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The Olympians Laid Out the Worst FBI Malfeasance Since the Days of Whitey Bulger

·4-min read
Photo credit: Anna Moneymaker - Getty Images
Photo credit: Anna Moneymaker - Getty Images

Four celebrated—and surpassingly brave—former Olympic athletes really stuck the landing on Wednesday, and it’s almost time for Christopher Wray to go. Outside of the carnival of corruption that was the FBI’s Boston field office in the good old days of Whitey Bulger and Zip Connolly and Paul Rico and Steve Flemmi, it’s hard to come up with a more egregious example of FBI malfeasance and nonfeasance than its treatment of the gymnasts who came to it to accuse team physician Larry Nassar of being the child-molesting monster that the world now knows he was. From the New York Times:

McKayla Maroney, an Olympian in 2012, also testified, describing in detail how Mr. Nassar repeatedly abused her, even at the London Games, where she won a gold medal. She said she survived a harrowing ordeal when she and Mr. Nassar were at a competition in Tokyo, certain she “was going to die that night because there was no way he was going to let me go.”

In 2015, when Ms. Maroney was 19 years old and before she had even told her mother what Mr. Nassar had done, she described her abuse to an F.B.I. agent during a three-hour phone call from the floor of her bedroom. When she finished, Ms. Maroney said the agent asked, “Is that all?” She said she felt crushed by the lack of empathy. “Not only did the F.B.I. not report my abuse, but when they eventually documented my report 17 months later, they made entirely false claims about what I said,” Ms. Maroney testified. “They chose to lie about what I said and protect a serial child molester rather than protect not only me but countless others.”

Wray even copped to the Bureau’s destructively apathetic approach to these crimes before the same congressional committee that had heard the testimony of the gymnasts. To be fair, the FBI’s most egregious malfeasance took place before Wray became director in 2017. Nevertheless, it was Wray who took the testimony in the teeth on Wednesday, just as he took the blame for the scathing results of a Justice Department inspector general’s report into the situation. He was the guy in the chair when the wheel came around.

Senator Patrick Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, said Mr. Wray’s answers would not provide any solace to the gymnasts who testified before the Judiciary Committee, and that they weren’t good enough “for the American people,” either. Like the gymnasts who testified, Mr. Leahy and several other senators on the committee expressed outrage that the agents who mishandled the case have not been prosecuted. He said sports and government officials and anyone else who “turned a blind eye” to Mr. Nassar’s abuse should face criminal charges.

I said that it’s almost time for Wray to go and spend more time with his family, because there’s still one botched investigation for which he actually was responsible, and for which he needs to be hauled in front of Congress to answer. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island apparently agrees.

The senators’ request follows a letter from the Bureau to Whitehouse and Coons revealing new details on the Kavanaugh background investigation, including that the FBI gathered over 4,500 tips in relation to the investigation without any apparent further action by FBI investigators. The Bureau also confirmed that tips from the tip line were instead provided to the Trump White House Counsel’s office, where their fate is unknown. The admissions in your letter corroborate and explain numerous credible accounts by individuals and firms that they had contacted the FBI with information ‘highly relevant to . . . allegations’ of sexual misconduct by Justice Kavanaugh, only to be ignored,” the senators write in their letter sent today. “If the FBI was not authorized to or did not follow up on any of the tips that it received from the tip line, it is difficult to understand the point of having a tip line at all.”

If the testimony of the gymnasts also works to expose the obviously inadequate FBI investigation into Kavanaugh’s behavior—4,500 tips?—then that is just one more service that these courageous women have done the country.

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