EXCLUSIVE: The U.S. Office of Special Counsel determined a former FBI official violated the Hatch Act in his political posts on social media — the same official whistleblowers claimed had shown a “pattern of active public partisanship” which “likely affected” investigations involving former President Trump and Hunter Biden.
Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, had referred former Washington, D.C., Field Office FBI assistant special agent in charge Timothy Thibault amid allegations that he engaged in prohibited political activity on social media for investigation.
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Grassley’s calls for investigation came after whistleblowers approached his office alleging Thibault was instrumental in the opening of the elector investigation into the Trump campaign and its associates based, in part, on information from a left-aligned organization.
Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa (SUSAN WALSH/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
The whistleblowers alleged that Thibault did so by “circumventing normal process and procedure to open full field investigations.”
Grassley had learned through whistleblowers that Thibault’s opening memo calling for a full investigation, which was ultimately approved by FBI Director Chris Wray and Attorney General Merrick Garland, allegedly “scrubbed and diluted” details of the sources’ political bias.
Fox News Digital also had previously reported that Thibault “ordered closed” an avenue of “derogatory Hunter Biden reporting” in October 2020.” At the time, Grassley and Sen. Ron Johnson were investigating Hunter Biden’s business dealings. Hunter Biden also was under federal investigation at the time–an investigation beginning in 2018.
The FBI ultimately removed Thibault from his post as an assistant special agent in charge. He later resigned.
Fox News Digital exclusively obtained a letter the Office of Special Counsel sent to Grassley this week.
“This letter responds to your request that the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of the Inspector General, and Federal Bureau of Investigation investigate former FBI Assistant Special Agent in Charge Timothy Thibault and allegations that he engaged in prohibited political activity on social media,” the letter states, noting that the Office of Special Counsel has “exclusive jurisdiction over civil Hatch Act matters,” and that Grassley’s investigative referral was passed on to its office.
“Although Mr. Thibault has left government service, we completed our investigation and concluded that he violated the Hatch Act,” the OSC wrote.
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The Hatch Act governs the political activity of all federal civilian executive branch employees and prohibits them from using their official authority or or influence for the purpose of interfering with or affecting the result of an election; knowingly soliciting, accepting, or receiving political contributions from any person; being candidates for public office in partisan elections; and knowingly soliciting or discouraging the political activity of any individual with business before their employing office.
The Hatch Act also prohibits employees from engaging in political activity while on duty, in a federal room or building, wearing an official uniform or insignia, or using a government vehicle.
The FBI’s J. Edgar Hoover headquarters building in Washington. The Biden administration has chosen a location for a new FBI headquarters in Maryland, people familiar with the selection said Wednesday, choosing the site over one in Virginia following a sharp competition between the two states. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen, File)
The OSC explained that employees in agencies like the FBI are “further restricted” and “prohibited” from participating in partisan political management and campaigning by engaging in activity that is “in concert” with a political party, partisan political group or candidate for partisan political office.
OSC explained that when applied to social media, employees are restricted from sharing or retweeting messages from partisan political groups because “like traditional leafletting, social media communications also promote the group’s message.”
With regard to Thibault’s social media activity, the OSC reviewed his posts on Twitter, now X, and LinkedIn.
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One post was from July 2020, in which Thibault retweeted a post from the Lincoln Project. OSC described the group as a “hybrid political action committee, which is considered a partisan political group.”
“The Lincoln Project’s tweet included an article from The Atlantic entitled, ‘Donald Trump is a Broken Man,’” the OSC states.
“By retweeting the Lincoln Project’s message, Mr. Thibault engaged in modern-day leafletting on social media,” the OSC determined, while noting that even though Thibault was “on leave” at the time he retweeted the post, the Hatch Act prohibits all employees, “even when they are off duty and away from work.”
Former President Trump is running a third straight time for the White House. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
“Accordingly, because Mr. Thibault shared a message from a partisan political group on Twitter, OSC has conduced that he acted in concert with a partisan political group, in violation of the Hatch Act,” OSC determined.
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“Mr. Thibault has been warned that if in the future he engaged in activity prohibited by the Hatch Act while employed in a Hatch Act-covered position, OSC would consider such activity to be a willful and knowing violation of the law that could result in disciplinary action,” OSC wrote.
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The letter was signed by Ana Galindo-Marrone, the chief of the Hatch Act Unit in the U.S. Office of Special Counsel.
Hunter Biden, son of U.S. President Joe Biden, walks with family members in Nantucket, Massachusetts, November 24, 2023. (REUTERS/Tom Brenner)
Grassley told Fox News Digital that the American people “deserve to have confidence that the officials entrusted to lead the top echelon of our federal law enforcement agencies are not letting political bias infect their work.”
“These federal employees should not blur their official business with their political viewpoints,” Grassley stressed, telling Fox News Digital that OSC confirmed that Thibault “failed to meet that standard.”
“I’ve warned that this sort of political bias will erode public confidence in the FBI,” Grassley told Fox News Digital. “It’s up to the bureau to restore that trust through transparency and cooperation with congressional oversight.”