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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3:26 p.m. ET, September 15, 2021

Democratic senator calls out Department of Justice for being a "no-show" at today's hearing

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat from Connecticut, called out the Department of Justice for failing to appear at today's hearing despite being invited.

"The Department of Justice today was a no-show. The Department of Justice failed to appear. They have responsibility ultimately for the FBI, for the prosecutions, and for action here."

He said that the DOJ "hasn't run out of action" in terms of its responsibility to the case. Blumenthal reiterated that the DOJ "should be answering many of the questions" posed at the hearing today. 

"So I am by no means satisfied with what I heard today," he said.

2:40 p.m. ET, September 15, 2021

Gymnast Kaylee Lorincz demands criminal charges be brought against FBI agents "who did not do their job"

From CNN's Maureen Chowdhury

Gymnast Kaylee Lorincz speaks at a press conference in Washington, DC, on September 15.
Gymnast Kaylee Lorincz speaks at a press conference in Washington, DC, on September 15. (Pool)

Gymnast Kaylee Lorincz rebuked the FBI's handling of her case during a news conference after the Senate hearing. Lorinncz directly faulted the FBI for the abuse she endured after accusations were made in 2015.

"My last appointment with Larry Nassar was Feb. 2, 2016 and that appointment should've never happened," Lorincz told reporters.

She continued: "I'm here speaking on behalf of the 120 victims who saw Larry after the FBI knew of his abuse in 2015 and failed to investigate, failed to take action and failed to protect. Let me be clear, I should not be here. I was abused from 2011 to 2016 and my life has been forever changed. When I think of the FBI, I think of truth, integrity and honor, and yet the reality of their actions was the exact opposite. One of the FBI core values is listed as accountability. So let me ask, where is the accountability? Where is the accountability for letting Larry continue to sexually assault little girls on your watch? Where is the accountability for those at the FBI who chose to place personal gain ahead of their duties to protect and serve?"

Lorincz went on to demand that criminal charges be brought against those FBI agents who failed to fully investigate and document the abuse allegations.

"Had anyone at the FBI done their job, then I would not be here speaking to you today. Accountability will only occur when the FBI agents who did not do their job face criminal charges. My 2016 abuse is on them. It is five years later, five years of asking the same questions. It's time for these questions to be answered," she said.

2:19 p.m. ET, September 15, 2021

The FBI "became an enabler rather than an enforcer" in botched Nassar investigation, senator says

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

Sen. Richard Blumenthal speaks at a press conference in Washington, DC, on September 15.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal speaks at a press conference in Washington, DC, on September 15. (Pool)

After hearing gymnasts testify before the Senate about abuse they suffered at the hands of USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar, Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal said the Federal Bureau of Investigation "became an enabler rather than an enforcer."

"We've all run out of adjectives to describe the monstrous, horrific, predatory, criminal conduct of Larry Nassar. We've run out of adjectives, but we haven't run out of action. That's what the gymnasts deserve. The criminal conduct by Larry Nassar unfortunately was not unique to him, and it was not unique to gymnastics. It was enabled by others, and others have been enabled in this kind of predatory conduct," Blumenthal said at a news conference.

"The FBI became an enabler rather than an enforcer. The FBI became part of the problem, not the solution. And I have strongly called for continuing criminal investigation, if necessary, under new jurisdictional issues, because I think justice will be done only if there is accountability here," Blumenthal said.

He said there should be another hearing, with the Department of Justice explaining why there has been no criminal prosecution.

He also thanked the gymnasts who came forward to speak, saying "they made an impact that I've rarely seen in my decade in the United States Senate."

2:15 p.m. ET, September 15, 2021

NOW: US gymnasts speak after testifying on FBI’s mishandling of the Larry Nassar case

(Pool)
(Pool)

US gymnasts McKayla Maroney, Aly Raisman and others are holding a news conference alongside senators following a hearing this morning into the FBI's mishandling of the Larry Nassar investigation.

Nassar, a former USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University doctor, was sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison in 2018, after more than 150 women and girls said he sexually abused them over the past two decades.

Allegations of abuse by Nassar were first brought to the FBI in July 2015.

Maroney, Raisman, Simone Biles and Maggie Nichols testified at the hearing, blasting the FBI and Justice Department's handling of their case.

Sens. Richard Blumenthal, Dick Durbin and Chuck Grassley are expected to speak, among others.

1:46 p.m. ET, September 15, 2021

White House: Biden supports FBI taking steps outlined in IG report on Nassar investigation  

From CNN's DJ Judd

White House press secretary Jen Psaki holds a briefing in Washington, DC, on September 15.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki holds a briefing in Washington, DC, on September 15. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

White House press secretary Jen Psaki applauded the courage of Olympic gymnasts Simone Biles, Aly Raisman, Maggie Nichols, and McKayla Maroney, who detailed the abuse they experienced at the hands of former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar in testimony on Capitol Hill Wednesday, calling their remarks “incredibly powerful.”

“All of these women who were brave and courageous and came forward and spoke about the abuse of a monstrous human being that they lived through as gymnasts, as some of the nation's top athletes—that's courageous, that's brave, they're playing a role in preventing this from ever happening again,” Psaki told reporters at Wednesday’s press briefing.

In their testimony Wednesday, the athletes said they reported the system of abuse well in advance of FBI interviews, while Raisman told members of Congress she felt “pressured by the FBI to consent to Nassar’s plea deal.”

