WASHINGTON — The Justice Department is reviewing its decision not to charge FBI agents with making false statements in connection with reports from Team USA gymnasts about abuse by former team doctor Larry Nassar.
Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco told the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday that the department’s Criminal Division is taking another look at the matter, “including new information that has come to light.”
“I do want the committee and, frankly, I want the survivors to understand how exceptionally seriously we take this issue and believe this deserves a thorough and full review,” Monaco said. “I think you can be assured there is a sense of urgency and gravity with the work that needs to be done.”
Monaco and the Justice Department leadership were noticeably absent from a committee hearing last month that featured testimony from four Team USA gymnasts and focused on a DOJ watchdog report over the summer that found multiple FBI field offices failed to take the allegations seriously.
That report found FBI records were created that falsely summarized the testimony of an athlete who had spent hours detailing the abuses she endured and inaccurately described the FBI’s handling of the matter. And when called to account for their actions, “two of the agents lied to our OIG investigators,” DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz told the committee.
Chairman Richard J. Durbin of Illinois on Tuesday said he, other senators and the gymnasts who testified have expressed “shock and dissatisfaction” with the department’s decision to decline prosecution of the FBI agents.
“People are charged with the crime of lying to the government and are held accountable, and some are in prison, for the very acts which appear to have taken place here,” Durbin told Monaco. “And yet the decision not to prosecute is one most of us clearly don’t understand.”
Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn voiced doubt to Monaco that the Justice Department had any sense of urgency or seriousness six years after the incidents and when DOJ leadership didn’t show up to the previous hearing.
Cornyn brought up comments after the hearing from Aly Raisman, one of the gymnasts who testified at that hearing about Nassar, who called it “shocking and disturbing” that the Justice Department leadership didn’t attend.
Monaco responded that the committee heard from Horowitz and FBI Director Christopher Wray. At the hearing, Wray apologized for FBI employees who “had their own chance to stop this monster in 2015 and failed.”
Cornyn then questioned whether the Justice Department had delayed so long that prosecutors might have missed the five-year window for filing those particular charges, known as the statute of limitations.
“So here we are six years later, isn’t it likely that any criminal charges for lying to the FBI would be barred by the statute of limitations?” Cornyn said.
“You have the audacity to tell us that you are experiencing a sense of urgency and gravity over this,” Cornyn said. “It’s simply not credible.”
Monaco responded that she didn’t want to get into the specifics of what legal theories could be pursued, nor what evidence may be pursued. It’s not clear when the statute of limitations would end.