Star Liberal Prosecutor in Boston To Resign After Special Counsel Report on Abuse of Power

The special counsel report calls the case ‘among the most egregious transgressions of the [Hatch] Act that OSC has ever investigated.’

AP/Charles Krupa, file
Rachael Rollins at the Moakley Federal Courthouse, May 24, 2022, at Boston. AP/Charles Krupa, file

A United States attorney for Massachusetts, Rachael Rollins, seen as a rising liberal star prosecutor, will resign from her post this week following the release Wednesday of two investigative reports detailing an “extraordinary abuse of her authority.”

The reports from the Department of Justice’s Office of the Inspector General and the U.S. Office of Special Counsel found that Ms. Rollins violated the Hatch Act, which limits political activities for federal employees, and that she leaked sensitive, non-public Department of Justice information to the press in order to influence a local election. They also detail numerous ethics violations and find that Ms. Rollins “falsely testified under oath” when questioned about her conduct.

In a letter to President Biden, the special counsel called Ms. Rollins’s conduct “among the most egregious transgressions of the [Hatch] Act that OSC has ever investigated.”

Ms. Rollins announced her forthcoming resignation on Tuesday after learning that the inspector general’s report would be released to the public today.

The first Black woman to hold her post, Ms. Rollins was considered a rising star in the progressive prosecutors movement, though she was not without scandal, including a road rage incident in 2020. As Suffolk County district attorney, which has jurisdiction over Boston, Ms. Rollins gained prominence sparring with a large police union and pushing criminal justice reforms, including refusing to prosecute low-level offenses like shoplifting.

Ms. Rollins barely eked through the confirmation process for U.S. attorney, requiring Vice President Harris to intervene twice to break a tie vote in the Senate. Senator Warren had pushed for her nomination, but Senator Cotton rallied Republicans to oppose it, calling her a radical and, recently, a “pro-criminal ideologue.”  

The “most concerning” charge in the 155-page report from the justice department’s Office of the Inspector General is that Ms. Rollins leaked sensitive information from her office to the press to try to help her favored candidate, Ricardo Arroyo, win the Democratic primary against Kevin Hayden for Suffolk County district attorney. Ms. Rollins held this office before becoming U.S. attorney and wanted to “choose her successor.”

The report gives a detailed timeline of all communications and leaks between Ms. Rollins, Mr. Arroyo, the Boston Globe, and the Boston Herald, and shows how Ms. Rollins conspired to influence the campaign. The report says the inspector general’s office reviewed emails, phone records, text messages, encrypted messages, and documents, and that it interviewed 18 current justice department employees to come to its findings. They are damning.

Ms. Rollins “used her position as U.S. Attorney, and information available to her as U.S. Attorney, in an ultimately unsuccessful effort to create the impression publicly, before the primary election, that DOJ was or would be investigating Hayden for public corruption,” the report states.

The special counsel’s report similarly criticizes Ms. Rollins, saying she “repeatedly attempted to sabotage” Mr. Hayden’s campaign. When asked about her conduct, Ms. Rollins “lacked candor because she at first provided knowingly false testimony and subsequently provided knowingly incomplete and misleading testimony.”

The inspector general’s report states that it initially started its investigation into whether Ms. Rollins violated the Hatch Act after she attended a Democratic Party fundraiser in July 2022, at which the first lady was also present. Both reports found that Ms. Rollins violated the Hatch Act by attending this fundraiser in an official capacity, driven in a government car by a subordinate, and that she misled the public by later claiming she had prior approval to be there.

The inspector general’s office also found Ms. Rollins violated ethics rules and department policies by using her private phone to conduct business and by accepting gifts and travel from outside groups. Among the gifts were free tickets to a Boston Celtics game. Ms. Rollins also leaked to the press non-public Department of Justice letters on ongoing civil rights matters.

“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 inspector general’s report concludes.

The political shakeup in the Commonwealth has caught many Democrats off-guard. The charges, though, are extensive and outlined in such detail that they are difficult to refute.

“I’m deeply concerned by Ms. Rollins’s misconduct, as detailed in the Inspector General’s and Special Counsel’s reports, and support her immediate resignation,” the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Durbin, said.

Mr. Cotton was less diplomatic. “I warned Rachael Rollins was unfit to serve as a U.S. Attorney. Now she’s resigning in disgrace. Good riddance,” he tweeted.

The New York Sun

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