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Louisiana Faces Major Flood Threat as Nicholas Slows over State; Senate Judiciary Committee Examines FBI Handling of Larry Nassar Investigation. Aired 10:30-11a ET
Aired September 15, 2021 - 10:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN NEWSROOM: Simone Biles, McKayla Maroney, Maggie Nichols and Aly Raisman are among hundreds of women who say they were abused by Nassar.
ERICA HILL, CNN NEWSROOM: CNN's Jean Casarez live on Capitol Hill this morning. So, Jean, what are we expecting to hear in the next few moments?
JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erica, Senator Richard Blumenthal is speaking right now with introductory remarks. And what he is saying is extremely important. He is saying that the FBI failed to do their job, but it was the cover-up afterwards for so long and the false omissions that they made. He has just said that this will be a stain on the FBI forever.
Here is what is important. The inspector general, once they released their report -- and we have heard this, but he's now confirming it in the room, that there were criminal referrals that were made to the attorney general for prosecution. The attorney general's office opted to not act on that.
Richard Blumenthal is saying, we need answers why. He's saying the attorney general's office was invited to this hearing today. They declined to participate or even be here. And he wants the attorney to do some explaining as to why they aren't acting on these FBI officers. Indianapolis field office was the lead but he's just saying right now that the FBI from coast to coast let these girls down.
And we are minutes away from these Olympics and world class athletes to testify before this hearing about the abuse that they received at the hands of Larry Nassar, from Simone Biles to Aly Raisman, McKayla Maroney, to Maggie Nichols. And they're just about to speak.
What I will tell you, I interviewed Maggie Nichols' mother several years ago. She is the national or world champion. And this all began at the Karyolyi Ranch. Her mother told me on camera when Maggie Nichols was talking to another gymnast saying that she was being touched by Larry Nassar, her local coach overheard it and went to USA Gymnastics and said, I believe Nassar is abusing these gymnasts. And Maggie Nichols was the unofficial, inadvertent whistleblower as to how this all started, according to her mother, Gina Nichols.
SCIUTTO: I mean, that's the thing here. There were accounts, warning signs for years before they were acted on. Do we know why, what the motivation was, justification for the FBI to ignore those accusations?
CASAREZ: Jim, that is such an important question. Here is what the inspector general's report says. It says that once USAG did go to the Indianapolis FBI and reported these serious and credible accusations that Jay Abbott, the chief in charge of the Indianapolis field office, met Steve Penny at a bar and said to him, I'm just about to retire, and I would love to have a job with the USA Olympic committee. Do you think you could put in a good word? And at the same time, at the same bar, they're talking about the Larry Nassar allegations.
Now, was this alone why there was what we just heard in that room, a cover-up of what Larry Nassar was doing, that alone? But you have independent from that, in the Indianapolis field office, a special supervisory agent who actually interviewed gymnast number one, who will reveal herself minutes from now in this hearing, and nothing was done. A few handwritten notes, no complaint filed, and for the next over a year, at least 70 young girls continued to be assaulted by Larry Nassar. And John Manly, who was the attorney for a majority of these victims has told me, Jean, it is more than 100, and brand new victims were assaulted by Larry Nassar over that year.
SCIUTTO: Jean, as you've been talking, Erica, I mean, we're watching the pain of this play out on the screen, the tears of someone involved. Frankly, we're going to find out who that is, possibly a mother. But you just see how understandably emotionally charged this hearing is.
HILL: And also -- I was just going to say, Jean, your excellent reporting over the years on this. You've spoken to a number of women who have bravely come forward and detailed what happened to them. And to think that this was essentially ignored in so many ways, I mean, we've mentioned this before, that we're at this point and you wonder why. I think it's so important to continue to say this. You wonder why it's so hard for women and, in cases, men to come forward when they have been sexually abused, when they have been assaulted. And it's hearing about moments like this that has such a chilling effect.
CASAREZ: Very true. And, Erica, as the FBI, according to the inspector general's report, was absolutely ignoring all of this. Finally, over a year later, a former gymnast at Michigan State University went to the MSU Police and said, I'm a victim of Larry Nassar. It was a Michigan State University Police Department that initially executed warrants at Larry Nassar's home, found indications of child pornography. Federal police got involved, executed a search warrant and they found 37,000 images of child porn. It was not the FBI at all that made this public. That's how it became public. And the FBI then had to make a formal complaint, and that is when, as Senator Blumenthal just said, the mistruths and the falsities began to come out from the FBI.
HILL: It is infuriating, to put it mildly. Jean Casarez, thank you.
As soon as we do begin to hear from the gymnasts, their testimony, we're going to bring that to you live. So, stay with us for that.
