A top Republican senator is demanding that the leaders of the Department of Justice and FBI investigate whether a top bureau official in the nation’s capital violated DOJ guidelines through partisan posts on social media.
Timothy Thibault, FBI assistant special agent in charge and leader at the Washington field office handling public corruption matters and other criminal investigations, “likely violated several federal regulations and Department guidelines designed to prevent political bias from infecting FBI matters, including the Attorney General Guidelines for Domestic FBI Operations and FBI social media policies,” Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) said Tuesday.
Grassley sent letters to Attorney General Merrick Garland and FBI Director Christopher Wray that set a preliminary deadline of June 14 for them to share documents related to Thibault, including investigations he has supervised since 2015. Grassley also called on DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz to investigate, pointing to a number of DOJ rules and regulations, including FBI guidelines on social media use.
Thibault’s purported LinkedIn account states that he is currently an assistant special agent in charge at the Washington field office in the nation’s capital, a position it says he has held since August 2020. The account says he has been in the FBI for more than 25 years, was an assistant section chief for international terrorism operations from December 2018 to August 2020 (including being the acting section chief from May 2019 to March 2020), and was a supervisory special agent before that.
“Based on a review of open-source content, ASAC Thibault has demonstrated a pattern of active public partisanship, such as using his official title for public partisan posts relating to his superiors and matters under the FBI’s purview, that is likely a violation of his ethical obligations as an FBI employee,” Grassley said. “Accordingly, his actions present a grave risk of political infection and bias in his official decision-making process, creating serious questions with respect to oversight of investigative matters under his purview.”
Grassley added, “ASAC Thibault’s social media postings, comments, and ‘likes’ … demonstrate a pattern of improper commentary related to, for example, ongoing FBI investigations including those under his purview.”
Grassley noted Thibault had “liked” a LinkedIn post of a Washington Post opinion piece in February 2020 titled “The Justice Department confirms things are even worse than we feared.” The column repeatedly critiqued Barr’s tenure at the Justice Department.
The senator pointed out that Thibault also liked another Washington Post column in September 2020, this one titled “William Barr has gone rogue.” The article criticized Barr’s handling of the cases against retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn and Trump associate Roger Stone. Grassley showed that Thibault directly posted on his LinkedIn another Washington Post piece in September 2020 titled “Why the Michael Flynn case still matters.”
Grassley also said he had found the FBI official’s Twitter account and pointed out that Thibault retweeted an anti-Trump Lincoln Project tweet that said, “Donald Trump is a psychologically broken, embittered, and deeply unhappy man.” The article by the Atlantic, which the Lincoln Project was sharing, was itself titled “Donald Trump is a Broken Man.”
The senator noted Thibault responded to a November 2020 tweet from Lincoln Project co-founder Rick Wilson mocking the election of Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL), with Thibault replying, “Thank God for Mississippi — state motto of Alabama.”
When the Rev. Frank Pavone, a Catholic priest, tweeted in December 2019 that “abortion destroys everything it touches” and contended that the impeachment efforts against former President Donald Trump were in part inspired by the former president’s anti-abortion stance, Thibault replied, “Focus on the pedophiles.” The tweet has since been deleted.
When Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) tweeted in June 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic that “Dick Cheney says WEAR A MASK” and shared a photo of her father masked up, Thibault replied in a since-deleted tweet, “Your dad was a disgrace.”
Grassley added, “Equally concerning is that ASAC Thibault, while overseeing and directing the FBI’s most significant federal public corruption investigations, traveled to the Czech Republic to attend the same seminar with Bruce and Nellie Ohr in February 2016.” Nellie Ohr had been employed by the opposition research firm Fusion GPS in 2016. Fusion, which had been hired by Clinton campaign general counsel Marc Elias, hired British ex-spy Christopher Steele to create his discredited dossier. Former DOJ official Bruce Ohr served as a back channel to the FBI for Steele after he was cut off as a confidential source.
“These illustrative social media posts call into question ASAC Thibault’s ability to perform the duties and responsibilities of an FBI agent objectively and without bias,” Grassley wrote. “His social media posts require investigation into what, if any, oversight Department leadership has done to ensure that investigative decisions under his charge have not been infected with a political bias.”
Beyond his social media presence, Thibault held a press conference last week in a case in which a man was sentenced to more than two decades in prison for giving a woman drugs laced with fentanyl and then attempting to hide her dead body. He was quoted in a DOJ press release last year related to a former alleged Atomwaffen Division leader being sentenced in a swatting conspiracy.
Grassley said in a footnote that Thibault’s Twitter and LinkedIn had previously featured the same profile picture until he changed both of them. The LinkedIn page now displays his FBI photo, while the Twitter account now has a “Pray for Ukraine” picture with a teary eye and the colors of the Ukrainian flag.
Thibault tweeted just last month, “Can we give Kentucky to the Russian Federation?” Republican Sens. Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul are both from that state.
Grassley’s letter to Horowitz included the same details as the one sent to Garland and Wray.
“In light of these facts, I request that you begin an investigation into ASAC Thibault for potential violations of federal regulations and Department guidelines designed to prevent political bias from infecting FBI matters, including the Attorney General Guidelines for Domestic FBI Operations and FBI social media policies,” the Republican senator told the DOJ watchdog.
A review by the Washington Examiner shows that Thibault’s Twitter account liked multiple tweets from the FBI’s Washington field office’s Twitter account in May and posted repeatedly over the years about Auburn University athletics. (Thibault received his undergraduate degree from the school.) Thibault liked a tweet in early May that criticized former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and referred to being “anti-GQP” — a criticism that conflates the Republican Party with believers in the QAnon conspiracy theory.
Thibault liked a February tweet from the left-wing MeidasTouch group that criticized Fox News host Tucker Carlson, liked another Lincoln Project tweet in January, liked an October tweet calling Kyle Rittenhouse a “murderer” less than a month before he was found not guilty of those charges, and liked a September tweet criticizing Gov. Greg Abbott (R-TX) for his response to COVID-19.
The FBI official liked an August tweet pushing back on criticism of President Joe Biden (by criticizing Trump instead) for looking at his watch during the dignified transfer of 11 of the 13 U.S. service members killed in Afghanistan that month and liked another tweet that month claiming that Barack Obama’s only scandal as president was wearing a tan suit. And he liked a March 2021 tweet that said, “I don’t care about your freedom to carry a f****** massive gun. I care about other people’s freedom to live.”
Thibault liked a January 2021 tweet by the Lincoln Project that said, “Axe Body Spray has come out stronger against the insurrection that the majority of the GOP.” He liked another tweet the day of the Capitol riot that referred to the “violent mob in the Capitol today” and asserted that “these terrorists are hiding in plain sight.”
The Twitter account purportedly belonging to Thibault blocked the Washington Examiner after this reporter followed the account and messaged it for comment. The Twitter account has since set all of its tweets to be protected, and thus restricted from view, but not before the Washington Examiner took screenshots. In addition, the LinkedIn profile was deleted but also not before the Washington Examiner took screenshots.