A new internal FBI report has concluded that a technical glitch was behind a seemingly abrupt tweet that shared records “from the FBI’s files related to the William J. Clinton Foundation” just days before the 2016 presidential election – and determined that the posting was “proper.”
The November 1, 2016, tweet from the previously dormant FBI account linked to 129 pages of heavily redacted, internal documents largely pertaining to the bureau’s investigation of President Bill Clinton’s controversial pardon of Democratic donor Marc Rich.
While the timing of the tweet struck the Clinton camp as “odd” – landing in the midst of a political tornado created after then-FBI Director James Comey announced just days earlier that he was effectively reopening a review of Hillary Clinton’s handling of classified information – “the unusual @FBIRecordsVault Twitter activity was the result of a system failure,” according to a report published from the FBI’s Office of Inspections on Friday.
The report found that @FBIRecordsVault had not tweeted for a year – something that had gone unnoticed by FBI public affairs and records management officials – but was restarted as part of a fix to other accounts.
Inspectors found that the records were “properly posted” as part of a response to more than three outstanding Freedom of Information Act requests, but the report nevertheless provides a glimpse into some of the internal deliberations during one of the most politically fraught moments in the bureau’s history.
The report details how on October 31, 2016, the records were prepared for public release, but someone from the FBI’s public affairs office requested “a one-day delay on the release of the Clinton Foundation material.” The section chief overseeing the FBI’s records division, David Hardy, approved the postponement until noon on November 1, 2016, “due to the current political environment,” but “in the absence of further guidance from (public affairs), released the FOIA response Vault post as required by FOIA policy.”
Hardy and others were “unaware” that the Twitter feed had been fixed the weekend before, according to the report, and it subsequently released other reports “stuck in the queue.”
Several media outlets quickly began reporting on the unusual postings and the FBI issued a statement saying that the materials had been released “automatically and electronically to the FBI’s public reading room in accordance with the law and established procedures.”
Friday’s report on the posting debacle was also released, via Twitter, and the account now appears in regular use.