Also ahead, we are keeping a very close watch on the flooding and the tornadoes. So much concern now in Louisiana and parishes hit hardest by Hurricane Ida. We've got the latest forecast for what is left, still not done, what is left of Hurricane Nicholas.
HILL: Breaking news, you are looking at live pictures from Capitol Hill. At any moment, we are expected to hear from at least four of America's top gymnasts. They are to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee about the FBI's mishandling of the investigation into former USA Gymnastics Dr. Larry Nassar. We're going to bring that to you live as soon as they begin speaking. Stay with us for that.
We are also closely following is sever flood threat, what is now Tropical Depression Nicholas, slowing to a crawl over a state already battered by Hurricane Ida. And this comes as tens of thousands of customers are still without power.
SCIUTTO: CNN National Correspondent Ryan Young, he's in New Orleans, Chad Myers at the CNN Weather Center.
Ryan, let's begin though with you. Tell us what it's like there. They've had a tough couple of weeks, to say the least.
RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. As you can imagine, I've been here on and off for three weeks and over 60,000 people still without power. But as we all understand, it's not just about the rain falling, it's about the idea that they're racing against time. Look across the street. You can see one of the workers still on that roof, they are still trying to get blue tarps up on the roofs to make sure more water doesn't come into some of these homes.
As you go through the entire area, you can see those blue tarps on home after home. They barely had the time to even do some of this cleanup. If you look across the street, this crew over there was actually working, and the rain was so heavy in the last half hour or so, they had to stop. You put on top of that, there's trash, there are internet outages. These people have been going through so much. This is the point where they can't even get the crash off the street and the roads clear here. And now you have more soaking rain coming into this area.
You really feel for them because I was talking to one person earlier. The insurance adjusters haven't even been out to all the homes here. So, as you can understand, these people are dealing with so much water log, frustration, they just really want this rain to stop. Guys? HILL: Yes, absolutely. CNN Meteorologist Chad Myers also standing by. So, Chad, we mentioned it's moving very slowly. Ryan really paints the picture for us. Where do we go from here?
CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, we go for all this now dirt, which is mud, especially Alabama and Florida. Even with 30-mile-per- hour wind, we can certainly see some of these trees coming down, certainly more power coming down.
Here is what came down already, many areas in the eight to ten-inch rain. You said it wasn't moving. It won't even get out of Louisiana later on this week. It's going to sit there and spin and make more rainfall.
Now, the models I've been looking at today put most of the rain into Alabama, Florida and only eastern part of Louisiana, Plaquemines Parish. And still there will be rain in New Orleans as well, sure, of course. But the heaviest rain looks like it's shifting to the east again, probably four to six inches of rain. Those winds are still 30 miles per hour with this. So we will keep watching it for you. You even had a couple of tornado spin-up warnings this morning. You have to watch out for that as well. Erica, Jim?
SCIUTTO: Ryan Young, Chad Myers, thanks so much to both of you.
Let's go back to Capitol Hill, where the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing is going to -- is under way. Senators examining the inspector general report of how the FBI handled investigations into former USA Gymnastics Dr. Larry Nassar. There's one of the gymnasts who is going to testify. Let's listen in.
SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL): -- 2012 and 2016, a leader on and off the floor, Raisman uses her platform to advocate for abuse prevention and education. I thank you each for being here.
Let me lay out the mechanics of the rest of this hearing. After we swear in the witnesses on the first panel, which is the tradition of this committee, each witness will have five minutes to provide their opening statements. There will then be one round of questions in this extraordinary procedure. Each senator will have one minute of questioning. So, please honor your allotted time to ask a question.
Following that, we will switch to our second panel. We'll once again five-minute of opening statements from the witnesses. After opening statements, we'll have another round of question.
Each senator will have five minutes for question.
Could the witnesses please stand to be sworn in? If you'd raise your right harm, do you affirm the testimony you're about to give before the committee will be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help you God?
Let the records show that the witnesses answered in the affirmative. Be seated.
Ms. Biles, you're first, if you'd like to give your opening statement. If you can pull the microphone close to you, it works much better.
SIMONE BILES, ELITE GYMNAST WHO ACCUSED NASSAR OF ABUSE: Thank you for the opportunity to share my story with this committee and for bringing light to the crisis of abuse in amateur sports. Your commitment to ensuring the safety of gymnasts and all amateur athletes is appreciated, important and necessary to ensure nothing like this ever happens again.
Please bear with me. To be perfectly honest, I can imagine no place that I would be less comfortable right now than sitting here in front of you sharing these comments.
