WASHINGTON – The Department of Justice has launched a review of the FBI’s handling of the investigation into sex abuse allegations leveled against former USA Gymnastics team doctor and convicted child predator Larry Nassar in light of new information, Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco said Tuesday.
Speaking at a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Monaco said that the head of the DOJ’s criminal division, Kenneth Polite, “is currently reviewing this matter.”
“In light of that review … I am constrained in what more I can say about it,” she said.
The review comes months after a report from the DOJ’s Office of the Inspector General found that senior officials in the FBI’s Indianapolis field office failed to take allegations of Nassar’s abuse seriously when they learned of them in July 2015. More than 300 women and girls have accused Nassar of sexual abuse, including many members of the 2012 and 2016 U.S. Olympic women’s gymnastics teams, according to The New York Times.
The report singled out two FBI agents for their handling of the investigation: Indianapolis field office Special Agent in Charge W. Jay Abbott and a supervisory special agent who has been identified as Michael Langeman, according to Reuters. Langeman was recently fired over his handling of the case while Abbott retired in January 2018, CNN reported.
“The (inspector general) documented inexcusable, unacceptable failures, some of them quite fundamental failures – a lack of urgency, a lack of care for the victims who we have a duty to protect,” Monaco said Tuesday.
Last month, four elite gymnasts – Simone Biles, McKayla Maroney, Maggie Nichols and Aly Raisman – testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee about failures in the FBI’s investigation.
“I blame Larry Nassar, and I also blame an entire system that enabled and perpetuated his abuse,” Biles said, adding that the FBI and gymnastics officials turned “a blind eye” to the abuse. “We suffered and continue to suffer because no one at the FBI, (USA Gymnastics) or the (United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee) did what was necessary to protect us.”
Maroney, who was interviewed weeks after the FBI learned of the allegations against Nassar, said she felt “completely betrayed” by investigators.
“By not taking immediate action from my report, they allowed a child molester to go free for more than a year, and this inaction directly allowed Nassar’s abuse to continue,” she said. “They had legal, legitimate evidence of child abuse and did nothing.”
On Tuesday, Monaco said the survivors of Nassar’s abuse “deserved better than what they got from the FBI and from the Justice Department.”
“I want the survivors to understand how exceptionally seriously we take this issue and believe that this deserves a thorough and full review,” she said. Later, she added that the investigation is being handled with “a sense of urgency and gravity with the work that needs to be done.”
Last month, FBI Director Christopher Wray apologized to Nassar’s victims and called the bureau’s handling of the investigation “totally unacceptable.”
“These individuals betrayed the core duty that they have of protecting people,” he said. “They failed to protect young women and girls from abuse. … As long as I’m FBI director, I’m committed to doing everything in my power to make sure they never happen again.”