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What to Know About the Controversy Over FBI Agent Timothy Thibault

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FBI agent Timothy Thibault—who was embroiled in criticism from Republican lawmakers accusing him of political bias—voluntarily retired on August 26th, his legal counsel confirmed to TIME, and was not in a supervisory role in the Hunter Biden investigation at the center of the controversy.

Thibault has faced GOP criticism since earlier this summer, when Senator Chuck Grassley, a Republican from Iowa, accused him of political partisanship in his work, in particular in the ongoing probe into the business dealings of President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden.

In a statement provided to TIME, Thibault’s legal counsel Morrison & Foerster LLP said that he “did not supervise the investigation of Hunter Biden,” said Thibault was “not involved in any decisions related to any laptop that may be at issue in that investigation,” and said Thibault “did not seek to close the investigation.” The statement denies Thibault displayed any political partisanship in his work.

In a July letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray and Attorney General Merrick Garland, Grassley had alleged that whistleblowers reported Thibault had sought to close “an avenue of additional derogatory Hunter Biden reporting” and sought to prevent it from being reopened.

In comment to TIME, Grassley said that “Mr. Thibault’s statement fails to address the allegations brought forth by whistleblowers who provided specific and credible allegations of political bias and his failure to comply with Department and FBI guidelines and standards.”

“Political bias should have no place at the FBI. We need accountability, which is why Congress must continue investigating and the inspector general must fully investigate as I’ve requested,” Grassley continued.

The FBI declined to comment on “personnel matters.”

Here’s what to know about former FBI agent Timothy Thibault and why he’s being criticized by Republicans.

Who is Timothy Thibault?

Timothy Thibault was an Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, which covers Washington, D.C. and northern Virginia. A statement from Thibault’s legal counsel stated that he was “eligible for retirement” and had informed his supervisors roughly a month ago about his intentions to retire.

Thibault was “not fired, not forced to retire, and not asked to retire,” the statement said.

His legal team said Thibault had spent over 30 years “devoting himself to the protection of the American people and to upholding the Constitution of the United States in a nonpartisan fashion.” His legal counsel said Thibault’s tenure at the FBI included nearly 20 years of investigations into public corruption on both sides of the aisle—including investigations that resulted in the convictions of Congressmen William Jefferson and Jesse Jackson.

The controversy over Thibault began in May, when Grassley sent a letter to Wray and Garland accusing Thibault of violating “several federal regulations” and FBI guidelines meant to “prevent political bias from infecting FBI matters.”

How does this connect to Hunter Biden?

Hunter Biden, 52, is under ongoing investigation by the U.S. Justice Department (DOJ) for his business activities. CNN reported in March that the investigation began “as early as 2018” and concerned multiple of Hunter Biden’s financial and business dealings in foreign countries spanning back to the Obama Administration, when his father served as Vice President. In 2020, Hunter Biden issued a statement that strongly denied any wrongdoing in his tax affairs and said he was confident a review would show he handled the matters “legally and appropriately.”

In follow-up letters to Wray and Garland in July, Grassley alleged that Thibault had displayed “a pattern of active public partisanship” on social media and said that “highly credible whistleblowers” had told him about “a pattern of clear political partisanship” in Thibault’s work, particularly in regards to Hunter Biden.

Thibault’s legal team confirmed that allegations that his social media posts potentially violated the Hatch Act—which limits certain political activities of federal employees—are under investigation by the Office of Special Counsel. The statement added Thibault is cooperating and “expects to be fully exonerated.”

Grassley alleged that Thibault had sought to portray verifiable evidence related to the Hunter Biden investigation as disinformation, and alleged that Thibault had reportedly ordered to close “a stream of information related to Hunter Biden” and mark it in a way within internal systems that would prevent it from being reopened. In a May 31 letter, Grassley also alleged that Thibault had likely violated “federal law, regulations, and Department guidelines.”

In a statement to TIME, Thibault’s legal team said that he “did not supervise the investigation of Hunter Biden.” During an August 4 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Wray had suggested something similar, repeatedly telling lawmakers that the investigation was run out of the FBI’s Baltimore Field Office in coordination with the Delaware U.S. Attorney’s office— not the Washington Field Office, where Thibault worked. Thibault’s legal team also said he did not seek to close the investigation into Biden and was “not involved in any decisions related to any laptop that may be at issue in that investigation.” (The FBI reportedly took possession of a laptop belonging to Hunter Biden in 2019.)

The FBI did not respond to TIME’s request for comment on Grassley’s allegations.

Why is he coming under fire from Republicans?

Republican lawmakers have expressed alarm at Grassley’s allegations that Thibault displayed political partisanship on social media and in his handling of cases.

On August 4, Senator John Kennedy, a Republican from Louisiana, asked Wray if he was aware of numerous social media posts that Thibault allegedly made that criticized the Trump Administration. Wray said he had seen “descriptions to that effect.” Wray added that when he read letters describing Thibault’s alleged social media posts, he found it “deeply troubling.”

“What you’re describing is not representative of the FBI that I see up close every day in this country,” Wray continued. “I feel very strongly, and I have communicated consistently since I started as director, that our folks need to make sure that they’re not just doing the right thing, that they’re doing it in the right way and that they avoid even the appearance of bias or lack of objectivity.”

Former President Donald Trump also appeared to take aim at Thibault, posting on his social media website TRUTH Social on Tuesday about “the fired agent,” seemingly referring to Thibault, and accusing him without evidence of being involved in the FBI’s search of the former President’s home in Mar-a-Lago.

Thibault’s legal team said he was “not involved in the search at Mar-a-Lago, either in its planning or its execution.”

“He firmly believes that any investigation will conclude that his supervision, leadership and decision making were not impacted by political bias or partisanship of any kind,” Thibault’s legal team said. “He is confident that all of his decisions were consistent with the FBI’s highest standards for ethics and integrity.”

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Write to Madeleine Carlisle at madeleine.carlisle@time.com