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Aly Raisman: Abuse Trauma Took Me from an Athlete Training 7 Hours a Day to Someone who couldn't Walk for 10 Minutes; Top Gymnasts Testify on FBI Mishandling of Nassar Investigation; Star Gymnasts Call Out Feds Over Nassar Investigation Failures; Christopher Wray & Horowitz Testify in Nassar Investigation; FBI Director & IG Testify on Failures in Nassar Investigation. Aired 12-12:30p ET
Aired September 15, 2021 - 12:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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SIMONE BILES, GYMNAST SEXUALLY ABUSED BY LARRY NASSAR: OK. I feel like we all had the same people.
RAISMAN: But I if I could, if I recall, my direct communication was with a male FBI--
BILES: Right --
RAISMAN: --in the room.
SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL): OK. Senator Padilla.
SEN. ALEX PADILLA (D-CA): Good morning! I want to start by thanking Chairman Durbin, and all those who have made this hearing possible and to the panelists. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!
I admire and respect each one of you for choosing to participate today for sharing your testimony with us - today is not easy. And I recognize that you each had the option of respectfully declining the invitation to be here. But you didn't.
And I hope that you understand that your presence here is not just as important to the members of this committee, and to the Senate as a body, but also speaks volumes for the countless victims of abuse that are out there listening or watching or will listen or will watch.
I appreciate the conversation about mental health that was prompted by the questions from Senator Booker. My wife is a very active mental health advocate. And so she has trained me well to be cognizant of those issues and ask him important and timely questions as well.
And Ms. Biles, I hope you might have heard about some of our amplification of your courage for the most recent Olympics to take care of yourself first. That took a lot. It took a lot at that moment. I'm just going to offer a few comments I think that most of the questions that I would raise have been raised by my colleagues.
But I do also want to make it clear that Mr. Nassar's criminal cases where they've been closed; we cannot and will not ignore the missteps that enabled his rampant misconduct. The power structure that shielded him has no place in America, not today, not in our future.
And if we're to achieve the highest ideals of our nation, right, we talk about fairness and equality so often, and then we will just ask why? We cannot give up until we get the answers as to why this man was allowed to use his position of power to abuse for so long?
We won't just ask why? We commit to getting the answers to why the initial investigation into these matters was bungled. And lastly, we recommit ourselves to building a justice system that holds powerful people, you know, learning from this particular case, but holds other powerful people accountable for their actions.
So again, my main message today is just thank you through your participation, and but we will learn and what we will do, we hope to better protect future generations.
DURBIN: Thank you, Senator. Senator Ossoff?
SEN. JOHN OSSOFF (D-GA): Thank you, again to all of you for being here and being so direct with us and enduring this experience. I just want to assure you that I've listened and heard what you're demanding. And the burden shouldn't be on you to see that there is not impunity in this case.
Personnel at the FBI, Jay Abbott and his subordinates, Steve Penney, USA Gymnastics, the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committees the burden is ours in the U.S. Senate, to see that there is a full investigation that there is personal accountability and institutional accountability for abuse, enablement of abuse, neglectful and improper law enforcement conduct.
And I think compelling evidence of potential obstruction of justice and official corruption in this case, as well. So thank you again, for your testimony. I'll make sure that each of you and your families and representatives have contact information for me and for my office and continue to work with my colleagues to ensure that justice is done. Thank you.
DURBIN: Thank you, Senator Ossoff? Ms. Biles, Ms. Maroney, Ms. Nichols and Ms. Raisman thanks for your testimony today. It was historic, and it'll make a difference in the lives of many people who are witnessing it.
DURBIN: You don't have to wait for the judges to put numbers up on the board. You all were gold medalist today when the cause of justice. So thank you for joining us. You're excused.
BILES: Thank you.
RAISMAN: Thank you.
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JOHN KING, CNN HOST, INSIDE POLITICS: Hello, everybody. I'm John King in Washington. Thank you for sharing your day with us. If you've been with us, you've been listening to dramatic sobering heartbreaking, simply heartbreaking testimony on Capitol Hill today.
Emotional and infuriating details from four star us gymnast Simone Biles, McKayla Maroney, Maggie Nichols and Aly Raisman. They say the FBI gravely grossly mishandled its investigation into the Former USA Gymnastics Team Doctor Larry Nasser, who abused them and hundreds, hundreds of other girls filing this emotional testimony today and the investigations.
And with me to share their reporting and their insights CNN's Jean Casarez is up on Capitol Hill. And our Senior Legal Affairs Correspondent Paula Reid is with me here in Washington. Jean, I want to start with you up on the Hill.
You had these four American heroes, American ambassadors, great American athletes, global icons, if you will, talking in heartbreaking personal detail about the trauma and what they believe not only the betrayal, not just by the U.S. Olympic Committee, but by the FBI?
JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The betrayal by so many and they were brutally, brutally honest, emotionally vulnerable, as they so aptly described what had happened to them. And it's not only the facts that they brought out, because the facts are horrendous.
The fact that that the FBI in Indianapolis Field Office and as it was said by Senators coast to coast knew what was happening but covered it up for more than one year. But Simone Biles said that back at the Karolyi Ranch, which was the National Training Facility in Texas, back in 2015.
Once it became known that it looked like Larry Nassar was abusing some of the young gymnast that it was going around that she was one that was being abused. They didn't tell her they didn't ask her not until after 2016 in Rio did she says someone confronted her?
Aly Raisman testified that it was 14 months after she spoke with someone at the FBI those they ever they ever came to her. They ever questioned her further on all of this. But it was McKayla Maroney, who was gymnast number one in the inspector general's report, who with so much specificity, talked about how she was violently sexually assaulted by Larry Nassar before and after the London Olympics shortly after she had gotten her medal? And it went on from there internationally John.
KING: Jean, as you speak, I just want to tell our viewers what they're seeing. We're still live pictures in the committee hearing room, Senators now talking to these American athletes who are just as well also, they are gold medalists. They are international icons. They are survivors of horrific sexual abuse. And Paula Reid as you join the conversation we may hear from these young women momentarily. We're told they may speak to reporters when they leave the hearing room. We'll take you up there live if they do.
What was stunning is that you know, yes, Larry Nassar is in prison for 150 years plus. He will spend the rest of his life in prison but these women and others sitting behind them who did not testify believe justice is not even close to being served in this case.
They have questions about the Olympic Committee questions about the FBI. And what was stunning to me is to listen to Aly Raisman say even after as Jean just noted, she made her allegations even after she knew the investigation when was underway, that there were other young women including some sitting in that courtroom.
I mean, in that hearing room, excuse me, who went to Dr. Nassar because they thought it was cool to have the same doctor as the Olympic athletes. And those girls were not warned even though the investigation was well underway.
PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Look, there are very few points of bipartisan agreement in this town right now. But one thing you see both sides of the aisle agree on completely is that the handling of this matter of this investigation was a national tragedy.
And when you're looking at abuse on this scale, pedophiles, he was sexually abused children on this scale, whether it's Jerry Sandusky, Jeffrey Epstein, here, Larry Nassar, it takes a village to enable that to cover something like this up.
So this really wasn't about Larry Nassar. It was about the system that protected him that enabled him to continue this abuse even as claims were being brought. And Simone Biles, she really did make the point as at some of the other women that this isn't about him. This is about the system and they were very specific.
They said point blank, they want to see criminal prosecutions. We know the Office of Inspector General made some criminal referrals. But at this point, those referrals are not being acted on. We do not anticipate at this point any criminal prosecutions of those FBI officials who were named in the Inspector General report and of course, the FBI Director and the Inspector General himself will be testifying about this shortly.
KING: And you just saw the four gymnasts leaving the hearing room and walking down the hall.
KING: It does not appear that they're going to speak to reporters as they leave the hearing. We'll continue to monitor that they will this hearing will continue. The committee has questions for the Justice Department Inspector General who looked into FBI conduct and the like.
Again, we're showing you live pictures here, up on Capitol Hill, these heroic gymnast survivors of sexual assault folks with the mud there. Jean, they were - some of the Senators were asking, what else do you want from us? Among the answers was federal prosecution not just state prosecution? And even these gymnast saying that yes, some safeguards have been put in place, but questioning whether they are working effectively?
CASAREZ: John it is very interesting, because Simone very quietly said, we want a federal prosecution. Here's what happened. The Inspector General's report actually made criminal referrals to the Attorney General's Office and it was confirmed today in the introductory statements that they refuse prosecution.
And so because of that, could there be a limit on some that can be prosecuted because the Inspector General was able to get some interviews from FBI officials, because the Attorney General said they would not be prosecuting this case.
However, Jay Abbott, who was the Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Office in Indianapolis, he voluntarily did speak to the Inspector General. He still can be federally prosecuted along with if more information would come out if there would be a special prosecutor and a criminal investigation, more information of a criminal nature that could extend potential criminal charges in this matter.
KING: And for though Jean standby and stay with us please for those of you who may have joined us at the top of the hour and did not listen to both the 90 minutes of power testimony - powerful testimony. Again, these are young women you have seen at the Olympics you have seen in the world championship.
You have seen them on the balance bar. You have seen them on the beams today they sat before members of the United States Senate and they recounted just horrific, horrific personal tragedy listen.
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BILES: To be clear, I blame Larry Nassar and I also blame an entire system that enabled and perpetrated his abuse.
MCKAYLA MARONEY, GYMNAST SEXUALLY ABUSED BY LARRY NASSAR: 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 report for lying about my initial report and for covering up for a child molester.