The press secretary said President Biden "supports" the FBI taking the steps detailed in the Justice Department inspector general report released in July.

“I would note that also discussed was of course the DOJ inspector general's report, and the testimony we heard today was also about that, and the Department of Justice has said that the FBI is promptly taking the steps outlined in the report to ensure that this can never happen again, which certainly the President supports,” Psaki added during Wednesday’s briefing.

1:08 p.m. ET, September 15, 2021

FBI director tells women and girls abused by Nassar that he is "deeply and profoundly sorry"

From CNN's rom Christina Carrega

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

FBI Director Christopher Wray said he is "deeply and profoundly sorry" to all of the women and girl athletes whose outcries about sexual abuse at the hands of former USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar were not investigated thoroughly by the agency.

"Sorry for what you and your families have been through. I'm sorry that so many different people let you down, over and over again," Wray said during his opening remarks at a Senate hearing today.

"And I'm especially sorry that there were people at the FBI who had their own chance to stop this monster back in 2015 and failed, and that is inexcusable. It never should have happened, and we're doing everything in our power to make sure it never happens again," Wray said.

A Justice Department inspector general report this summer found that two FBI agents failed to conduct a thorough investigation into Nassar. The sexual abuse continued until state prosecutors and law enforcement got involved.

Wray said the FBI has already begun implementing all of the inspector general's recommendations, including strengthening policies and procedures and training “to firmly underscore the critical importance of thoroughly and expeditiously responding to all allegations of sexual assault or abuse.”

“The American people are counting on us to get this done right every time,” Wray said. “It's my commitment to you that I, and my entire senior leadership team, are going to make damn sure everybody at the FBI remembers what happened here in heartbreaking detail.”

One of the FBI agents, W. Jay Abbott, the highest-ranking official in the Indianapolis field office, retired before the inspector general's review started. After the report concluded last month, another agent was fired.

"As for the former Indianapolis specialist in a charge, the descriptions of his behavior also reflect violations of the FBI, his longstanding code of conduct and the ethical obligations for all FBI employees, especially senior officials," Wray said in regards to Abbott.

"I will say it is extremely frustrating that we are left with little disciplinary recourse when people retire before their cases can be adjudicated. But let me be clear, people who engage in that kind of gross misconduct have no place in the FBI," he continued.

 

1:11 p.m. ET, September 15, 2021

FBI director: "I don't have a good explanation" for failures in Nassar case

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

FBI Director Christopher Wray was asked to explain what went wrong during the bureau's investigation of the Larry Nassar abuse claims. He responded, "I don't have a good explanation."

"It is utterly jarring to me. It is totally inconsistent with what we train our people on. Totally inconsistent from what I see from the hundreds of agents who work these cases every day," he added.

Wray reiterated that an agent involved in the investigation has been fired. 

He said that the FBI agents who handled this case "betrayed core duty" of protecting people.

The Senate hearing is ongoing, with lawmakers on the judiciary committee questioning Wray and Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz.

More context: Allegations into Nassar 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.

In recent weeks, an FBI agent accused in the inspector general's report of failing to launch a proper investigation was fired by the FBI, US law enforcement officials told CNN. A supervisor who was also singled out in the IG report for violating protocol and false statements retired from the FBI in January 2018.

CNN's Tierney Sneed contributed reporting to this post.

3:26 p.m. ET, September 15, 2021

FBI director: "The actions and inaction" of the FBI detailed in the IG report "are totally unacceptable"

From CNN's Maureen Chowdhury

In his opening statement, FBI Director Christopher Wray addressed the agency's failures in handling the assault case involving members of the US gymnastics team and Larry Nassar.

Wray made a promise and commitment to make sure the FBI doesn't just move on from this case and that FBI remembers it in "heartbreaking detail" and knows "the pain that occurred when our folks failed to do their jobs."

"Finally, I'd like to make a promise to the women who appeared here today and to all survivors of abuse. I am not interested in simply addressing this [as] wrong and moving on. It's my commitment to you, that I and my entire senior leadership team are going to make damn sure everybody at the FBI remembers what happened here in heartbreaking detail. We need to remember the pain that occurred when our folks failed to do their jobs. We need to study it. We need to learn from it. That is the best way I know to make sure that this devastating tragedy is never repeated," Wray said.

Throughout his opening statement, Wray rebuked the failures within his agency in handling the case.

"After I became FBI director and when I learned there were people at the FBI who had also failed these women, I was heartsick and furious," Wray said.

"I want to be crystal clear. The actions and inaction of the FBI employees detailed in this report are totally unacceptable. These individuals betrayed the core duty that they have of protecting people. They failed to protect young women and girls from abuse. The work we do certainly is often complicated and uncertain. We're never going to be perfect, but the kinds of fundamental errors that were made in this case in 2015 and 2016 should never have happened. Period. As long as I'm FBI director, I'm committed to doing everything in my power to make sure they never happen again," he said.

1:03 p.m. ET, September 15, 2021

NOW: FBI director and Justice Department inspector general testify on Nassar investigation

From CNN's Tierney Sneed

Pool
Pool

The first panel of today's hearing with US gymnasts McKayla Maroney, Simone Biles, Maggie Nichols and Aly Raisman has wrapped.

FBI Director Chris Wray and Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz are testifying now before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The star gymnasts ripped the FBI and the Justice Department in their testimony for how FBI agents mishandled abuse allegations brought against Larry Nassar and then made false statements in the fallout from the botched investigation.

Allegations into Nassar 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.