In June 2015, the FBI in Indianapolis was notified that Larry Nassar, a doctor for Olympic caliber gymnasts, was sexually abusing his underage patients. In this episode, hear highlights from a riveting Senate hearing with testimony from Maggie Nichols, McKayla Maroney, Aly Raisman, and Simone Biles and get all the details presented in an Inspector General report explaining why the FBI did nothing to stop Larry Nassar for over a year while he continued to abuse dozens of additional young girls.
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Athlete A. Netflix.
Hannah Shaw-Williams. June 24, 2020. “Athlete A True Story: What Netflix’s Documentary Leaves Out” Screen Rant.
Government Documents and Reports
Office of the Inspector General. July 2021. Investigation and Review of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Handling of Allegations of Sexual Abuse by Former USA Gymnastics Physician Lawrence Gerard Nassar (21-093). United States Department of Justice.
Office of the Inspector General. 2021. “DOJ OIG Releases Report of Investigation and Review of the FBI’s Handling of Allegations of Sexual Abuse by Former USA Gymnastics Physician Lawrence Gerard Nassar.” U.S. Department of Justice.
Senator Jerry Moran and Senator Richard Blumenthal. July 30, 2019. The Courage of Survivors: A Call to Action. Senate Olympics Investigation.
Manly, Stewart & Finaldi. September 8, 2016. “Jane JD Doe Complaint: Case Number 34-2016-00200075.” Superior Court of California, Sacramento.
Grace Segers. September 15, 2021. “Gymnasts Rip the FBI for Its Failure to Stop Larry Nassar’s Serial Sexual Abuses.” The New Republic.
Rebecca Shabad. September 15, 2021. “FBI fires agent accused of failing to investigate Nassar sex-abuse allegations.” NBC News.
Kara Berg. September 8, 2021. “How much Michigan State has paid in wake of Larry Nassar scandal.” The Lansing State Journal.
Sayantani Nath. February 25, 2021. “Who owns Twistars USA gym now? John Geddert sold gym infamous for Larry Nassar’s sexual abuse before suicide.” MEAWW (Media, Entertainment, Arts WorldWide).
Reuters. February 25, 2021. “Nassar Whistleblower Repeats Call for USAG Decertification.” U.S. News & World Report.
Dan Barry, Serge F. Kovaleski and Juliet Macur. February 3, 2018. “As F.B.I. Took a Year to Pursue the Nassar Case, Dozens Say They Were Molested.” The New York Times.
Matthew Futterman, Louise Radnofsky and Rebecca Davis O’Brien. June 2, 2017. “Former U.S. Gymnastics Chief Received $1 Million Severance Package.” The Wall Street Journal.
Tim Evans, Mark Alesia, and Marisa Kwiatkowski. September 12, 2016. “Former USA Gymnastics doctor accused of abuse.” The Indianapolis Star.
Marisa Kwiatkowski, Mark Alesia and Tim Evans. August 4, 2016. “A blind eye to sex abuse: How USA Gymnastics failed to report cases.” The Indianapolis Star.
Matt Krantz. September 13, 2013. “2008 crisis still hangs over credit-rating firms.” USA Today.
Dereliction of Duty: Examining the Inspector General’s Report on the FBI’s Handling of the Larry Nassar Investigation
Senate Judiciary Committee
September 15, 2021
Committee concluded a hearing to examine the Inspector General’s report on the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s handling of the Larry Nassar investigation, after receiving testimony from Michael E. Horowitz, Inspector General, and Christopher A. Wray, Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation, both of the Department of Justice; Simone Biles, Houston, Texas; McKayla Maroney, Long Beach, California; Maggie Nichols, Little Canada, Minnesota; and Aly Raisman, Boston, Massachusetts.
- 47:54 Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL): By the time Nassar was convicted and sentenced in federal and Michigan State court, over 150 survivors had come forward to recount the impact of these horrific crimes. Today we believe Nasser abused more than 300 athletes before he was brought to justice.
