A Justice Department official revealed Tuesday that the DOJ is reviewing the decision not to charge FBI agents accused of improperly investigating sex abuse allegations involving the United States gymnastics team.
According to the Washington Post, Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco made the announcement during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. The Justice Department received criticism last month from the victims of former U.S. team doctor Larry Nassar for not holding the FBI accountable for their shortcomings.
“I do want the committee, and frankly, I want the survivors to understand how exceptionally seriously we take this issue. We believe that this deserves a thorough and full review,” Monaco told the committee. She also stated that the newly confirmed head of the criminal division, Kenneth Polite, “is currently reviewing this matter, including new information that has come to light.”
This review comes less than a month after Simone Biles, McKayla Maroney, Aly Raisman and Maggie Nichols testified before the same committee about how bureau officials failed to alert authorities, broke protocol and covered their infractions by lying to investigators.
“I blame Larry Nassar,” Biles said to the committee at the time. “I also blame an entire system that enabled and perpetrated his abuse.”
Per the Washington Post’s report:
More than 330 girls and women have come forward to say they were victimized by Nassar under the guise of medical treatments. He was ultimately convicted of state sex abuse and federal child pornography charges and is serving an effective life sentence in prison.
At Tuesday’s hearing, Monaco apologized to those Nassar victimized, saying, “I am deeply sorry that in this case the victims did not receive the response or the protection that they deserved.”
FBI Director Christopher A. Wray offered a similar public apology to the gymnasts at the hearing where they appeared last month, saying: “I’m especially sorry that there were people at the FBI who had their own chance to stop this monster back in 2015 and failed, and that is inexcusable. It never should have happened, and we’re doing everything in our power to make sure it never happens again.”
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) said Tuesday that Monaco had shown “profound disrespect” for the victims by declining to testify at that earlier hearing, despite being invited to appear.
“I mean no disrespect, senator,” Monaco replied.
“You’re about three weeks too late, by my account,” said Cornyn.
In response to the backlash, Monaco urged officials to coordinate more closely with state and local law enforcement about potential crimes that may fall outside federal law but may still be worth pursuing.
The FBI’s main slipup in the Nassar case was not alerting the proper authorities that he might be committing sex crimes against minors. Nassar was charged with those crimes and eventually pleaded guilty in 2017.