Rachael Rollins, the US attorney for Massachusetts, leaked sensitive Justice Department information to a journalist in an effort to influence a local election, lied to investigators and improperly attended a fundraiser with Jill Biden, according to two critical federal reports released Wednesday.
The reports come one day after Rollins’ attorney said she plans to resign at the end of the week.
The DOJ inspector general’s report outlines the allegations and says that Rollins lied during an interview about the information she gave to the reporter. That false statements allegation was referred to the Justice Department, which has declined to bring charges.
In a separate report, the Office of Special Counsel said that Rollins violated the Hatch Act – the federal law that seeks to stop the federal government from affecting elections or going about its activities in a partisan manner – attending the fundraiser and by leaking DOJ documents during a political campaign.
The violations are “among the most egregious transgressions of the Act that OSC has ever investigated,” the special counsel report says.
Rollins’ attorney, Michael Bromwich, said in a statement to CNN on Wednesday that “most of the allegations amount to minor process fouls.”
“Though Ms. Rollins could have raised many facts and arguments in connection with these issues, she had no interest in litigating them any further,” Bromwich said. “She believed the better course was to step down and end the matter before it overwhelmed her office and DOJ.”
The Justice Department declined to comment.
Rollins was sworn into the position in January 2022 as the first Black woman to lead the US attorney’s office for Massachusetts.
Report details leaks to reporters
Rollins, according to the IG report, secretly spoke to reporters about interim Suffolk County District Attorney Kevin Hayden – Rollins’ successor from her previous job. At the time, Hayden was campaigning in the Democratic primary to earn the position permanently. Rollins supported Hayden’s opponent in the race, Ricardo Arroyo.
Rollins, during her tenure as the US attorney, “provided information to (The Boston) Globe, before it published three articles … critical of Hayden’s handling of a police misconduct case that began under Rollins’s tenure as DA and the understaffing of a special unit in the Suffolk DA’s office responsible for handling police misconduct cases,” the report says.
In text messages cited in the report, Rollins told a Globe reporter that her office “does not know we have been speaking,” and told the reporter that they could use the information she provided “if you can say sources close to the Rollins Administration.”
After one of the articles published, Rollins told Arroyo to forward it to “every single one of your endorsers.”
For a later article, Rollins gave the Globe reporter “advice about where to look for more information” about Hayden.
After the articles published, according to the report, Rollins and an assistant US attorney in her office discussed whether the information in the articles warranted opening “a public corruption investigation into the possible quid pro quo involving Hayden.”
In a text exchange, Arroyo asked Rollins about the potential investigations, saying, “Are y’all announcing an investigation into … situation with Hayden?” Arroyo, who allegedly knew at the time that a negative story about him was going to be published, added that it “Would be the best thing I can have happen at this moment.”
In response, Rollins told Arroyo to “Keep fighting and campaigning,” and said “I’m working on something,” according to the report.
When Arroyo ultimately lost the election, Rollins texted him: “They are not above the law. He will regret the day he did this to you. Watch.”
Though no investigation had been opened, Rollins sought to recuse both herself and the entire US Attorney’s Office in Massachusetts from investigating the matter because of her previous tenure as the Suffolk County district attorney. This was not normal practice, according to the report.
Rollins then texted a reporter a picture of the recusal memorandum on her personal phone, which the reporter then published as evidence of a possible investigation into Hayden, the report said.
The IG further found that Rollins gave non-public DOJ letters to reporters in two previous cases about ongoing civil rights investigations.
Jill Biden fundraiser
The report offers a damning picture of how Rollins handled her appearance at a Democratic fundraiser in July 2022 that featured the first lady. It says Rollins was “driven in a government vehicle by a subordinate employee” of her office to a private home in Andover, Massachusetts, where the event was taking place.
After media reports raised questions about the appearance, Rollins suggested on Twitter that she had “approval” to be there, according to the report, which said she in fact did not receive the necessary approval to attend the event.
“(H)er attendance was contrary to the ethics advice she received before the event that gave permission for Rollins to meet and greet with Dr. Biden separately from the fundraiser but did not include approval from the Office of the Deputy Attorney General (ODAG) to attend the fundraiser itself,” the report says.
“Rollins should have recognized that going inside a home where a partisan political fundraiser was occurring potentially implicated significant DOJ policies, in addition to the Hatch Act.”
In interviews with the inspector general’s office, Rollins blamed her staff for not properly informing her of how she could have met Biden at the house without running afoul of DOJ policies, according to the report, which went on to call her “efforts to blame her staff for her own ethics failures deeply disturbing.”
The report also found that Rollins violated ethics standards by soliciting 30 tickets for a Boston Celtics game for local youth basketball players, accepting two tickets for herself, and using a DOJ employee’s time to coordinate the event after being directed not to use office resources.
The 155-page report also finds that even after Rollins was sworn in as US attorney, she continued to receive contributions to a campaign account that was set up for her race for the Suffolk County district attorney position.
“In all, Rollins received campaign contributions totaling $595.40 from seven different individuals for the period of January 13, 2022, through September 21, 2022,” the report says. “Many of the contributions to Rollins’s account appeared to be automatic, recurring monthly contributions to her campaign. Available information indicates that that none of the donors had any connection” to Rollins’ US attorney’s office.
Rollins told the IG’s office that she didn’t know about the contributions and that she hadn’t fundraised since becoming US attorney, according to the report, which added that Rollins later “refunded the contributions, disabled the automatic payments to her account, and wrote individual letters to each of the seven donors explaining these actions.”
The inspector general’s office said it referred its findings related to the contributions to the Office of Special Counsel for review since they “potentially implicate the Hatch Act.”
Rollins’ planned resignation, however, ends the possibly of Hatch Act-related disciplinary action.
This story has been updated with additional details.