When and how something is published can mean almost as much as the information contained within. The Federal Bureau of Investigations, which functions as the United States’ top law enforcement body, has a Twitter account specifically set up to tweet information released from the FBI’s archives. These stories, usually obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, are full of documents of interest to archivists and journalists on a slow news days. Typically, the FBIRecordsVault account tweets twice a month. Starting October 30th, the account tweeted 21 times over three days.
The first of this fresh batch of tweets was about Fred C. Trump, the father of Republican nominee Donald Trump. In the tweet, the FBI called Fred Trump a “real estate developer and philanthropist,” which – while technically accurate – is hardly unbiased language. Real estate developer and philanthropist Fred Trump was also arrested at a Ku Klux Klan rally in Queens in 1927 and settled with the Justice Department in 1975 after an investigation into racial bias in his renting practices, as it happens.
Commenting at all on a case like this is an unusual move for a supposedly impartial Federal agency, especially since there’s a specific law, the Hatch Act, that prevents federal employees from directly supporting political candidates.
Does tweeting out old documents about the father of a presidential candidate, framed in positive terms, constitute a violation of the Hatch Act? What about tweeting information about the foundation headed by another presidential candidate and her ex-president husband, which FBIRecordsVault also did?
The FBI thinks it’s a serious enough violation that it’s launching an investigation. Of its own Twitter account. What a time to be alive. ThinkProgress reports:
It’s another bizarre twist in an election that seems to have stretched from the dawn of time into the gaping expanse of eternity. The results of the election will (hopefully) be known by next Tuesday night, and it’s not clear if the FBI will be able to complete its own internal investigation by then. That means we’ll have to wait until after the votes roll in to see what, exactly, the FBI was doing with its surprise burst of document releases, and what the agency plans to do about it now.