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Simone Biles and other star gymnasts testify before Congress about the FBI’s Larry Nassar investigation

WASHINGTON — Olympic gymnasts McKayla Maroney and Simone Biles tore up the FBI and Justice Department’s testimony in the Senate Wednesday on how FBI agents mishandled allegations of misconduct against Larry Nassar, and then misrepresented the results of the failed investigation.

“They let a child molester go free for more than a year, and this inaction directly allowed Nassar’s abuse to continue,” Maroney told the Senate Judiciary Committee after giving vivid details about Nassar’s abuse to the agent who interviewed him.

“What’s the point of reporting abuse if our own FBI agents are going to undertake to bury this report in a drawer?” she loved it.

Maroney, Biles, Maggie Nichols and Aly Raisman were attacked by former USA Gymnastics team doctor Nassar, who is now serving several decades in prison.

“The FBI turned a blind eye to us and went out of its way to help protect,” Biles testified, holding back tears, of the United States Gymnastics and United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee.

“A message needs to be conveyed: If you allow a predator to harm children, the consequences will be swift and severe. Enough,” he said.

The allegations against Nassar were first brought to the agency in July 2015. Several protocol violations resulted in months of delay, as evidenced by the Justice Department inspector general’s report published in July.

As the federal investigation weakened, Nassar abused numerous victims, according to the inspector general’s report.

The report said FBI officials “did not respond to the Nassar allegations with the utmost seriousness and urgency they deserve and needed, making numerous and fundamental mistakes in responding and violating multiple FBI policies.”

Maroney introduced herself as the gymnast described — but not named — in the report that spoke to the FBI about her allegations in September 2015. The agent interviewing him violated important FBI procedures and made false statements in a summary the agent wrote. More than a year later interview, according to the inspector general’s report.

He and others criticized the Justice Department for their decision not to prosecute the agent, as well as an FBI supervisor who was accused of mishandling the investigation and later making false statements about it, according to the IG report.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Dick Durbin stated at the beginning of the hearing how sports institutions failed to protect athletes from abuse.

“The fact that these failures come from law enforcement themselves is a shock to the conscience,” Durbin said.

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

Nassar pleaded guilty to seven counts of sexual misconduct in 2018 in a lawsuit filed by the Michigan attorney general. He was sentenced to between 40 and 175 years in prison after more than 150 women and girls said in court that they had been sexually abused in the past two decades.

In recent weeks, an FBI agent accused in the inspector general’s report for not starting a proper investigation has been fired by the FBI, US law enforcement officials told CNN.

Gymnasts who want to talk

All of the gymnasts who testified on Wednesday had previously spoken publicly about being victims of Nassar’s abuse. Nassar, who also works at Michigan State University, inappropriately touched athletes in the name of administering medical treatment.

Biles, who has won seven Olympic medals as well as multiple world and national championships, explained that he was motivated to compete at the Tokyo Summer Olympics this year, in part because it would force the sport to confront its shortcomings in protecting its athletes.

“If it wasn’t for a survivor in the sport, they would have thrown it away,” Biles told NBC’s Hoda Kotb. “But since I’m still here and I have quite a social media presence and platform, they need to do something.”

“Monsters don’t thrive,” Raisman said on CNN’s “New Day” in March, while also criticizing how Nassar and others were allowed to get away with harassing gymnasts for so long, winning Olympic medals in 2012 and 2016. for decades without people’s help.”

Raisman, fellow Olympian Maroney, and Nichols, who competed on the USA’s 2015 world championship team, made public statements in the lawsuit against Nassar.

Nichols reported Nassar to USA Gymnastics in 2015, alleging that his inappropriate touching began when Nassar was 15, and that he also sent Facebook messages complimenting his appearance.

Bipartisan rage on Capitol Hill

The appearance of Wray and Horowitz before the committee will be the last time officials are subject to intense questioning on Capitol Hill. During President Donald Trump’s administration, Wray, who was confirmed as director in 2017, has repeatedly faced Republican hostility over the FBI’s investigation into the campaign’s Russia links.

More recently, Democrats have questioned Wray about the FBI’s lack of preparation for the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Anger at Nassar has united lawmakers from both sides because investigating the FBI’s failures has bipartisan support.

“The FBI, including this juvenile unit, placed its publicity and image ahead of victim protection in this case,” said GOP Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa.

“Any authorized person who turns a blind eye to the allegations of these young athletes is complicit in Nassar’s crimes and each should be considered a predator,” said Tennessee Republican Senator Marsha Blackburn.

Lawmakers also crossed the road to support legislation aimed at holding universities accountable for failing to protect students from sexual abuse.

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