US gymnasts testify before Congress about FBI's Nassar investigation

By Melissa Mahtani, Melissa Macaya, Meg Wagner and Mike Hayes, CNN

Updated 5:14 PM ET, Wed September 15, 2021
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1:04 p.m. ET, September 15, 2021

Maroney calls for indictment of agents who handled Nassar investigation: "We deserve justice"

Saul Loeb/Pool/AP
Saul Loeb/Pool/AP

After detailing the sexual abuse she experienced from Larry Nassar, USA gymnast McKayla Maroney outlined what she hopes will happen next in the investigation.

"They had legal, legitimate evidence of child abuse and did nothing. If they're not going to protect me, I want to know who are they trying to protect?," she said.

"What's even more upsetting to me is that we know that these FBI agents have committed an obvious crime. They falsified my statement, and that is illegal in itself. Yet no recourse has been taken against them. The Department of Justice refused to prosecute these individuals. Why?" she said. "Deputy attorney general Lisa Monaco couldn't bring herself to be here today. It's the Department of Justice's job to hold them accountable."

"I am tired of waiting for people to do the right thing because my abuse was enough, and we deserve justice," she said, looking at teammates Simone Biles, Maggie Nichols and Aly Raisman who are also testifying today.

"These individuals clearly violated policies and were negligent in executing their duties, and in doing so, more girls were abused by Larry Nassar for over a year," she said.

"To not indict these agents is a disservice to me and my teammates, a disservice to the system which is built to protect all of us from abuse," the gymnast continued.

11:27 a.m. ET, September 15, 2021

Raisman stressed need for investigation of why officials ignored abuse reports


USA gymnast Aly Raisman said it's "unrealistic" to "grasp the full extent of culpability" without an investigation into why USA Gymnastics and the US Olympic Committee chose to ignore abuse reports

"Without knowing who knew what when, we cannot identify all enablers or determine whether they are still in positions of power. We just can't fix a problem we don't understand, and we can't understand the problem unless and until we have all of the facts."

She added: "If we don't do all we can to get these facts, the problems we are here to address will persist and we are deluding ourselves if we think other children can be spared the institutionalized tolerance and normalization of abuse that I and so many others had to endure."

11:29 a.m. ET, September 15, 2021

Aly Raisman: "I felt pressured by the FBI to consent to Nassar's plea deal"


USA gymnast Aly Raisman, who accused Larry Nassar of abuse, said "it disgusts me" that that abuse victims "are still fighting for the most basic answers and accountability over six years later."

She said that it initially took the FBI "over 14 months" to contact her after she requested to be interviewed by investigators.

"In 2015 it was known that at least six national team athletes had been abused by Nassar. There was even one of the athletes that was abused on film. Given our abuser's unfettered access to children, stopping him should have been a priority. Instead, the following occurred: The FBI failed to interview pertinent parties in a timely manner. It took over 14 months for the FBI to contact me despite my many requests to be interviewed by them."

Raisman said, "I felt pressured by the FBI to consent to Nassar's plea deal." 

"The agent diminished the significance of my abuse and made me feel my criminal case wasn't worth pursuing," she added.
1:05 p.m. ET, September 15, 2021

McKayla Maroney: FBI made "entirely false claims about what I said"


US Gymnastic star McKayla Maroney said during her opening statement that after telling the FBI her "entire story of abuse" by former team doctor Larry Nassar, they not only didn't report it, but later made "entirely false claims about what I said."

"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," she said.

Maroney noted that after she read the inspector general's report, she "was shocked and deeply disappointed at this narrative they chose to fabricate. They chose to lie about what I said and protect a serial child molester rather than protect not only me, but countless others."

Maroney said that to have her "abuse be minimized and disregarded by the people who were supposed to protect me just to feel like my abuse was not enough." 

She continued: "The truth is, my abuse was enough and they wanted to cover it up. USA Gymnastics in concert with the FBI and the Olympic Committee were working together to conceal that Larry Nassar was a predator."


11:17 a.m. ET, September 15, 2021

In an emotional statement, Simone Biles blames "an entire system that enabled and perpetuated" sex abuse


US Gymnastic star Simone Biles opened her testimony at the Senate hearing by saying that she could "imagine no place that I would be less comfortable right now than sitting here...sharing these comments."

Biles said that she is a survivor of sexual abuse. She said that the abuse that she suffered happened in part because USA Gymnastics "failed to do their jobs."

"I am also a survivor of sexual abuse. And I believe without a doubt that the circumstances that led to my abuse and allowed it to continue, are directly the result of the fact that the organizations created by Congress to oversee and protect me as an athlete – USA Gymnastics (USAG) and the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) – failed to do their jobs," she said.

The athlete said that along with disgraced and imprisoned former USA gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar, she blamed "an entire system that enabled and perpetuated his abuse."

"I don't want another young gymnast, Olympic athlete or any individual to experience the horror that I and hundreds of others have endured before, during and continuing to this day, in the wake — of the Larry Nassar abuse," Biles said with her voice cracking with emotion.

"To be clear, I blame Larry Nassar and I also blame an entire system that enabled and perpetrated his abuse. USA gymnastics and the United States Olympic and Paralympic committee knew that I was abused by their official team doctor long before I was ever made aware of their knowledge," she told the committee.

She added that even though USA Gymnastics knew that she was abused, the FBI never contacted her about their investigation into sex abuse claims.