- 48:20 Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL): Between 2018 and 2019, a subcommittee of the Senate Commerce Committee led by our colleagues, Senator Richard Blumenthal and Senator Jerry Moran conducted an 18 month investigation into this case. The investigation concluded that the US Olympic Committee in the USA Gymnastics knowingly concealed abuse by masseur between the summer of 2015 and September of 2016. The Senate passed two bills aimed at addressing the failures in the Nasser case with overwhelming bipartisan support that protecting young victims from Sexual Abuse Act of 2017, sponsored by Senator Feinstein, and the umpiring Olympic Paralympic amateur athletes act of 2020 by Senators Moran and Blumenthal both extended the duty of certain adults to report suspected child abuse. These are good and important steps. But the reporting requirement in both laws is not worth much if law enforcement and the FBI failed to respond and immediately and aggressively investigate the abuse cases.
- 51:57 Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL): We’ll also hear from the Inspector General and the FBI Director, who owe these young women in this committee an explanation of what the FBI is doing to ensure that this never happens again. And I’ll add that I am disappointed. We asked the Justice Department to testify about their decision not to prosecute the two FBI officials who made false statements to the Attorney General. I understand it’s a long standing department policy not to comment on decisions not to prosecute, but robust oversight of the Department of Justice is a core responsibility of this committee, committed to ensuring that committee members have an opportunity to question the Department of Justice about this issue at an oversight hearing in the fall.
- 56:44 Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA): I suspect there’s much more to that story. One issue not talked about much is that the FBI has a division in Washington DC, known as the Violent Crimes Against Children unit. This component of headquarters was notified by two of its field offices about the Nassar allegations way back in 2015, and 2016, respectively. The Children’s unit employs subject matter experts so it is well position in FBI to guide those field officers on their duties in child exploitation cases. Because it’s housed at headquarters, this children’s unit also was uniquely positioned to play a coordinating role by supervising case transfers to the appropriate FBI field offices. And this unit was well positioned to offer qualitative supervision of field offices’ work.
- 58:19 Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA): The Children’s unit helped develop a white paper, or more accurately, a whitewash, after the Nassar case attracted national attention. Ensuring that truthful information was provided about the FBI’s role in this investigation was clearly not the main priority. This is a serious problem at the heart of the FBI. Not a case of a few errant agents.
- 1:00:12 Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA): Finally, I want to mention that I’m working on legislation to close the legislative loophole in the sex tourism statute that the Inspector General flagged in his report. This gap in the law allowed Larry Nassar to evade federal prosecution for assaulting children while traveling abroad.
- 1:26:34 Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL): Our first witness Simone Biles, one of the greatest gymnast of all time. She is the first woman to capture five all round world championship titles and the most decorated gymnast, male or female, in World Championships history. 25 medals overall, she is a seven time Olympic medalist. Her extraordinary accomplishments have received widespread recognition including two Associated Press Female Athlete of the Year awards.
- 1:27:18 Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL): McKayla Maroney was a member of the American women’s gymnastics team dubbed the Fierce Five at the 2012 Summer Olympics. She won a gold medal in team competition and an individual silver medal in the vault. She was also a member of the American team at the 2011 World Championships where she won gold medals in the team and vault competitions and the 2013 World Championships where she defended her vault title and we frequently see her on TV jumping on a roof.
- 1:27:48 Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL): Our next witness Maggie Nichols led the University of Oklahoma women’s gymnastics team to Team national championships in 2017 and 2019, also winning six individual titles. She represented the United States at the 2015 World Championships where she won a gold medal in team competition and a bronze medal on floor exercise. She also holds several USA Gymnastics national championship medals.
- 1:28:15 Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL): Finally, Aly Raisman, one of the most accomplished American gymnast of all time, two time Olympian, team captain of the 2012 and 2016 women’s gymnastics team captured six Olympic and four World Championship medals, including an individual silver medal in the 2016 Olympic all around and gold medals in team competition in 2012 and 2016. A leader on and off the floor. Reisman uses her platform to advocate for abuse prevention and education.
- 1:32:25 Simone Biles: USA Gymnastics and the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee knew that I was abused by their official team doctor long before I was ever made aware of their knowledge. In May of 2015, Rhonda Faehn, the former head of USA Gymnastics women’s program, was told by my friend and teammate, Maggie Nichols, that she suspected I, too was a victim. I didn’t understand the magnitude of what was happening until the Indianapolis Star published its article in the fall of 2016, entitled, “former USA Gymnastics doctor accused of abuse.” Yet while I was a member of the 2016 US Olympic team, neither USAG USOPC nor the FBI ever contacted me or my parents, while others had been informed and investigations were ongoing. I had been left to wonder why was not taught until after the Rio Games. This is the largest case of sexual abuse in the history of American sport. And although, there has been a fully independent investigation of the FBI his handling of the case, neither USAG nor USOPC have ever been made the subject of the same level of scrutiny. These are the entities entrusted with the protection of our sport and our athletes. And yet it feels like questions of responsibility and organizational failures remain unanswered.
