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FBI assistant director faulted for misconduct around romantic relationship

The J. Edgar Hoover FBI Building in downtown Washington.
The J. Edgar Hoover FBI Building in downtown Washington. (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)
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A senior FBI official violated agency policies in her handling of a romantic relationship with a subordinate, according to findings of the Justice Department’s inspector general, and the bureau’s disciplinary office is now weighing what, if anything, to do about the findings, according to current and former law enforcement officials familiar with the matter.

Jill C. Tyson, who has a close working relationship with FBI Director Christopher A. Wray in her role as assistant director for congressional affairs, was criticized in a report issued Thursday by Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz.

The inspector general did not name Tyson, but concluded that “the Assistant Director was engaged in a romantic relationship with a subordinate and failed to timely report the relationship, in violation of FBI policy.”

Multiple people familiar with the matter, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive personnel issue, said the person in question is Tyson, one of the few women in a senior leadership role at the FBI.

The inspector general investigation “also found that the Assistant Director allowed the relationship to negatively affect an appropriate and professional superior-subordinate relationship and to disrupt the workplace by interfering with the ability of other FBI employees to complete their work, and that the Assistant Director participated in a hiring or organizational decision involving the subordinate, all in violation of FBI policy.”

Tyson referred questions to the FBI press office, which declined to comment. A spokeswoman for the inspector general also declined to comment.

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Before coming to the Justice Department, Tyson worked as a prosecutor, a Bureau of Prisons spokeswoman and a congressional staffer. She also was employed at Justice Department headquarters, where she helped shepherd Wray’s 2017 confirmation through Congress.

Wray later hired her to run the FBI’s congressional affairs portfolio — a difficult job at a time when Republicans were frequently accusing the bureau of partisan investigations into President Donald Trump, and Democrats were pressing the agency to more aggressively pursue alleged crimes by Trump or his associates.

Tyson plays a key role inside the FBI, managing its interactions and information-sharing with lawmakers. As part of that job, she prepares Wray for congressional testimony; current and former law enforcement officials said Wray likes and trusts her.

In recent months, Wray’s appearances before Congress have become more confrontational, as lawmakers sharply criticize the bureau’s handling of intelligence that preceded the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol by Trump supporters seeking to prevent the certification of the election victory of President Biden.

Some current law enforcement officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss Tyson, said her conduct represents a black eye for the bureau and a blow to morale at a time when it is facing scrutiny on multiple fronts.

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The inspector general spent more than a year investigating allegations against Tyson before issuing findings this week. During that time, the FBI faced accusations by some former employees that it does not do enough to prevent or punish sexual misconduct in the workplace, often by male superiors directed at female subordinates.

The accusations made against Tyson do not involve any sort of harassment or mistreatment of the subordinate, who was transferred to a different part of the FBI after Tyson reported the relationship, according to people familiar with the matter.

The inspector general’s findings about Tyson come a week after he issued a far longer, blistering criticism of how the FBI bungled the investigation into Larry Nassar, a former USA Gymnastics doctor now in prison for sexual abuse of girls who were under his care.

In that case, the inspector general found that FBI agents in Indianapolis failed to investigate allegations against Nassar, and then lied about it when confronted with their shortcomings.

And separately, the FBI has opened an internal investigation into criminal charges filed this week against an FBI agent who is leading the probe and prosecution of an alleged plot by right-wing extremists to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D).

That agent, Richard Trask II, was charged with felony assault. Court papers say his wife told police that he smashed her head into a nightstand after they attended a swingers party at a hotel earlier in the day.

According to court papers, she said that after leaving the party, the pair argued and he later attacked her. Police said that when they first saw Trask’s wife, blood was running down the side of her head and she had bruising around her neck.

FBI officials have said that they are aware of the charges and that the incident is under internal review.