FBI official transferred after whistleblower allegations of political bias, senator reveals
Chuck Grassley says Wray decision is encouraging, but it's too early to say if FBI is serious about fixing bias problems.
A key senator says a top FBI official has been moved from his leadership perch in Washington after internal whistleblowers complained he was part of an effort to interfere in politically sensitive investigations, allegations Director Chris Wray now calls "deeply troubling."
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, told Just the News on Thursday that the FBI alerted him that Assistant Agent in Charge Timothy Thibault had been moved to another unspecified job.
The transfer came after Grassley reported extensive information to the FBI and Justice Department inspector general that Thibault had expressed political bias in social media posts and interfered in politically sensitive investigations, including one into Hunter Biden's overseas business dealings.
Grassley said he was encouraged by the move but that it was too early to tell yet whether Wray was serious about addressing a growing body of evidence of political bias inside the bureau's ranks.
"Maybe he's going in the right direction," Grassley said in a wide-ranging interview with the John Solomon Reports podcast. "But it's not enough evidence to give you a concrete answer, that he's not concerned or that he's concerned enough about what I have exposed."
Grassley first released information about Thibault and other officials in a letter last week to Wray that revealed FBI officials closed down one inquiry into President Biden's son by falsely casting evidence of wrongdoing as "disinformation" and opened other inquiries without adequate evidence.
On Thursday, the seven-term senator provided Just the News more details about what concerned him about the Thibault allegations, including that one of the investigations that was opened on thin evidence involved former President Donald Trump.
"We have evidence that there was a special agent in charge by the name of Thibault that the FBI should have known had political bias, because you could see it in his social media writings that he did over a long period of time," Grassley explained. "And he's the one that opened an investigation of Trump based upon fuzzy liberal reporting, and maybe even a little bit of fuzzy information from one left-wing nonprofit. ...
"The same person, when there was credible information of criminality on Hunter Biden, he shut that investigation down and classified it more or less as disinformation."
The FBI press office did not respond Thursday evening to a request for comment on behalf of Thibault.
But during questioning at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing earlier in the day, Wray appeared to confirm part of Grassley's account by saying that Thibault had been the assistant special agent in charge at the Washington D.C. field office, a prestigious supervisory job, "until recently."
He declined to be more specific, saying he wanted to be careful not to influence ongoing personnel or investigative proceedings. But Wray acknowledged the specificity and nature of the allegations in Grassley's letter had struck an unsettling chord.
"I should say that when I read the letter that describes the kinds of things that you're talking about, I found it deeply troubling," Wray told Louisiana Republican Sen. John Kennedy.
Senate investigators told Just the News on Thursday that they have seen — and forwarded to the DOJ's internal watchdog — social media posts from Thibault showing disdain for Trump and other conservatives, including one in which he liked a newspaper article with the headline "William Barr has gone rogue" and another retweeting a post from the anti-Trump group the Lincoln Project that called the 45th president "a psychologically broken, embittered, and deeply unhappy man."
Grassley said some in the mainstream media and liberal political circles have wrongly tried to dismiss his letter as an effort to score points against the Biden family. His deepest concern as a four-decade champion of federal whistleblowers, he said, was that there is credible, extensive evidence that some FBI agents were putting their thumb on the investigative scale in ways that appear to hurt politicians they disliked and protect those they supported.
"A lot of people think that I'm involved with the FBI only because of the Hunter Biden investigation I'm doing," Grassley told Just the News. "And of course, I'm very much interested in that, and the national security implications, for sure. But today's hearing and other things I've been involved in are trying to correct flaws at the FBI, and mostly making sure that there isn't any political bias. And we got plenty of information, not just recently, but over a long period of time about political interference in the FBI."
Grassley said the evidence his team has gathered pointing to politicization of the bureau predates the opening of the discredited Russia collusion probe. The problems began "even before starting an investigation against Trump, and ending an investigation against Hunter Biden, over a long period of time," he said. "We have the Clinton emails, we have Russiagate, we have the Mueller investigations, we have the fact that [former Deputy Director] McCabe wasn't fired."
McCabe originally was fired for lying in an internal investigation, but then his pension was restored.
"We have the Nasser [Olympic sex abuse] investigations that I've been talking about recently, where FBI agents weren't prosecuted for what they were doing wrong," Grassley continued.
Wray needs to launch "a concrete program for eliminating any political bias within the organization," Grassley said, explaining that "the reason he should be interested in it is because the public ought to have great confidence in the FBI, and their credibility is at stake."
Grassley said he took Thibault's transfer as a small step by Wray in the right direction.
Wray "did move him out of that position," he acknowledged. "And I don't know where he's assigned now. He's still in the FBI, is still being paid by the FBI. But I don't think he's in a position to make any political determinations about investigations."
Wray succeeded controversial Director James Comey, who was fired in 2017 for improperly usurping the DOJ's powers during the Hillary Clinton email scandal, when he unilaterially decided not to allow any prosecutions. Though chosen by Trump, Wray has lost confidence among congressional Republicans because so many FBI agents who were found to have committed professional or criminal offenses like lying, sexual harassment or evidence tampering escaped serious punishment, often by retiring.
Former Georgia Rep. Doug Collins told the "Just the News, Not Noise" television show on Thursday night that Wray's record of administering discipline has been slow, uneven and disappointing and that the director will be remembered as a director for whom "the job's too big."
"I think [Wray's tenure] is going to go down as one that's a very troubled time," Collins said. "It is going to be one of lack of decision, and indecisions which have caused the FBI to be questioned and its motives questioned."
As for Thibault's reported transfer by Wray, Collins said: "I'm glad he moved him, but why didn't he fire them? Where is the accountability?"