- 1:34:30 Simone Biles: We have been failed and we deserve answers. Nassar is where he belongs, but those who enabled him deserve to be held accountable. If they are not, I am convinced that this will continue to happen to others, across Olympic sports. In reviewing the OIGs report, it really feels like the FBI turned a blind eye to us and went out of its way to help protect USAG and USOPC. A message needs to be sent. If you allow a predator to harm children, the consequences will be swift and severe.
- 1:37:00 McKayla Maroney: As most of you are probably aware, I was molested by the US Gymnastics National Team and Olympic Team doctor, Larry Nasser, and in actuality, he turned out to be more of a pedophile than he was a doctor. What I’m trying to bring to your attention today is something incredibly disturbing and illegal. After telling my entire story of abuse to the FBI in the Summer of 2015, not only did the FBI not report my abuse, but when they eventually documented my report, 17 months later, they made entirely false claims about what I said. After reading the Office of Inspector General’s OIG report, I was shocked and deeply disappointed at this narrative they chose to fabricate, they chose to lie about what I said and protect a serial child molester, rather than protect not only me, but countless others. My story is one which Special Agent in Charge Jay Abbott and his subordinates did not want you to hear. And it’s time that I tell you. In the summer of 2015, like I said, I was scheduled to speak to the FBI about my abuse with Larry Nasser over the phone. I was too sick to go meet with anyone in person. And talking about this abuse would give me PTSD for days. But I chose to speak about it to try and make a difference and protect others. I remember sitting on my bedroom floor for nearly three hours as I told them what happened to me. I hadn’t even told my own mother about these facts. But I thought as uncomfortable and as hard as it was to tell my story, I was going to make a difference, and hopefully protecting others from the same abuse. I answered all of their questions honestly and clearly. And I disclosed all of my molestations I had entered by Nassar to them in extreme detail. They told me to start from the beginning. I told them about the sport of gymnastics, how you make the national team, and how I came to meet Larry Nassar when I was 13 at a Texas camp. I told him that the first thing Larry Nassar ever said to me was to change into shorts with no underwear, because that would make it easier for him to work on me. And within minutes, he had his fingers in my vagina. The FBI then immediately asked, Did he insert his fingers into your rectum? I said, No, he never did. They asked if he used gloves. I said no, he never did. They asked if this treatment ever helped me. I said no, it never did. This treatment was 100% abuse and never gave me any relief. I then told the FBI about Tokyo, the day he gave me a sleeping pill for the plane ride, to then work on me later that night. That evening, I was naked, completely alone with him on top of me molesting me for hours. I told them I thought I was going to die that night, because there was no way that he would let me go. But he did. I told them I walked the halls of a Tokyo hotel at 2am, at only 15 years old. I began crying at the memory over the phone. And there was just dead silence. I was so shocked at the agent’s silence and disregard for my trauma. After that minute of silence he asked “Is that all?” Those words in itself was one of the worst moments of this entire process for me, to have my abuse be minimized and disregarded by the people who were supposed to protect me. Just to feel like my abuse was not enough. But the truth is my abuse was enough, and they wanted to cover it up. USA Gymnastics in concert with the FBI and the Olympic Committee or working together to conceal that Larry Nassar was a predator. I then proceeded to tell them about London, and how he’d signed me up last on his sheet so he could molest me for hours twice a day. I told them how he molested me right before I won my team gold medal. How he gave me presents, bought me caramel macchiatos and bread when I was hungry. I even sent them screenshots of Nassar’s last text to me, which was “Michaela, I love how you see the world with rose colored glasses. I hope you continue to do so.” This was very clear cookie cutter pedophilia and abuse. And this is important because I told the FBI all of this, and they chose to falsify my report and to not only minimize my abuse, but silence me yet again. I thought given the severity of the situation, they would act quickly for the sake of protecting other girls, but instead, it took them 14 months to report anything when Larry Nassar, in my opinion, should have been in jail that day.
- 1:42:00 McKayla Maroney: According to the OIG report, about 14 months after I disclosed my abuse to the FBI, nearly a year and a half later, the FBI agent who interviewed me in 2015 decided to write down my statement, a statement that the OIG report determined to be materially false.