My name is Simone Biles and I'm a gymnast who has trained at the levels of the sport. As an elite gymnast, I have had the honor to represent the United States of America in multiple international competitions, including world championships and the Olympic Games. Over the course of my gymnastics career, I have won 25 world championship medals and seven Olympic medals for Team USA. That record means so much to me, and I am proud of my representation of this nation through gymnastics.
I am also a survivor of sexual abuse, and I believe without a doubt that the circumstances that led to my abuse and allowed it to continue are directly the result of the fact that the organizations created by Congress to oversee and protect me as an athlete, USA Gymnastics and the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee, failed to do their jobs.
Nelson Mandela once said there can be no keener revelation of a society's soul than the way in which it treats its children. It is the power of that statement that compels and empowers me to be here in front of you today. I don't want another young gymnast, Olympic athlete or any individual to experience the horror that I and hundreds of others have endured before, during and continuing to this day in the wake of the Larry Nassar abuse.
To be clear -- sorry.
DURBIN: Take your time.
BILES: To be clear, I blame Larry Nassar and I also blame an entire system that enabled and perpetrated his abuse. USA Gymnastics and the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee knew that I was abused by their official team doctor long before I was ever made aware of their knowledge.
In May of 2015, Rhonda Faehn, the former head of USA Gymnastics women's program was told by my friend and teammate, Maggie Nichols, that she suspected I too was a victim. I didn't understand the magnitude of what all was happening until the Indianapolis Star published its article in the fall of 2016 entitled, former USA Gymnastics doctor accused of abuse. Yet while I was a member of the 2016 U.S. Olympic team, neither USAG, USOPC nor the FBI ever contacted me or my parents. While others had been informed and investigations were ongoing, I had been left to wonder why I was not told until after the Rio games.
This is the largest case of sexual abuse in the history of American sport. And although there has been a fully independent investigation of the FBI's handling of the case, neither USAG nor USOPC have ever been made the subject of the same level of scrutiny. These are the entities entrusted with the protection of our sport and our athletes and yet it feels like questions of responsibility and organizational failures remain unanswered.
As you pursue the answers to those questions, I ask that that your work be guided by the same question that Rachael Denhollander and many others have asked, how much is a little girl worth? I sit before you today to raise my voice to that now little girl messenger (ph) what I, the athletes at this table and the countless others who needlessly suffered under Nassar's guise of medical treatment, which we continue to endure today.
We suffer and continue to suffer because no one at FBI, USAG or the USOPC did what was negligence to protect us. We have been failed and deserve answers. Nassar is where he belongs, but those who enabled him deserve to be held accountable. If they are not, I am convinced that this will continue to happen to others across Olympic sports.
In reviewing the OIG's report, it truly feels like the FBI turned a blind eye to us and went out of its way to help protect USAG and USOPC. A message needs to be sent. If you allow a predator to harm children, the consequences will be swift and severe. Enough is enough.
I will close with one final thought. The scars of this horrific abuse continue to live with all of us. As the lone competitor in the recent Tokyo games who is a survivor of this horror, I can assure you that the impacts of this man's abuse are not ever over or forgotten. The announcement in the spring of 2020 that the Tokyo games were to be postponed for a year meant that I would be going to the gym, to training, to therapy, living daily among the reminders of this story for another 365 days.
As I have stated in the past, one thing that helped me push each and every day was the goal of not allowing this crisis to be ignored. I worked incredibly hard to make sure that my presence could maintain a connection between the failures and competition at Tokyo 2020. That has proven to be exceptionally difficult burden for me to carry, particularly when required to travel to Tokyo without the support of any of my family.
I am a strong individual and I will persevere, but I never should have been left alone to suffer the abuse of Larry Nassar. And the only reason I did was because of the failures that lie at the heart of the abuse that you are now asked to investigate.
Again, I appreciate the opportunity to share my thoughts with this committee today. I want to sincerely thank each of you for joining the survivors of this abuse to do what we all can to prevent anything like this from ever happening again. Thank you.
DURBIN: Thank you, Ms. Biles. Ms. Maroney.
You have to push the button on your microphone.
MCKAYLA MARONEY, ELITE GYMNAST WHO ACCUSED NASSAR OF ABUSE: Are we on?
DURBIN: There we go.
MARONEY: Good morning, thank you, Chairman Durbin, Ranking Member Grassley and members of the Judiciary Committee for inviting me to speak today.
As most of you are probably aware, I was molested by the U.S. Gymnastics National Team and Olympic Team Dr. Larry Nassar. In actuality, he turned out to be more of a pedophile than he was a doctor.
What I'm trying to bring to your attention today is something incredibly disturbing and illegal. After telling my entire story of abuse to the FBI in the summer of 2015, not only did the FBI not report my abuse but when they eventually documented my report 17 months later, they made entirely false claims about what I said.
