Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, today questioned witnesses at the hearing titled Dereliction of Duty: Examining the Inspector General’s Report on the FBI’s Handling of the Larry Nassar Investigation. The first panel included four current and former Olympic or competitive gymnasts, including Simone Biles, McKayla Maroney, Maggie Nichols and Aly Raisman, who came forward to report to the FBI their experiences of sexual abuse at the hands of their former team doctor, Larry Nassar, and detailed their efforts to report it to the authorities. The second panel included Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz, who authored a scathing report on the FBI’s handling of the Nassar investigation, and FBI Director Christopher Wray. Despite invitations, Justice Department officials refused to testify in today’s hearing, prompting criticism from the athletes involved.
Grassley asked the gymnasts, based on their experiences, what more the federal government can do to protect young athletes. He also inquired about the investigative efforts of SafeSport, the national nonprofit tasked with handling allegations for amateur athletes.
“What can you tell Congress and the government witnesses testifying here today about what additional steps, if any, we should take to ensure we better protect child athletes?” Grassley asked.
Grassley questioned Wray on what disciplinary action the FBI took to hold accountable the agents who mishandled the investigation. He also asked about the breakdowns at the FBI that ultimately led to the failure to properly investigate the allegations of abuse against several young athletes.
“The Inspector General’s report shows that W. Jay Abbott, a senior official in the Indianapolis field office at FBI, was allowed to retire in 2018 and evade prosecution even though this report describes significant misconduct by him and an agent under his supervision. I’ve asked that the Attorney General reconsider the decision not to file charges against some of the individuals involved in the case. And I’d like you to provide this committee with a list of all disciplinary actions that took place with respect to FBI personnel who were the subject of this investigation. I believe you owe that at the very least to the victims at today’s hearing,” Grassley said.
“Why didn’t the Children’s Unit at headquarters play a greater supervisory or coordination role here, for example by ensuring that the correct office at the FBI handled this matter? Why didn’t it follow up to ensure that the Indianapolis office had referred the matter to an FBI office that had jurisdiction over these allegations?” Grassley asked.
As chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee in 2017, Grassley convened the first congressional hearing on protecting young athletes from sexual abuse, and co-authored legislation requiring amateur athletic organizations to report instances of sexual abuse. He also conducted oversight of the U.S. Olympic Committee’s response to the scandal involving disgraced Olympic physician Larry Nassar. Grassley crafted legislation to improve safeguards for young athletes and ensure proper use of funds designed to investigate allegations of abuse. Grassley’s efforts were included in a legislative package that later became law.
In July, the Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General released a report confirming that multiple FBI field offices failed to promptly and properly respond to repeated allegations of sexual abuse of Olympic gymnasts and other young athletes by Nassar. The investigation was initiated after Grassley led an effort in Congress to examine the FBI’s handling of the case. Since the report’s release, Grassley has led a bipartisan effort pushing for corrective action and the swift implementation of the inspector general’s recommendations.
Grassley’s opening statement can be found HERE. Immediately after the hearing, Grassley participated in a press conference with Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and several athletes who have spoken out against the abuse and lack of accountability. Full video of the press conference can be found HERE. Photos from the hearing and press conference can be found HERE.