FBI Records Vault is a verified Twitter account typically used to announce the release of documents related to Freedom of Information Act requests. Before Sunday, the account had been dormant for an entire year.
But at approximately 4:00 AM on Sunday, the account saw a flurry of activity, publishing 20 tweets on a variety of topics. Then, two days later, a new tweet advertised the release of documents relating to a 15-year-old investigation of the William J. Clinton Foundation.
With the US election less than one week away, the timing of the release was immediately called into question. According to ThinkProgress, the Bureau has now launched an internal investigation into the matter.
As policy, the FBI normally avoids any announcements that could affect election results too close to Election Day. The Hatch Act also prevents federal employees from directly supporting political candidates, and may be applicable if the incident is proven to have been politically motivated.
— FBI Records Vault (@FBIRecordsVault) November 1, 2016
That possibility is hard to overlook. The documents in questions relate to President Bill Clinton’s controversial decision to pardon Marc Rich in 2001. While the investigation ultimately cleared Clinton of any wrongdoing, the documents included in Tuesday’s tweet predate that conclusion.
The announcement of the investigation comes after the FBI insisted that there was nothing odd about the series of tweets.
"Per the standard procedure for FOIA, these materials became available for release and were posted automatically and electronically to the FBI’s public reading room in accordance with the law and established procedures," the Bureau said in a statement.
The tweets also came two days after FBI Director James Comey made the controversial decision to inform Congress that the Bureau was looking into newly found emails relating to Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.
— FBI Records Vault (@FBIRecordsVault) October 30, 2016
Given that there was no reason to suspect the emails of containing anything untoward, critics on both sides of the aisle criticized Comey’s comments as irresponsible, coming so close to Election Day.