AG Garland calls FBI’s Nassar investigation ‘a horrible institutional failure’

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The FBI committed an “unspeakable” failure by not addressing U.S. gymnasts’ allegations of abuse from now-convicted sexual assailant Larry Nassar.

Attorney General Merrick Garland apologized for the FBI’s alleged negligence handling the case at a Senate hearing Tuesday. Nassar was a Michigan State University sports doctor as well as a doctor at USA Gymnastics. He is serving decades in prison for assaulting female athletes, including medal-winning Olympic gymnasts. Nassar’s victims sought help from the FBI over his criminal behavior. However, Garland now agrees the FBI’s ambivalence was “a horrible institutional failure.” 

“It’s almost unspeakable. It is unspeakable,” Garland told Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., during the hearing. “What happened to those gymnasts and also the unspeakable way in which the investigation failed to proceed. We have created institutional changes in that regard to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”


Simone Biles, McKayla Maroney and Aly Raisman, alongside fellow gymnast Maggie Nichols, recounted their experiences before the Senate Judiciary Committee last year, in the wake of a Justice Department inspector general’s report that revealed how the FBI failed to act on their complaints of misconduct and assault. As a result, they said, Nassar – who once served as a doctor for USA Gymnastics – was able to continue his pattern of abuse against young women and girls.

Larry Nassar during his sentencing on Feb. 5, 2018, in Charlotte, Michigan, and Simone Biles during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games on July 27, 2021.
(Scott Olson/Getty Images  |  Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

Moran pushed the attorney general for more specificity in the FBI’s institutional changes following the Nassar scandal.

“The FBI has revised its procedures and the deputy attorney general has issued memoranda to the field so that whenever a U.S. attorney’s office or federal law enforcement decides not to follow up, that they immediately advise state and local law enforcement so that they can continue your description of the question of the investigation,” Garland added. “So the FBI’s internal disciplinary work is still in progress. The question of reopening the earlier declination is in the hands of the assistant attorney general for the criminal division, Kenneth Polite, who is continuing to review the matter.”


Attorney General Merrick Garland speaks at the Department of Justice in Washington, Jan. 5, 2022.

Attorney General Merrick Garland speaks at the Department of Justice in Washington, Jan. 5, 2022.
(Carolyn Kaster/Pool/AFP via Getty Images)

Maroney recalled her experience with the FBI, speaking to them on the phone for three hours because she was too sick to meet in person. She told the committee about how she answered all of their questions and discussed every instance of abuse she endured, in detail.

“After telling my entire story of abuse to the FBI in the summer of 2015 not only did the FBI not report my abuse, but when they eventually documented my report 17 months later they made entirely false claims about what I said,” Maroney said, stating that she “was shocked and deeply disappointed” by what she had read in the inspector general’s report.

“USA Gymnastics in concert with the FBI and the Olympic Committee were working together to conceal that Larry Nassar was a predator,” Maroney said.

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