The Department of Justice had the opportunity in 2022 to prosecute President Joe Biden’s disgraced U.S. Attorney Rachael Rollins for lying under oath about a string of federal and ethical regulations months before her abuse of power scandal broke but ultimately refused.
This week, just half a year after the DOJ declined to prosecute, Rollins announced her intent to resign as Massachusetts’ top federal prosecutor. Her decision came on the heels of reports from both the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) and Special Counsel (OSC) Henry Kerner, who found that she committed “an extraordinary breach of public trust by a senior government official” via “repeated instances of misconduct and poor judgment.”
Rollins, Kerner wrote in a letter to the Biden White House, initiated leaks to tarnish the reputation of one of her political opponents and sabotage his chances in the 2022 election. She also, against her office’s advice, attended a Democratic National Committee fundraising event featuring First Lady Jill Biden on the government’s time and taxpayers’ dime.
In a supplemental 161-page report, the OIG similarly found that Rollins also solicited and accepted more than two dozen Boston Celtics tickets and non-federal travel dollars to speak on a panel under the title “U.S. Attorney” without applying proper ethical scrutiny.
“Ms. Rollins claimed that she did not attend the fundraiser but instead went to an event
related to a U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts outreach program, the
BRIDGES program. But there was no BRIDGES event in Andover that day. And her insistence
that she did not attend the fundraiser is wholly contradicted by the evidence,” the OSC report stated.
These actions resulted in what Kerner called the “most egregious transgressions” of the Hatch Act the OSC has ever uncovered.
Over the course of the investigation into Rollins’ Department policy and ethical violations, the OIG conducted several December 2022 interviews in which Rollins “knowingly and willfully” made false statements under oath and deliberately “lacked [the] candor” required of all DOJ employees.
Rollins specifically denied that she was the federal law enforcement official who leaked a recusal memorandum without authorization to her local media outlet, the Boston Herald, in September 2022. The memo granted Rollins and her office permission to pass a federal review of her district attorney successor Kevin Hayden and her preferred political candidate Ricardo Arroyo’s challenger, to another office.
“The evidence demonstrated that at a critical stage of the primary race, Rollins brought her efforts to advance Arroyo’s candidacy to the MA USAO, when she used her position as U.S. Attorney, and information available to her as U.S. Attorney, in an ultimately unsuccessful effort to create the impression publicly, before the primary election, that DOJ was or would be
investigating Hayden for public corruption,” the OIG found.
It was only after the OIG obtained text messages proving that she supplied the document to the Herald that Rollins finally confessed. The OIG report noted that Rollins immediately couched her lie from interviews the week prior by claiming she could not remember her conversations with the reporter.
“[T]he first time I heard about [the Herald Reporter] or these articles … was when you mentioned it in the middle of, you know, a several-hour interview,” Rollins said during the second interrogation. “So, I, rather than stopping you then, which I should have, and said, what? I was trying to think throughout because this was sort of out of left field for me. That is not an excuse.”
This was not an isolated incident. Beginning in July 2022, Rollins repeatedly leveraged her connections with the media to coordinate coverage boosting her candidate of choice, Arroyo, while smearing his opponent.
The OIG said there’s no denying that Rollins’ leaks to the media “violated multiple DOJ policies, the government ethics standards, and her Ethics Agreement,” but that didn’t matter to the Biden DOJ. A footnote 80 pages into the report states that, after sitting on the OIG’s referral for nearly a month, the agency headed by Merrick Garland refused to prosecute Rollins.
Biden’s DOJ could use both the OIG and OSC’s findings to spark a new prosecution but will likely, once again, refuse once it receives Rollins’ official resignation letter.
“The legal trigger for OSC to submit a report to the President of Hatch Act violations by a
Senate‐confirmed presidential appointee is whether the violations warrant disciplinary action.
Ms. Rollins’s violations clearly do,” noted the OSC.
The White House previously propped up Rollins for her “devotion to enforcing the law,” “professionalism,” “dedication to pursuing equal justice for all,” and “commitment to the independence of the Department of Justice.” Republicans, however, warned their colleagues about her during her confirmation hearing in December of 2021.
Not only were members of the GOP concerned about Rollins’ penchant for unethical conduct, but they also warned that the former Suffolk County District Attorney used her power to make certain criminal offenses like trespassing, breaking and entering, destruction of property, resisting arrest, and drug trafficking non-prosecutable.
Despite the GOP’s best efforts to prevent Rollins from further abusing her power to contradict the stated mission of the Justice Department, they were smeared by corporate media as “racist” and eventually stifled when Vice President Kamala Harris issued a tie-breaking vote.