Massachusetts U.S. attorney Rachael Rollins announced plans Tuesday to resign after she was accused of leaking "sensitive DOJ" information to the press in an effort to influence an election in favor of a fellow Democratic colleague, ethics investigations revealed.
Rollins, nominated by President Biden in July 2021 and confirmed in December, announced through her attorney this week that she will be stepping away from her position.
Two separate investigative reports released on Wednesday by the Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General and the U.S. Office of Special Counsel accused Rollins of violating the Hatch Act — a statute that prohibits federal employees in the executive branch from participating in some political activities.
Rollins' alleged violations were "among the most egregious transgressions of the Act that OSC has ever investigated," wrote Special Counsel Henry Kerner.
The reports accused the attorney of "leaking non-public U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) information so that news outlets would report that a political candidate she opposed was facing a potential DOJ investigation."
In an effort to assist Ricardo Arroyo with his Democratic primary campaign against Kevin Hayden for Suffolk district attorney, Rollins allegedly leaked damaging information about Hayden to the Boston Globe.
The attorney was accused of telling the media outlet that the DOJ was probing Hayden for public corruption. According to the OIG report, Rollins even pressured "her First Assistant U.S. Attorney to issue a letter that would have created the impression that DOJ was investigating Hayden."
When her attempt to spread rumors flopped, Rollins allegedly disclosed "non-public, sensitive DOJ information directly to a Herald reporter before the primary election." However, the media outlet declined to publish the story.
According to the OIG report, after Arroyo lost the primary election to Hayden, Rollins again contacted the Herald reporter to reveal additional information that would harm the candidate's reputation during the general election.
The OIG subsequently investigated Rollins. The department's report revealed that the attorney "falsely testified under oath" during an OIG interview when "she denied that she was the federal law enforcement source that provided non-public, sensitive DOJ information to the Herald reporter about a possible Hayden criminal investigation."
Rollins eventually confessed to being the source after she "produced relevant text messages, which definitively showed that Rollins had indeed been a source for the reporter and had disclosed to him the internal DOJ recusal memorandum quoted in the story."
The attorney was also accused of providing Arroyo advice while he was on the campaign on how to respond to sexual assault allegations made against him.
"Rollins gave Arroyo feedback on his draft answers to the Globe reporter's questions and told Arroyo in a text message: 'Ask [the reporter] to call me about the sexual assault suspect question. I will answer off the record.' Arroyo replied to Rollins that he would tell the reporter to contact Rollins, and Rollins then suggested that Arroyo tell the reporter to contact 'some previous DAs' as well," the report stated.
Additionally, the investigations found that Rollins attended a "partisan political fundraiser without required department approval and contrary to ethics advice she received." On July 14, 2022, Rollins attended a Democratic Party fundraiser that included an appearance from the first lady, Jill Biden.
Rollins' actions displayed "an extraordinary abuse of her authority and threatens to erode public confidence," the OSC stated.
According to the OIG, in December 2022, it reported Rollins' alleged false statements under oath to the DOJ. However, the department informed the OIG in January that it declined to prosecute Rollins.
Rollins' attorney stated that she has been "profoundly honored" for the opportunity to serve as U.S. attorney but "understands that her presence has become a distraction."
She plans to answer questions "after the dust settles and she resigns," said attorney Michael Bromwich.
"The work of the office and the Department of Justice is far too important to be overshadowed by anything else," Bromwich added.
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