- 1:42:33 McKayla Maroney: What is the point of reporting abuse if our own FBI agents are going to take it upon themselves to bury that report in a drawer?
- 1:42:55 McKayla Maroney: What’s even more upsetting to me is that we now we know that these FBI agents have committed an obvious crime. They falsified my statement, and that is illegal in itself. Yet no recourse has been taken against them. The Department of Justice refused to prosecute these individuals. Why? Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco couldn’t even bring herself to be here today. And it is the Department of Justice’s job to hold them accountable.
- 1:43:25 McKayla Maroney: I am tired of waiting for people to do the right thing, because my abuse was enough and we deserve justice. These individuals clearly violated policies and were negligent in executing their duties. And in doing so, more girls were abused by Larry Nasser for over a year. To not indict these agents is a disservice to me and my teammates. It is a disservice to the system which was built to protect all of us from abuse. It was a disservice to every victim who suffered needlessly at the hands of Larry Nassar after I spoke up. Why are public servants whose job is to protect getting away with this? This is not justice. Enough is enough. Today, I ask you all to hear my voice. I ask you please do all that is in your power to ensure that these individuals are held responsible and accountable for ignoring my initial report, for lying about my initial report, and for covering up for a child molester.
- 1:44:30 McKayla Maroney: I would like to express my deep gratitude to the United States Senate, a very powerful institution, that from the very beginning has fought for us rather than against us.
- 1:46:47 Maggie Nichols After I reported my abuse to USA Gymnastics, my family and I were told by their former president, Steve Penny, to keep quiet and not say anything that could hurt the FBI investigation. We now know there was no real FBI investigation occurring. While my complaints with the FBI, Larry Nassar continued to abuse women and girls. During this time the FBI issued no search warrants and made no arrests. From the day I reported my molestation by Nassar, I was treated differently by USAG. Not only did the FBI fail to conduct a thorough investigation, but they also knew that USAG and the USOPC created a false narrative where Larry Nasser was allowed to retire with his reputation intact and returned to Michigan State University, thus allowing dozens of little girls to be molested. As the Inspector General’s report details during this time period, FBI agents did not properly documented evidence failed to report proper authorities and the Special Agent in Charge was seeking to become the new director of security for the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee. A job opportunity raised by Steve Penny.
- 1:51:20 Aly Raisman: In 2015, it was known that at least six national team athletes had been abused by Nassar. There was even one of the athletes that was abused on film. Given our abusers unfettered access to children, stopping him should have been a priority. Instead, the following occurred. The FBI failed to interview pertinent parties in a timely manner. It took over 14 months for the FBI to contact me, despite my many requests to be interviewed by them. The records establish that Steve Penney, FBI agent Jay Abbott, and their subordinates worked to conceal Nassar’s crimes. Steve Penney arranged with the FBI to conduct my interview at the Olympic Training Center, where I was under the control and observation of USA Gymnastics and the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee. The day of my interview, Steve Penny flew to the Olympic Training Center, and he made sure I was aware he was there. I felt pressured by the FBI to consent to Nassar’s plea deal. The agent diminish the significance of my abuse and it made me feel my criminal case wasn’t worth pursuing. Special Agent in Charge of investigating Nassar met Steve penny for beers to discuss job opportunities in the Olympic movement. Another FBI agent work with Steve penny to determine jurisdiction without interviewing the survivors. I’ve watched multiple high ranking officials at USAG, USOPC and FBI resign or retire without explanation of how they may have contributed to the problem, some of whom were publicly thanked for their service and rewarded with severance or bonus money. My reports of abuse were not only buried by USAG USOPC, but they were also mishandled by federal law enforcement officers who failed to follow their most basic duties. The FBI and others within both USAG and USOPC knew that Nasser molested children and did nothing to restrict his access. Steve Penny and any USAG employee could have walked a few steps to file a report with the Indiana Child Protective Services since they shared the same building. Instead, they quietly allowed Nassar to slip out the side door knowingly allowing him to continue his “work” at MSU Sparrow hospital, a USAG Club, and even run for school board. Nassar found more than 100 new victims to molest. It was like serving innocent children up to a pedophile on a silver platter.
