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Massachusetts US Attorney Rollins Broke Ethics Rules, DOJ Says

(Bloomberg) -- Rachael Rollins, the US attorney for Massachusetts, repeatedly leaked “derogatory information” to damage a political candidate by suggesting he was under investigation, the Justice Department’s internal watchdog said.

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In a sweeping, 155-page report that goes beyond inappropriate appearances at political events, the department’s Office of the Inspector General said Rollins falsely testified under oath and violated a number of other federal rules and DOJ standards.

“We found Rollins’s conduct described throughout this report violated federal regulations, numerous DOJ policies, her ethics agreement, and applicable law, and fell far short of the standards of professionalism and judgment that the department should expect of any employee, much less a US attorney,” the OIG said in the report, released Wednesday. It said Rollins displayed “deeply disturbing” behavior by trying to “blame her staff for her own ethics failures.”

Read the report here

The alleged leaking centers on a primary election for Suffolk district attorney in which Kevin Hayden, who ultimately won the office, and Ricardo Arroyo ran. Rollins favored Arroyo. Ahead of the election, the OIG wrote, “Rollins and Arroyo communicated about derogatory information they were providing to The Boston Globe about Hayden before the Globe published three articles.”

Political Impact

According to the report, the articles were “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 OIG said the articles then spurred discussions in Rollins’s own office about whether to investigate Hayden.

Rollins had already announced she would resign in the face of the OIG’s ethics investigation, begun last year, telling her staff in an email on Tuesday that she had “become a distraction and the work you do is far too important to be overshadowed.” Her lawyer Michael Bromwich said on Tuesday that she would officially submit her resignation to President Joe Biden by Friday.

Read More: Boston US Attorney Steps Down on Eve of DOJ Watchdog Report

The report has the potential to embarrass the president, who appointed Rollins, as he runs for re-election. In addition to its other findings, the OIG said Rollins violated Justice Department policy by going to a Democratic National Committee fundraising event attended by First Lady Jill Biden without DOJ approval.

The OIG referred the false-statements allegation to the Justice Department for prosecution in December. The department notified the OIG in January that it had declined to prosecute.

Bromwich had no comment on the report. Hayden’s office didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Proud of Accomplishments

“Rachael has been profoundly honored to serve as US attorney over the past 16 months and is incredibly proud of all her office has accomplished during that limited time, especially in the areas of gun violence and civil rights,” Bromwich, a former Justice Department inspector general himself, said in a statement Tuesday.

The first Black female US attorney for Massachusetts, Rollins was narrowly confirmed by the Senate in December 2021 after a partisan battle in which Republicans labeled her a radical and a lax enforcer.

Her resignation also comes at a delicate moment for the Massachusetts office, which is responsible for the high-profile prosecution of national guardsman Jack Teixeira for allegedly leaking classified information about the war in Ukraine, among other defense secrets.

The office is fresh off a significant blow last week when an appeals court overturned its prized fraud convictions of two fathers in the sprawling “Varsity Blues” college admissions scandal.

‘Uniquely Unqualified’

The inspector general’s office said in the report that Rollins falsely testified under oath during an OIG interview in which she denied that she was the law enforcement officer who “provided nonpublic, sensitive DOJ information” to a reporter for The Boston Herald about a possible investigation of Hayden.

The OIG said Rollins violated federal travel rules by allowing private entertainment agencies to finance two trips to New York and California to speak on panels without first seeking ethics approval. When conducting official business as the chief federal law enforcement official in Massachusetts, she violated the law by texting her staff about substantive DOJ matters from her personal cellphone without copying the messages to an official electronic messaging account, according to the report.

Senator Tom Cotton, the Arkansas Republican who asked the OIG to investigate Rollins, said on Wednesday, during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on another matter, that she was “uniquely unqualified” for the job and called the report “damning.”

“It’s no surprise that someone who refused to enforce the law also refused to abide by it,” Cotton said.

--With assistance from Greg Farrell.

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