"In May of 2015, Rhonda Faehn, the former head of the USA Gymnastics Women’s program was told by my friend and teammate, Maggie Nichols, that she suspected I, too, was a victim. I didn’t understand the magnitude of what all was happening until the Indianapolis Star published its article in the fall of 2016," she said.


1:13 p.m. ET, September 15, 2021

US senators call for prosecution of FBI agents who botched investigation into Nassar abuse of gymnasts

From CNN's Christina Carrega

Several US senators have called for the FBI agents who botched the investigation into sexual assault allegations against the former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar to be prosecuted during a congressional hearing this morning.

"I understand it's a long-standing department policy not to comment on decisions, not to prosecute, but robust oversight of the Department of Justice is a core responsibility of this committee,” Senate Judiciary Chairman Dick Durbin said in his opening remarks. “The FBI is handling of a Nassar's case is a stain on the bureau.”

Four members of the Olympics USA Gymnastics team are testifying before the committee. The hearing is being held after scathing report from the Justice Department's inspector general's office this summer revealed a number of missteps by the FBI in the case.

Nassar is currently serving a 40-to-174-year state prison sentence after 150 women and girls came forward to expose that he abused them over the course of 20 years.

"Today we believe Nassar abuse more than 300 athletes before he was brought to justice. As the details of Nassar's crimes emerged, there's been a consistent theme of neglect and inaction by those who are responsible for protecting the athletes," Durbin said. 

Decorated gymnasts Simone Biles, McKayla Maroney, Maggie Nichols and Aly Raisman as well as the FBI Director Christopher Wray and Inspector General Michael Horowitz are scheduled to testify. 

The inspector general's report found that FBI Special Agent in Charge W. Jay Abbott and Supervisory Special Agent Michael Langeman conducted a "limited follow up" investigation in 2015 and neglected to interview two of the three accusers. 

"I hope to hear more about exactly what happened at FBI Headquarters, other than its children you in it who knew about the Nassar allegations, how and when they learned of these allegations and what they did in response," Sen. Chuck Grassley said in his opening remarks. "If there's one thing the inspector general's report illustrates it says that we need to make sure the bureau is more effective and held more accountable."

Following the inspector general's report, the Justice Department declined to prosecute Abbott and Langeman. Abbott retired and Langeman was fired in recent weeks. 

"It's not only that the FBI failed to do its job, systematically, and repeatedly, it is also the cover of the cover up that occurred afterward,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal said in his opening remarks.

“When FBI agents made material, false statements and deceptive omissions referred by the Inspector General for criminal prosecution, those referrals were declined, without explanation, without any public explanation at all," Blumenthal said. "My hope is that the Department of Justice, which was invited today and has declined to appear, will explain why those lies by FBI agents did not lead to criminal prosecution, and accountability and even days before this hearing."

Durbin said he's "disappointed" that the Justice Department declined to participate in Wednesday's hearing but promises an oversight hearing with them in the fall.

Grassley said that he is working on "legislation to close the legislative loophole in the sex tourism statute that the inspector general flag in his report. This gap in the law allowed Larry Nassar to evade federal prosecution for assaulting children while traveling abroad, and that can never happen again."


11:23 a.m. ET, September 15, 2021

Gymnasts sworn in ahead of testimony


US Gymnastics stars Simone Biles, McKayla Maroney, Aly Raisman and Maggie Nichols were just sworn before their testimony at the Senate committee on the FBI’s handling of the Larry Nassar investigation.

The four gymnasts will now give statements. Biles is going first.

10:41 a.m. ET, September 15, 2021

Senate Democrat: "This investigation was mishandled from coast to coast"


Sen. Richard Blumenthal called the FBI's mishandling of the Larry Nassar investigation a "systematic" failure that leaves many wondering "if the FBI is capable of these kind of sexual abuse allegations."

"This failure was systematic. This investigation was mishandled from coast to coast, from Indianapolis to Los Angeles," the Democrat from Connecticut said while speaking at today's hearing.

A report from the the Justice Department's inspector general found FBI officials investigating allegations of sexual abuse against Nassar violated the agency's policies by making false statements and failing to properly document complaints by the accusers.

Nassar, a former USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University doctor, was sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison, after more than 150 women and girls said he sexually abused them over the past two decades.

10:33 a.m. ET, September 15, 2021

Committee chair: "The FBI's handling of the Nassar case is a stain on the bureau"

From CNN's Tierney Sneed


Senate Judiciary Chairman Dick Durbin noted at the start of the hearing how athletic institutions had failed to protect the athletes from abuse.

"It shocks the conscience when those failures come from law enforcement itself," Durbin said.

"Our focus today is on the FBI, how did it fail, so badly, when it came to Nassar's victims, and what are FBI leaders doing today to ensure this never happens again," he continued, saying that the victims deserve better from the FBI.

"The FBI's handling of the Nassar case is a stain on the bureau," he said.

Durbin said he was committed to trying to prevent similar events from happening and pursuing legislation to hold abusers like Larry Nassar, the former USA Gymnastics team doctor, accountable and "provide justice to survivors."

Gymnasts Simone Biles, McKayla Maroney, Maggie Nichols and Aly Raisman are set to speak soon.

Some context: The hearing is examining how the FBI mishandled its investigation into the Nassar allegations, which were first brought to the agency in July 2015. Several violations of protocols led to months of delay, as captured in a scathing Justice Department inspector general report released in July.

While the federal investigation languished, Nassar abused scores of victims, the inspector general report said.

Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz and FBI Director Chris Wray will also testify.