Following Nassar’s arrest, Blumenthal and U.S. Senator Jerry Moran (R-KS) conducted a three-year investigation into abuse in Olympic sports & authored sweeping reform legislation signed into law last year, Blumenthal & U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) directly called for DOJ testimony at today’s hearing in a letter earlier this month
[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – More than three years after first beginning an investigation into abuse in Olympic sports following the arrest of former USA Gymnastics physician Larry Nassar, U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), co-author of the Empowering Olympic, Paralympic, and Amateur Athletes Act, delivered an opening statement today at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing “Dereliction of Duty: Examining the Inspector General’s Report on the FBI’s Handling of the Larry Nassar Investigation.”
Earlier this month, Blumenthal and U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) wrote Attorney General Merrick Garland and Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco calling on them to testify at today’s hearing.
“The FBI’s failure to act had real human consequence and that will be forever a stain on the FBI’s reputation. But even more so, the cover up that occurred afterward because when those agents came under scrutiny, they actually manufactured statements, they lied about what survivors told them. The ultimate abuse of authority,” Blumenthal said.
“There is nothing we can do to reverse the pain and grief that Larry Nassar caused you, but we can take action against the law enforcers who became enablers. Those institutions became enablers and so did the FBI. And so I call on the Department of Justice to come forward, they declined to do so today. Senator Feinstein and I specifically wrote them and urged them to be here. They owe the American people and you an explanation, and I call on the Department of Justice to pursue action, not just administrative action, but criminal prosecution where appropriate.”
In July, the Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Justice (OIG DOJ) released a report detailing the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) failure to act on reports it received about Larry Nassar’s abuse of athletes. The report revealed significant misconduct by at least two FBI agents in the Indianapolis field office who knew of Nassar’s abuse, failed to act and made false and misleading statements in documenting the case and describing their conduct to DOJ IG investigators. The DOJ IG made criminal referrals for these actions, which the Department of Justice declined to act on. Blumenthal and Moran were personally briefed on the report before its release by DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz.
Blumenthal and Moran repeatedly pressed the DOJ IG to investigate and report on the FBI’s handling of the Nassar case after uncovering evidence of misconduct during their eighteen-month investigation into systemic abuse within the U.S. Olympic movement. The joint investigation was launched the day after Larry Nassar was sentenced to prison and included four subcommittee hearings, interviews with Olympic athletes and survivors, and the retrieval of over 70,000 pages of documents.
Last year, Congress approved Blumenthal and Moran’s sweeping legislation to reform the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) in the wake of abuse allegations that touched nearly all corners of Olympic sport.
Text of Blumenthal’s opening remarks is available below.
Thank you, Chairman Durbin and my gratitude to you for holding this profoundly significant hearing and to Senator Moran, my partner who has worked tirelessly with me on this issue and been a great partner in our common effort.
But most important I really want to thank the athletes and survivors who are here. You have truly inspired us. I will never forget the moment that we stood in the Kennedy Caucus Room. There were forty or more of you, and you told us that you had been failed repeatedly by institutions that were supposed to protect you and you called on us to keep our word.
Today’s hearing is another step in our keeping the promise that we made to you then that we would work to hold accountable the institutions that failed you and to reform them and make sure that this kind of wrongdoing, more than wrongdoing, heinous, hideous abuse never happens again.
We have investigated and produced a report, we’ve asked the inspector general to investigate as well and he has produced a report and let me just come right to the reason we’re here today, it’s not only that the FBI failed to do its job systematically and repeatedly, it is also the cover up, the cover up that occurred afterward when FBI agents made material false statements and deceptive omissions, referred by the inspector general for criminal prosecution. Those referrals were declined without explanation. Without any public explanation at all. My hope is that the Department of Justice which was invited today and has declined to appear will match your courage by explaining why those lies by FBI agents did not lead to criminal prosecution and accountability and even days before this hearing, there had been no action even administratively, only with this hearing staring the FBI in the face did they fire one of those FBI agents.
There’s no question, Larry Nassar was a monster, a horrific predator. He was not the only monster in gymnastics, and gymnastics was not the only sport that had monsters. Our report focused not only on the monsters, but the enablers. The institutions that failed you, the schools like Michigan State University, USA Gymnastics, the coaches and trainers, they all looked the other way when you came to them and then the FBI looked the other way in July of 2015.
The FBI’s failure to act had real human consequence and that will be forever a stain on the FBI’s reputation. But even more so, the cover up that occurred afterward because when those agents came under scrutiny, they actually manufactured statements, they lied about what survivors told them. The ultimate abuse of authority.
There is nothing we can do to reverse the pain and grief that Larry Nassar caused you, but we can take action against the law enforcers who became enablers. Those institutions became enablers and so did the FBI. And so I call on the Department of Justice to come forward, they declined to do so today. Senator Feinstein and I specifically wrote them and urged them to be here. They owe the American people and you an explanation, and I call on the Department of Justice to pursue action, not just administrative action, but criminal prosecution where appropriate.
This day is a hard one, probably a little bit scary for you, but also hard for all of us who have valued and respected the work of the FBI. The FBI has admitted and I quote, “The actions and inactions o the FBI employees described in the OIG report are inexcusable and a discredit to this organization.” I agree, but it isn’t just those two FBI employees who are to blame, this failure was systematic. This investigation was mishandled from coast to coast, from Indianapolis to Los Angeles and it has to leave us wondering whether the FBI is capable of these kinds of sexual abuse investigations.
I’ll close where I began – we wouldn’t be here but for the tremendous courage of so many survivors and their unwavering demand for change. But there must be accountability for the individuals and institutions that enabled Larry Nassar. Anything else is unacceptable. Thank you Mr. Chairman.