In the News

Kansas Sen. Moran wants FBI, Justice to testify on mishandling of Nassar investigation

Kansas City Star | Katie Bernard

U.S. Senators Jerry Moran (R-Kansas) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut) are calling for Federal Bureau of Investigation and Department of Justice officials to testify after a report Wednesday revealed FBI agents made serious errors while investigating sexual abuse allegations against former USA Gymnastics national team doctor Larry Nassar.

It took months for the FBI to open a formal investigation into Nassar after complaints were made in 2015, according to a report by the DOJ Inspector General. At least 40 girls and women said they were molested over a 14-month period while the FBI was aware of other sexual abuse allegations involving Nassar. Officials at USA Gymnastics also contacted FBI officials in Los Angeles in May 2016 after eight months of inactivity from agents in Indianapolis.

Moran, a Kansas Republican, and Blumenthal had pushed for the DOJ Inspector General Investigation after their own 2019 inquiry in the Senate commerce committee found that the U.S. Olympic Committee had failed to protect athletes from abuse.

“We certainly saw the failure of the system that when someone was abused and reported it that there was woefully inadequate response, not only to provide care and protection for the person making the complaint but to see that the perpetrator of these sexual abuse these sexual crimes were no longer in a position to harm other amateur athletes,” Moran said.

“We had a real sense for a long time during the senate investigation that something was significantly wrong in the investigation in Indianapolis. And today’s inspector general report confirms that those fears, those concerns, those assumptions were absolutely true.”

The inspector general report, released Wednesday, found that FBI officials in Indianapolis did not respond to the allegations with the “utmost seriousness and urgency that they deserved and required.”

FBI agents, the report said, violated bureau policy and made “numerous missteps and fundamental errors” including failure to conduct any investigative activity until more than a month after a meeting with USA Gymnastics in 2015. Agents interviewed one of three athletes by phone, but never spoke with two other gymnasts despite being told they were available to meet.

When the investigation came under scrutiny, the report said, FBI agents gave incomplete and inaccurate statements to internal FBI inquiries.

In a statement, Moran and Blumenthal said they were “appalled” by the findings and called for Inspector General Michael Horowitz, FBI Director Christopher Wray and Attorney General Merrick Garland to come before the Senate to testify on the findings and how similar situations could be avoided.

“How many athletes would have been spared unimaginable pain if the FBI had done its job? The Department of Justice now needs to decide if it is going to be yet another institution that fails survivors or if it is going to enforce some measure of accountability for these crimes,” the senators said.

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In a statement, the FBI said action had already been taken.

“The actions and inactions of certain FBI employees described in the Report are inexcusable and a discredit to this organization,” the agency said.

“The FBI has taken affirmative steps to ensure and has confirmed that those responsible for the misconduct and breach of trust no longer work (on) FBI matters,” the statement said. “We will take all necessary steps to ensure that the failures of the employees outlined in the Report do not happen again.”

John Manly, lead attorney for more than 150 survivors of Nassar’s abuse, called for criminal charges against the FBI agents.

“The FBI betrayed generations of Olympic champions. It betrayed the hundreds of children Nassar savaged, and it betrayed the American people’s trust,” Manly said in a statement. “Those responsible need to be held to account, with all the force the law can provide.”

Nassar was ultimately charged in 2016 with federal child pornography offenses and sexual abuse charges in Michigan.

He is now serving decades in prison after hundreds of girls and women said he sexually abused them under the guise of medical treatment when he worked for Michigan State and Indiana-based USA Gymnastics, which trains Olympians.

Last year Congress passed legislation, authored by Moran and Blumenthal in reaction to their investigation into the U.S. Olympic committee, strengthening reporting requirements and protections around abuse in sports and giving Congress the power to dissolve the Olympic Committee.