- 1:54:33 Aly Raisman: USAG and USOPC have a long history of enabling abuse by turning a blind eye. Both organizations knew of Nassar’s abuse long before it became public. Although you wouldn’t know that by reading their press releases, which would have you and their corporate sponsors believe that athletes safety comes first. We have called for a fully independent factual investigation for years now, because I and these women who sit before you know firsthand, these organizations and their public statements are not to be trusted. They claim they want accountability, but then seek to restrict which staff can be interviewed, which documents can be examined and claim attorney client privilege over and over again. The so called investigations these organizations orchestrated were not designed to provide the answers we so critically need. Why are we left to guess why USAG and USOPC deliberately ignored reported abuse? Was it to protect the value of the sponsorships? The LA 28 bid? their own jobs? to avoid criminal liability, perhaps. But why must we speculate when the facts are obtainable and the stakes are so high?
- 1:56:04 Aly Raisman: Why would duly sworn federal law enforcement officers ignore reports of abuse by a doctor across state lines and country borders for a future job opportunity? Or whether additional incentives and pressures? Why must we speculate when the facts are obtainable and the stakes are so high
- 1:57:00 Aly Raisman: Without knowing who knew what when, we cannot identify all enablers or determine whether they are still in positions of power. We just can’t fix a problem we don’t understand
- 2:04:28 Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA): I Hope this isn’t something so sensitive, you don’t feel you can talk about it. But do you have any thoughts or inputs to share about SafeSport, the national nonprofit entity that has been tasked by Congress with handling allegations from amateur athletes?
Aly Raisman: Yeah, I personally think safe sport is…I’m trying to be respectful here…I don’t like safe sport. I hear from many survivors that they report their abuse and it’s like playing hot potato where someone else kicks it over to somebody else, and they don’t hear back for a really long time. I think a really big issue is that safe sport is funded by USA Gymnastics or the United States Olympic Committee. I’m not sure exactly what the correct terminology is. But if you’re SafeSport and you are funded by the organization you’re investigating, they’re likely not going to do the right thing. And so I think that it needs to be completely separate. And I personally think SafeSport needs a lot of work. And I know from many survivors and you know, my mom has personally reported things to safesport, but we’ve followed up so many times, they say we can’t help you or they either ignore us or pass it on to somebody else and the person they pass it on to says they kick it back to them. It’s just a complete mess and the priority doesn’t seem to be safety and well being of athletes. It seems to be protecting USA Gymnastics and doing everything to keep the PR good.
- 2:10:15 Aly Raisman: Because the FBI made me feel like my abuse didn’t count and it wasn’t a big deal. And I remember sitting there with the FBI agent and him trying to convince me that it wasn’t that bad. And it’s taken me years of therapy to realize that my abuse was bad that it does matter.
- 2:11:33 Simone Biles: Okay, one more to add — we also want to see them, at least be federally prosecuted to the fullest extent because they need to be held accountable.
- 3:03:54 FBI Director Christopher Wray: I want to be crystal clear, the actions and inaction of the FBI employees detailed in this report are totally unacceptable. These individuals betrayed the core duty that they have of protecting people. They failed to protect young women and girls from abuse. The work we do certainly is often complicated and uncertain, and we’re never going to be perfect, but the kinds of fundamental errors that were made in this case in 2015 and 2016 should never have happened.
- 3:06:37 FBI Director Christopher Wray: When I received the Inspector General’s report and saw that the Supervisory Special Agent in Indianapolis had failed to carry out even the most basic parts of the job, I immediately made sure he was no longer performing the functions of a Special Agent, and I can now tell you that that individual no longer works for the FBI in any capacity.
- 03:07:01 FBI Director Christopher Wray: As for the former Indianapolis specialists in charge, the descriptions of his behavior also reflect violations of the FBI, his long standing code of conduct and the ethical obligations for all FBI employees, especially senior officials. Now that individual has been gone for the Bureau for about three and a half years having retired in January of 2018. Before any review launched and I will say I will say it is extremely frustrating that we are left with little disciplinary recourse when people retire before their cases can be adjudicated.