After reading the office of inspector general's OIG report, I was shocked and deeply disappointed at this narrative they chose to fabricate. They chose to lie about what I said and protect a serial child molester rather than protect not only me but countless others.
My story is one in which Special Agent in Charge Jay Abbott and his subordinates did not want you do hear, and it's time that I tell you. In the summer of 2015, like I said, I was scheduled to speak to the FBI about my abuse with Larry Nassar over the phone. I was too sick to go meet with anyone in person and talking about this abuse would give me PTSD for days. But I chose to speak about it to try to make a difference and protect others.
I remember sitting on my bedroom floor for nearly three hours as I told them what happened to me. I hadn't even told my own mother about these facts, but I thought, as uncomfortable and as hard as it was to tell my story, I was going to make a difference and hopefully protecting others from the same abuse. I answered all of their questions honestly and clearly and I disclosed all of my molestations I had endured by Nassar to them in extreme detail.
They told me to start from the beginning. I told them about the sport of gymnastics, how you make the national team and how I came to meet Larry Nassar when I was 13 at a Texas camp. I told them that the first thing Larry Nassar ever said to me was to change into shorts with no underwear because that would make it easier for him to work on me. And within minutes, he had his fingers in my vagina.
The FBI then immediately asked did he insert his fingers into your rectum.
I said no, he never did. They asked if he used gloves. I said no, he never did. They asked if this treatment ever helped me. I said no, it never did. This treatment was 100 percent abuse and never gave me any relief.
I then told the FBI about Tokyo, the day he gave me a sleeping pill for the plane ride to then work on me later that night. That evening, I was naked, completely alone with him on top of me molesting me for hours. I told them I thought I was going to die that night because there was no way that he would let me go, but he did. I told them I walked the halls of Tokyo Hotel at 2:00 A.M. at only 15 years old. I began crying at the memory over the phone, and there was just dead silence.
I was so shocked at the agent's silence and disregard for my trauma. After that minute of silence he asked, is that all? Those words in itself was one of the worst moments of this entire process for me, to have my abuse be minimized and disregarded by the people who were supposed to protect me just to feel like my abuse was not enough. But the truth is, my abuse was enough and they wanted to cover it up.
USA Gymnastics in concert with the FBI and the Olympic Committee were working together to conceal that Larry Nassar was a predator. I then proceeded to tell them about London and how he'd sign me up last on his sheet so he could molest me for hours twice a day. I told them how he molested me right before I won my team gold medal, how he gave me presents, bought me caramel macchiatos and bread when I was hungry. I even sent them screen shots of Nassar's last text, which was, McKayla, I love how you see the world through rose-colored glasses. I hope you continue to do so.
This was very clear, cookie-cutter pedophilia and abuse. And this is important because I told the FBI all of this and they chose to falsify my report and to not only minimize my abuse, but silence me yet again. I thought given the severity of this situation, they would act quickly for the sake of protecting other girls. But instead, it took them 14 months to report anything when Larry Nassar, in my opinion, should have been in jail that day. The FBI, USOC and USAG sat idly by as dozens of girls and women continued to be molested by Larry Nassar.
According to the OIG report, about 14 month after I disclosed my abuse to the FBI, nearly a year-and-a-half later, the FBI agent who interviewed me in 2015 decided to write down my statement, a statement that the OIG report determined to be materially false. Let's be honest, by not taking immediate action from my report, they allowed a child molester to go free for more than a year. And this inaction directly allowed Nassar's abuse to continue.
What is the point of reporting abuse if our own FBI agents are going to take it upon themselves to bury that report in a drawer? They had legal, legitimate evidence of child abuse and did nothing. If they're not going to protect me, I want to know who are they trying to protect.
What's even more upsetting to me is that we know that these FBI agents have committed an obvious crime. They falsified my statement, and that is illegal in itself. Yet no recourse has been taken against them. The Department of Justice refused to prosecute these individuals. Why?
Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco couldn't bring herself to be here today, and it is the Department of Justice's job to hold them accountable. I am tired of waiting for people to do the right thing because my abuse was enough, and we deserve justice.
These individuals clearly violated policies and were negligent in executing their duties, and in doing so, more girls were abused by Larry Nassar for over a year. To not indict these agents is a disservice to me and my teammates, it is a disservice to this system which is built to protect all of us from abuse, it was a disservice to every victim who suffered needlessly at the hands of Larry Nassar after I spoke up. Why are public servants, whose job is to protect, getting away with this? This is not justice. Enough is enough.
Today, I ask you all to hear my voice. I ask you, please, do all that is in your power to ensure that these individuals are held responsible and accountable for ignoring my initial, for lying about my initial report and covering up for a child molester.
In closing --