatively impacted the perception of the FBI and the department as fair administrators of justice.”

The report scores Mr. Comey in particular for his “conscious decision not to tell [Justice] Department leadership about his plans to independently announce” an end to the investigation at his July 5 press conference in which he exonerated but criticized Mrs. Clinton. And the IG also scores his action 11 days before the 2016 presidential election, on October 28, to send a letter to Congress saying the investigation had been reopened.

The decision to prosecute belongs to the Attorney General and Justice, not the FBI. And the FBI does not release derogatory information on someone against whom it is not bringing charges. Regarding the October letter informing Congress that the FBI was renewing the investigation, FBI policy is not to announce investigations. “We found unpersuasive Comey’s explanation,” deadpans the IG.

“We found that it was extraordinary and insubordinate for Comey to conceal his intentions from his superiors, the Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General, for the admitted purpose of preventing them from telling him not to make the statement, and to instruct his subordinates in the FBI to do the same,” says the report.

“Comey waited until the morning of his press conference to inform [Attorney General Loretta] Lynch and [Deputy Attorney General Sally ] Yates of his plans to hold one without them, and did so only after first notifying the press. As a result, Lynch’s office learned about Comey’s plans via press inquiries rather than from Comey. Moreover, when Comey spoke with Lynch he did not tell her what he intended to say in his statement.”

All of this underscores the case that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein made when he advised President Trump in May 2017 that he should fire Mr. Comey. The President’s mistake was not firing Mr. Comey immediately upon taking office on Jan. 20, 2017, as some of us advised at the time.

As for political bias, the IG devotes a chapter to the highly partisan texts exchanged over FBI phones between FBI personnel. The IG says he found no evidence that political bias affected investigative decisions, but the details will be fodder for those who think otherwise.

The report also chronicles a long list of other questionable judgments by the FBI and Justice. These include waiting until late October to announce that the FBI was seeking a search warrant for Anthony Weiner’s laptop, though “virtually every fact that was cited” to justify the move had been known a month before.

The unavoidable conclusion is that Mr. Comey’s FBI became a law unto itself, accountable to no one but the former director’s self-righteous conscience. His refusal to follow proper guidelines interfered with a presidential election campaign in a way that has caused millions of Americans in both parties to justifiably cry foul.

This should never happen in a democracy, and steps must be taken so that it never does again. Mr. Horowitz deserves credit for an investigation that was thorough, informative and unplagued by leaks. But it is not the final word. Next week he will be testifying before Congress to flesh out and clarify his findings. Congress should also call FBI agents as witnesses.

The larger damage here is to trust in institutions that are vital to self-government. Mr. Trump will use the facts to attack the FBI, but most agents are honest and nonpartisan. Christopher Wray, the new FBI director, promised Thursday to implement the IG’s recommendations, but his cleanup task is larger. He can start by ending the FBI’s stonewall of Congress on document requests.

Mr. Wray and Attorney General Jeff Sessions have to understand that radical measures are needed to restore public trust in both the FBI and Justice Department. If they won’t do it, someone else must.

— The Wall Street Journal

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