- 3:11:10 Inspector General Michael Horowitz: Let me briefly just summarize the results of our investigation. In July 2015, USA Gymnastics reported the sexual assault allegations against Nassar to the FBI Indianapolis field office. USA Gymnastics officials described graphic information that had been provided by Ms. Maroney, Ms. Nichols and Ms. Raisman, and informed the FBI that all three athletes were available to be interviewed. However, it wasn’t until six weeks later, on September 2, that the Indianapolis office interviewed Ms. Maroney by telephone as you heard, and neither Ms. Nichols nor Ms. Raisman were ever interviewed by that office. Moreover, the Indianapolis office did not formally document its interview of Ms. Maroney at the time, or its July meeting with USA Gymnastics. The Office also didn’t formally open an investigation or an assessment of the matter. Immediately following that September 2 interview, the Indianapolis office and local federal prosecutors concluded there was no venue in Indianapolis for the federal investigation. Both offices also had serious questions as to whether there was federal criminal jurisdiction, as opposed to state or local jurisdiction. Yet the Indianapolis Field Office didn’t advise state or local authorities about the allegations and didn’t take any actions to mitigate the risks to gymnast that Nassar was continuing to treat. Further, that office failed to transfer the case to the FBI office that actually might have had venue, despite informing USA Gymnastics that it had actually done so.
- 3:12:45 Inspector General Michael Horowitz: After eight months of FBI inactivity, in May 2016, USA Gymnastics officials contacted the FBI Los Angeles field office to report the same allegations that they had provided to the Indianapolis office. Following this meeting, the LA office opened a federal investigation and undertook numerous investigative steps. But, critically, it didn’t contact state or local authorities and it didn’t take action to mitigate the ongoing threat presented by Nassar.
- 3:13:13 Inspector General Michael Horowitz: It wasn’t until August 2016 when Michigan State University Police, that police department, received a separate sexual assault complaint from another gymnast. And in September 2016, the next month, the MSU Police Department executed a court authorized search of Nassar’s residence. Among other things, they seized devices containing over 30,000 images of child pornography.
- 3:13:42 Inspector General Michael Horowitz: According to civil court documents, approximately 70 or more young athletes were allegedly sexually abused by Nassar under the guise of medical treatment between July 2015, when the FBI first received these allegations, until September 2016.
- 3:14:00 Inspector General Michael Horowitz: We further found that when the FBI’s handling of the Nassar matter came under scrutiny in 2017 and 2018, Indianapolis officials provided inaccurate information to make it appear that they had actually been diligent in their follow-up efforts, and did so in part by blaming others. In addition, it resulted in the Indianapolis Supervisory Special Agent drafting a summary of his telephonic interview of Ms. Maroney from 2015. That summary included statements, as you heard from Ms. Maroney, that didn’t accurately reflect what she had told them and could have actually jeopardized the criminal investigations by including false information that could have bolstered Nasser’s defense. Further, we concluded that that agent made false testimony statements to the OIG in two interviews that we conducted.
- 3:14:55 Inspector General Michael Horowitz: We also learned during our investigation that in the fall of 2015, the FBI Indianapolis Special Agent in Charge, Jay Abbott, met with USA Gymnastics president, Steve Penny, at a bar and discussed a potential job opportunity with the US Olympic Committee. Thereafter, Abbott engaged with Penny about both his interest in the US Olympic Committee job and the Nassar investigation, while at the same time participating in Nassar investigation discussions at the FBI. Abbott applied for the US Olympic Committee position in 2017. But wasn’t selected. We determined that Abbott’s actions violated the FBI’s clear conflicts of interest policy. We also found that Abbott made false statements to the OIG and my agents in two interviews that we conducted.
- 3:19:21 FBI Director Christopher Wray: So we have something called CAFI’s, which are Child Adolescent Forensic Interviewers. These are interviewers who are specially trained in the unique sensitivities of what it takes to interview people, victims, survivors of these kinds of crimes. And one of the reforms that we’ve put in place is to make crystal clear in policy that interviews of individuals like Miss Raisman should be conducted with those kinds of interviewers and they should not be conducted telephonically, they should be conducted in person wherever possible. That was true before, we’ve made it more clear now, and we’re putting training in place –mandatory training.
- 3:20:12 Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL): General Horowitz, did any of the FBI employees or agents involved in this case deliberately misrepresent any facts to you and your investigation?
Inspector General Michael Horowitz: They did. We found both that the person who wrote the report that Ms. Maroney testified about falsely testified to us about what he did in connection with that report, as well as other matters that we asked him about and Special Agent in Charge Abbott made false statements to us about the steps he took in 2015 when these allegations came in, but also about his job seeking efforts with the US Olympic Committee.
Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL): Do these deliberate misrepresentations reach the level of criminal violation?
