US attorney Rachael Rollins resigns after an ethics investigation
U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts Rachael S. Rollins announced Tuesday that she planned to resign, a day before a Justice Department watchdog was expected to release the results of an investigation into her conduct in office, including a performing at a Democratic fundraiser. .
Ms. Rollins, 52, who was confirmed by the Senate in December 2021 after a bitter battle in which Vice President Harris cast the deciding vote, will submit her resignation to the White House on Friday, her lawyer said.
The investigation into Ms. Rollins, the first black woman in Massachusetts to be appointed to one of the nation’s prosecutor’s posts, initially centered on her decision to hold a Democratic National Committee event with Dr. Jill Biden to attend. But it later expanded to include her using a personal cell phone to handle department matters, according to a person familiar with the situation.
Ms. Rollins’ “presence has become a distraction” to federal prosecutors in her office, her attorney, Michael R. Bromwich, said in an email. “The work of the office and the Justice Department is far too important to be overshadowed by anything else.”
Ms Rollins intends to make a fuller statement and address the circumstances surrounding her departure “after the dust settles and she resigns,” added Mr Bromwich, who was the Department’s Inspector General from 1994 to 1999 was of Justice.
Ms. Rollins, who supported a different approach to criminal justice during her tenure as district attorney for the county that encompasses Boston, is leaving as her office tackles one of the most high-profile cases in recent years: the investigation into the leak of secret national security documents. documents from Airman Jack Teixeira, a 21-year-old Air National Guardsman assigned to an intelligence division at a Cape Cod base.
The U.S. Office of Special Counsel, another federal watchdog, also investigated whether Ms. Rollins’ participation in the fundraiser in Andover, Mass., last July violated the Hatch Act, a federal law that prohibits election campaigning by federal officials. according to The Associated Press, who previously reported details of the Inspector General’s investigation.
Ms. Rollins and her aides recently debated with officials at Justice Department headquarters in Washington where the case against Mr. Teixeira should unfold. Officials at headquarters have been pushing for it to be moved from Massachusetts to Northern Virginia, where prosecutors have more experience prosecuting national security cases.
The investigation that trapped Ms. Rollins, which was considered a disgrace by department leaders who emphasized ethics, played a role in the push for a change of location, according to those familiar with the situation.
A spokeswoman for Attorney General Merrick B. Garland declined to comment. A spokeswoman for the department’s inspector general, Michael E. Horowitz, also declined to comment.
Ms. Rollins has been a longtime advocate of criminal justice policy changes to address racial disparities. These include sharp reductions in penalties for shoplifting, property crimes, drug possession and traffic violations.
That attitude, however, has earned her the enmity of many conservatives, who accuse her of ignoring the rise in violent crime. All 50 Senate Republicans opposed her nomination in an evenly split Senate when her confirmation was voted on in late 2021.
Shortly after she appeared at the fundraiser last July, Senator Tom Cotton, an Arkansas Republican who led the opposition to her nomination as a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, demanded an investigation.
Ms. Rollins initially rejected the idea, downplaying the importance of her presence.
“I had permission to see Dr. Biden and left early last night to speak at 2 community events,” Ms. Rollins wrote on social media at the time.
She added a joke to her critics: “Nice try though.”
Employees of the Inspector General began their investigation shortly afterwards.