Massachusetts U.S. Attorney Under Fire After Federal Watchdogs’ Scathing Reports…

Massachusetts U.S. Attorney Under Fire After Federal Watchdogs' Scathing Reports

A Justice Department monitor discovered that Massachusetts’ top federal prosecutor released secret Justice Department material to a reporter in order to support an ally in a political campaign — and then lied about it to investigators.

The finding was the most damning of a scathing series of investigations published by DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz and another federal watchdog body against Rachael Rollins, who announced Tuesday her intention to resign as United States Attorney for the District of Massachusetts, a job she has held since January 2022.

In a statement released Tuesday, Rollins’ lawyer stated that she “understands that her presence has become a distraction” and that the “work of the office and the Department of Justice is far too important to be overshadowed by anything else.”

The blistering investigations from the Office of Special Counsel and the Justice Inspector General, which were issued only hours after Rollins announced his intention to leave, criticised the U.S. attorney’s behaviour in extraordinarily harsh terms rarely used against senior-level appointees.

“Ms. Rollins’ conduct in leaking nonpublic DOJ information constitutes an extraordinary abuse of her authority and threatens to erode public trust in the integrity of federal law enforcement actions,” Special Counsel Henry Kerner stated in a 105-page report given to President Joe Biden.

“We found Rollins’s conduct described throughout this report violated federal regulations, numerous DOJ policies, her Ethics Agreement, and applicable law, and fell far short of the standards of professionalism and judgement that the Department should expect of any employee, much less a U.S. Attorney,” Horowitz concluded in his 161-page report on Rollins’s allegations.

Horowitz determined that Rollins violated the federal false statements act and submitted the case to the Justice Department for a “prosecutive decision” on December 16, 2022. However, he observed that three weeks later, “the Department informed the OIG that it declined prosecution.”

Rollins’ resignation under a cloud of scandal has ramifications well beyond Massachusetts. Biden and other senior Senate Democrats spent a lot of political capital to get Rollins’ nomination through the Senate in December 2021, despite the fact that the Senate was divided. She was confirmed with a 51-50 vote, which required Vice President Kamala Harris to break ties twice.

Shortly after the allegations were released Wednesday morning, Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) expressed his appreciation for Rollins’ decision to resign.

“I’m deeply concerned by Ms. Rollins’s misconduct, as detailed in the Inspector General’s and Special Counsel’s reports, and I support her immediate resignation,” Durbin said in a statement.

Rollins was a prominent member of a group of progressive district attorneys who won municipal elections in recent years on promises to ease off on tough enforcement of several criminal statutes. Conservatives are now attacking many of these prosecutors, blaming them for soaring crime rates in some cities.

The new findings detail Rollins’ behind-the-scenes support for an associate, Ricardo Arroyo, in his quest to succeed her as Suffolk district attorney last year. According to federal investigators, Rollins supplied material to reporters at Boston’s two major metro newspapers in order to hurt Arroyo’s opponent, Kevin Hayden, who was completing out Rollins’ term as district attorney. According to one of the studies, Rollins served as Arroyo’s “de facto campaign advisor” while never openly supporting him, and she “repeatedly attempted to sabotage” Hayden in what became a bitter primary election battle in which both candidates faced claims of wrongdoing.

The most egregious violation, according to the investigators, occurred when Rollins provided a Boston Herald reporter with an internal Justice Department memo recusing herself and her office from an unspecified investigation of Hayden in order to create public perception of a potential federal investigation into Hayden’s handling of alleged misconduct by local transit police officers. While Rollins provided some of the information to the Herald before to the Democratic primary, the paper did not publish it until after Hayden had won the nomination.

According to the allegations, Rollins’ conduct violated the Hatch Act, a long-standing federal statute that restricts government employees’ participation in partisan political campaigns. Violations of the type Rollins was accused of can result in workplace discipline, including termination in severe situations, for many types of federal workers, but because U.S. attorneys are presidential appointees, only the president can take action against them.

Rollins’ intention to quit by Friday appears to preclude any such action against her. A request for comment from the White House was not immediately returned Wednesday morning.

Rollins told federal investigators that she did not believe her chats with Arroyo violated the Hatch Act or Justice Department policy because “I was having them in my individual capacity” and had previously spoken with Hayden. She did, however, add, “I’m not saying these communications are appropriate.”

The inspector general said that, with her permission, he got Rollins’ phone records and text messages to help contradict her claims that she had no contact with the reporters in question. These documents contributed to Horowitz’s determination that Rollins lied in her interviews.

Rollins’ alleged transgressions, however, did not end with the releases of nonpublic material or her “lack of candour” to investigators. The inspector general also chastised her for allegedly soliciting and accepting Celtics tickets from an associate who worked for the organisation, as well as attending a press conference with prominent political figures after AWN published a leaked draught of the Supreme Court opinion overturning Roe v. Wade.

Rollins has not publicly addressed the reports or allegations, but her attorney filed a 10-page letter to the Office of Special Counsel last week dismissing many of the allegations and demanding that her text exchanges with Arroyo not be made public.

Her lawyer, former Justice Department Inspector General Michael Bromwich, delivered a public statement on Tuesday that did not directly address the conclusions in the two reports.

“Rachael has been profoundly honoured to serve as U.S. Attorney over the past 16 months and is incredibly proud of all her office has accomplished during that limited time, especially in the areas of gun violence and civil rights,” Bromwich said. “After the dust settles and she resigns, Rachael will make herself available to answer questions.”

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