Inspector General Michael Horowitz: Well, we found that they violated criminal law sufficiently that in what we do at that point is make the referral to prosecutors to assess them because that’s who needs to make the decision whether or not there will be charges brought.
Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL): Director Wray, what happened next?
FBI Director Christopher Wray: Well, as inspector general Horowitz said, those were referred to the prosecutors over at the Justice Department and they’re the ones that made the decision. As I understand it from Inspector General Horowitz’s report the prosecutors at the Justice Department on two separate occasions, both in 2020 and then again in 2021, declined to prosecute, but I really would defer to the Justice Department for those.
Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL): Are you personally aware or professionally aware of any facts or circumstances that would lead to that decision?
FBI Director Christopher Wray: I am not.
- 3:22:49 FBI Director Christopher Wray: So there’s a whole bunch of things we’ve done differently. First, we’ve accepted every single one of Inspector General Horowitz’s recommendations, and then some. We’ve already begun implementing all of those. We are strengthening policies, we’re strengthening procedures. We’re taking training, we’re strengthening our systems, all building in double checked triple checks, safeguards, oversight, different ways of making sure that we cannot have as occurred here, in certain instances, a single point of failure. That’s one of the lessons here that is just totally unacceptable. And so part of what’s built in is a bunch of, as I said, double and triple, even quadruple checks to make sure that that doesn’t happen, both in terms of how the initial reports are handled with the appropriate urgency, but also in terms of communication. One of the important recommendations from Inspector General Horowitz is reporting to state local law enforcement, as well as communications between field offices, transfers between field offices.
- 3:31:20 FBI Director Christopher Wray: My understanding of the most senior individual involved, based on looking at the thorough and independent investigation that Inspector General Horowitz conducted, was that the most senior individual with knowledge and responsibility was the Special Agent in Charge in Indianapolis, Mr. Abbott.
- 3:32:23 Inspector General Michael Horowitz: FBI policies don’t require the level of detail and reporting to the headquarters unit that would, for example, put the responsibility directly on them to have notified state local authorities.
- 3:56:55 Senator Chris Coons (D-DE): My impression from what she’d said, and what I’ve read is that their concern is that USA Gymnastics and the Olympic Committee have thrown a variety of roadblocks into a genuinely thorough investigation into whether there had or hadn’t been previous incidents similar to Dr. Nassar, either in USA Gymnastics or within sports more broadly. It is hard to believe that this is the only time that there’s been a failing of this scale. Given, Director Wray, when you just said about the 16,000 arrests, we all know that the horror of child sexual abuse is tragically far more widespread in this country and around the world than any of us would like to see. So first. Mr. Horwitz, do you think there is still a pressing need? And who would be the appropriate entity to conduct that? And what if any advice do you have for us on respecting her request to this committee?
Inspector General Michael Horowitz: It’s a great question, Senator Coons. And, frankly, as you indicated, the reason we can do a report like this and other reports that we’ve been able to do is because of the statutory authorities that we’ve been given by the Congress that make us independent. And by the way, picking up on something Miss Raisman said, which was very perceptive, about who is funding the oversight, as you know, back in 2008, we were given an independent budget line so that our budget is not coming from the Justice Department, but is being set by an independent appropriator. I don’t know, as I sit here, frankly, what the oversight mechanisms are currently on USOC and the other entities. But actually, one of the things I did have a chance to talk with Senator Blumenthal about during the break was the importance of given what I’d heard from these gymnast’s, the very issue you just mentioned, which is thinking about what is the right independent oversight mechanism of those bodies, which are not just private entities, right? These are organizations that have been sanctioned by Congress to oversee our US athletes, and they need strong oversight as well and I’m happy to work with you as well Senator, and the committee, in thinking about how to do that because we are seeing the IG (Inspector General) model replicated in many places, as you know, across the country, including many state and local entities.
- 4:04:55 Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN): What steps are you taking to ensure that the agents communicate allegations of sexual assault with local law enforcement?
FBI Director Christopher Wray: So we’ve enhanced our policies and procedures on the specific issue of reporting sake and local law enforcement built in. Now they have to document it, which they didn’t have to before. And that builds in, as inspector general Horowitz referred to, an ability to hold them accountable. They have to alert their supervisors. So there’s a second set of eyes. So that would help. We’ve also enhanced our training to make clear that it’s mandatory and that’s regardless of whether there’s some question about potential federal jurisdiction. We can continue to investigate if we there’s federal jurisdiction, but we have to do, on a parallel track, report to the appropriate state and local or, in some cases, social services agencies as well.
