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Rachael Rollins tried to influence DA election, leaked info, lied under oath, Inspector General says

Rollins tried to influence DA election, leaked info, lied, Inspector General says
Rollins tried to influence DA election, leaked info, lied, Inspector General says 02:52

WASHINGTON - Rachael Rollins, the top federal prosecutor in Massachusetts, tried to influence the outcome of a race for Boston's district attorney and violated multiple policies, the Justice Department's internal watchdog said in a report released Wednesday.

The inspector general's 161-page report alleges a broad array of misconduct by Rollins, who announced her resignation Tuesday. It accuses her of disclosing to a journalist nonpublic information about a possible Justice Department investigation, soliciting and accepting 30 free tickets to a Boston Celtics game and accepting payment from a sports and entertainment agency for flights and a stay at a luxury resort.

"This is not what we were told we were going to get from Rachael Rollins, so I think tonight there is widespread disappointment in many corners of the city," said WBZ TV political analyst Jon Keller.

Rollins also routinely used her personal cellphone for Justice Department business, continued to accept contributions to her Suffolk district attorney campaign account after becoming U.S. attorney and attended a political fundraiser featuring Jill Biden, contrary to the advice she had been given and without proper Justice Department approval, the report said.

Another federal watchdog agency, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, found in its own investigative report that on multiple occasions Rollins violated the Hatch Act, a law that limits political activity by government workers. In a letter to President Joe Biden, Special Counsel Henry Kerner described Rollins' violations as among the "most egregious transgressions" of the law that the agency has ever investigated.

Read: Keller: Devastating report shows why Rollins walked away from this fight

The watchdog said Rollins used her position to try to influence last year's race for the Democratic nominee for district attorney of Suffolk County, which includes Boston, by leaking a potentially damaging information about District Attorney Kevin Hayden while supporting his political rival.

"In particular, her repeated efforts to leak non-public DOJ information for the purpose of harming a political candidate rank among the most flagrant violations of the Hatch Act that OSC has ever investigated," the report states. "The leak was an extraordinary breach of public trust by a senior government official, which threatens to erode confidence in the integrity of federal law enforcement actions."

"The important thing to know is the U.S. Attorney's office is strong, there are so many great people that are working in that office and that will continue," said Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey.

The investigation also determined that while serving as U.S. attorney, Rollins helped Hayden's rival in the race, Ricardo Arroyo, by "providing him campaign advice and direction and coordinating with Arroyo on activities to help his campaign."

"Rollins's efforts to advance Arroyo's candidacy included providing negative information about Hayden to The Boston Globe and suggesting where the Globe could look to find more information," the report stated.

According to the report, Rollins tried unsuccessfully to convince her First Assistant U.S. Attorney to issue a letter "that would have created the impression that DOJ was investigating Hayden."

When that effort was unsuccessful, the report claimed Rollins began attempts to leak DOJ information to the Herald.

"Then, after the Herald did not publish the story before the primary election and Arroyo lost to Hayden, Rollins disclosed additional information to the Herald to damage Hayden's reputation while he was an uncontested candidate in the general election," the report said. 

"They are not above the law. He will regret the day he did this to you. Watch," Rollins said in a message to Arroyo.

The report also found Rollins lied about her role in the leaks under oath during an interview with the Office of the Inspector General. She only admitted to it after being confronted with text messages showing she was the source of the leak.

"I find all of this incredibly sad," Arroyo told reporters Wednesday. "I have to read this report to figure out what's in it, what they're saying, what the crux of it is. I haven't had a chance to do that."

"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 U.S. Attorney," the report concluded.

Rollins' lawyer Michael Bromwich told The Associated Press on Tuesday that Rollins will resign by the end of the day on Friday, saying she "understands that her presence has become a distraction." But on Thursday, Bromwich said the reports "need to be put in context."

"The central truth is that Ms Rollins moved from being an elected official with virtually no restrictions on her activities to the highly-regulated environment of the US Attorney's Office. Most of the allegations amount to minor process fouls," he said in a statement.  "Though Ms. Rollins could have raised many facts and arguments in connection with these issues, she had no interest in litigating them any further.  She believed the better course was to step down and end the matter before it overwhelmed her office and DOJ."

The inspector general's investigation began last year after Sen. Tom Cotton. R-Ark., who had tried to block her confirmation, urged the watchdog to examine whether Rollins' appearance last July at a Democratic National Committee fundraiser violated the Hatch Act.

The Inspector General's report Wednesday revealed new details of Rollins' appearance at the July 14, 2022 event attended by First Lady Jill Biden at a home in Andover.

Rachael Rollins attends fund raiser
U.S. Attorney Rachael Rollins arrives at a fundraiser hosted by First Lady Jill Biden at in Andover  on July 14, 2022. Staff Photo By Stuart Cahill/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald

Rollins had been advised to have a brief meet and greet with the first lady outside the home, but to stay away from the fundraiser and then leave.

"Our investigation revealed that, contrary to the advice she received, Rollins attended the fundraising event," the report found. "Based on Rollins's own account of what she did after she arrived at the fundraiser location, Rollins went inside the home, mingled with the guests, and stood in the same receiving line as the other fundraiser guests to meet Dr. Biden. Rollins's interaction with Dr. Biden was identical to those of the other fundraiser guests whose primary purpose for being at the event was to get in line and meet Dr. Biden."

It's an extraordinary rebuke of the progressive former Boston district attorney, who twice needed Vice President Kamala Harris to cast a tiebreaking vote to be confirmed as U.S. attorney amid stiff Republican opposition.

"I've known her to be a strong leader in our city on many, many issues," said Boston Mayor Michelle Wu.

It's exceedingly rare for a U.S. attorney to resign amid ethics concerns. Her resignation is an embarrassment for the Justice Department under Attorney General Merrick Garland, who pledged to restore the Justice Department's reputation for political independence after tumultuous years under Republican President Donald Trump. 

Rollins was elected Suffolk County District Attorney in 2018 and became U.S. Attorney in January 2022.

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