- 4:06:36 FBI Director Christopher Wray: So I appreciate the question. There are two pieces of this one. The Child Adolescent Forensic Interviewers (CAFIs), which again, is a very specific discipline that requires very specific sensitivities and skill sets. And we’ve changed our policies to reinforce the use of those interviewers for these kinds of cases. Second is our victim services division. And one of the things that we changed even before receiving inspector general Horowitz his report on my watch is to make clear that the victim services that we provide, which is a little bit different from the forensic interviewing part of it, but it’s also very important to handling these survivors with the appropriate sensitivity, that that is triggered at any stage. There is not just a full investigation, but we’re in when we’re in the assessment or pre-assessment phase. It has to happen there too.
- 4:07:42 FBI Director Christopher Wray: The scale of this kind of criminality in the country, as reflected by the 18,000 investigations that we’ve had over the past five years and the 16,000 arrests that we with our partners have made over the last five years, I think goes to your question about resources. And I can assure you that if the Congress were to see fit to give us more resources for those programs, they would immediately be able to be put to good use.
- 4:12:15 Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CN): Jay Abbott lied to you. Why do you in the course of your investigation of his Miss Congo 18 United States Code 1001. People get prosecuted for making false statements when they applied to a bank, federally insured bank for a mortgage. And here is a federal agent, the former Special Agent in Charge of the Indianeapolis office making a material false statement to you. In your investigation, you refer that for criminal prosecution, did you not?
Inspector General Michael Horowitz: That’s correct.
- 4:42:30 Senator Jon Ossoff (D-GA): Could you please elaborate on the nature of the discussions between Mr. Abbott and Mr. Penny, regarding potential employment for Mr. Abbott at institutions associated with USA Gymnastics or the US Olympic Committee?
Inspector General Michael Horowitz: I can. They began, as I mentioned in a discussion that they had when they met at a bar in 2015, where Mr. Penny and Mr. Abbott discussed a future job opening, Head of Security at the US Olympic Committee, that Mr. Penny expected to occur. That initial discussion led to Mr. Abbott’s interest in the position. And then there are ongoing discussions between the two of them, as we outlined in the report, in emails that we’ve seen, where Mr. Abbott expresses his interest in the job. And equally troubling, acknowledges that it would be inappropriate for him and a conflict of interest for him to pursue the position because of the ongoing Nassar investigation. Yet, as we found in 2017, that is precisely what he did in applying for the job, which he was never ultimately interviewed for.
Senator Jon Ossoff (D-GA): And who initiated the discussion about employment prospects? Was that an opportunity dangled by Mr. Penny? Or was it solicited by Mr. Abbott?
Inspector General Michael Horowitz: That was an opportunity mentioned first by Mr. Penny, because of his understanding that there might be a future retirement or an upcoming retirement at the US Olympic Committee.
Senator Jon Ossoff (D-GA): So just to be clear, Mr. Penny, the Chief Executive at USA Gymnastics, while there is an ongoing FBI inquiry into gross misconduct, criminal activity and sexual abuse by at least one USA Gymnastics employee, raises with the Special Agent in Charge at the field office that is steering this investigation, the prospect of potentially lucrative and prestigious employment at a parallel organization where Mr. Penny may have influence. Is that correct?
Inspector General Michael Horowitz: That’s correct. And at the same time, writing in emails for example, how he’s looking for additional information about the Nassar investigation and events as they occur.
- 4:46:06 Inspector General Michael Horowitz: The challenge on Mr. Abbott, with regard to the criminal issue here, which is 18 USC 208, which is the federal criminal statute is a, I think I mentioned this earlier, challenging one and that’s being generous with speaking about how it’s written to determine whether there was a criminal violation. The challenge here was, and I’m focused on the law here as to how 208 is because Mr. Abbott was looking for a job at the US Olympic Committee, and Mr. Penny was employed by the US Gymnastics Federation Association, two different entities, that situation is not clearly covered by 208. No matter how clear it would be to a layperson the interactions between those two entities.
Design by Only Child Imaginations
Music Presented in This Episode
Intro & Exit: Tired of Being Lied To by David Ippolito (found on Music Alley by mevio)