MAGGIE NICHOLS, GYMNAST SEXUALLY ABUSED BY LARRY NASSAR: This conduct by these FBI agents, including the Special Agent in Charge, who are held in high regard and expected to protect the public is unacceptable, unacceptable, disgusting and shameful.
RAISMAN: If we don't do all we can to get these facts, the problems we are here to address will persist. And we are deluding ourselves if we think other children can be spared this the institutionalized tolerance and normalization of abuse that I and so many others had to endure.
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KING: And Paula Reid it is stunning when you listen to it. And then you think about it, you think about it as a parent looked sexual assault, sexual mistreatment, sexual abuse is a chronic problem across the country. But these women were stars, they were going to be Olympic Athletes, they are supposed to be more protected.
And yet the people who are supposed to protect them, these girls who are saying these young women were saying we're complicit in A, in their mistreatment and then B, in what they believe was a cover up.
REID: Absolutely. And this looks horrible for the FBI, because not only were some of these initial complaints mishandled, there was then an alleged attempt at a cover up then you have these criminal referrals that they're not acting on.
And so far, it's unclear what the FBI is overall defense to this and the Justice Department's messages as well, to the survivors of sexual assault? Obviously, we're going to hear from the FBI Director shortly. I've been in touch with the FBI few times over the past 24 hours.
Honestly, they don't have a lot to say for themselves right now. But this story, this is a travesty for the FBI and they have a lot to answer to, especially to the survivors of sexual assault.
KING: To that very point and then I'll go back to Jean Casarez said they have a lot to answer for. And let's put it in the most personal terms. This is McKayla Maroney testifying for the United States Senate. The FBI does have questions to answer, including to this American hero.
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MARONEY: 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 they are trying to protect.
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KING: Jean Casarez it is clear from the testimony they believe A, that there were too many men involved in this and that the men were not taking them seriously.
KING: And B, that the competitive pressures that maybe there were people institutionally in the Olympic Committee, and maybe a too cozy relationship with the FBI that did not want to blow this up, did not want to try to hold Dr. Nassar accountable because of the impact it might have had on competitiveness, right? CASAREZ: Well, you know, and John, there's still so many questions as to why? Why would you, according to the report, intentionally cover this up? We know from the report that Steve Penny, the Head of USA Gymnastics, along with Jay Abbott, the Head of the FBI in Indianapolis, met at a bar and Jay Abbott started talking about Nassar but he then he said, you know, I'm about to retire, I'd love a job with the USA Olympic and Paralympic Committee.
That was the conversation. But could all of this been born because he wanted a job? And there was another the special supervisory agent in the FBI Office, a separate individual, who was the one that interviewed McKayla Maroney, and he also covered it up.
So what were the conversations between them that we don't know about? Because the attorney for these victims believes there was a conspiracy here? That is a very, very serious allegation, it is a loaded term. But what were the conversations so that at least two FBI agents work toward the same result?
KING: Hopefully, we get some answers to those questions when the U.S. Justice Department IG testifies. But let's wrap it up on that point, Paul Reid, when you talk to people at the FBI, when you talk to people to Justice Department, do they believe can they tell you with certainty that the roots of that corruption, potential conflict of interest, all of those roots have been ripped out? Or is there still a problem?
REID: No, we don't even fully understand the roots of this problem exactly why they were engaging together in this same pattern of behavior? Why did it take you a year and a half to write down a victim statement? And when you did, so you didn't even transcribe it correctly? There are so many unanswered questions that go back years.
Absolutely, no one can say with confidence that the roots have been pulled up that this will not repeat itself. And again, it's not just the FBI. This is something we've seen in so many institutions, in churches in Boy Scouts and other universities.
KING: One of the - one of the things that happens repeatedly in this town and elsewhere, as time passes the urgency of these questions, lapses. Hope that is not the case in this case, and let's hope - let's hope the brave testimony we heard from these four heroic athletes today keeps the pressure on.
We will continue to follow this as again, the Justice Department Inspector General, Mr. Horowitz is going to face questions from this committee about the investigative about those potential conflicts about looking forward we'll stay on top of that. Also ahead for us today, the California Governor Gavin Newsom fends off a recall in landslide fashion.
KING: We just head straight back to Capitol Hill. I told you just moments ago the hearing was to resume. This is the FBI Director Christopher Wray. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTOPHER WRAY, FBI DIRECTOR: --before I became FBI Director, I was generally familiar with the Nassar's story shortly after his arrest in 2016. And I remember even then being appalled that there were so many people who had failed to do their jobs and keep these young women safe from that predator.
But after I became FBI Director, and when I learned that there were people at the FBI who had also failed these women, I was part sick and furious. I immediately ordered a special review by our inspection division to try to get to the bottom of it. That review led in part to the Inspector General's own review and I'm grateful to Inspector General Horowitz for his team's extensive and independent work.
I want to be crystal clear. The actions and inaction of the FBI employees detailed in this report are totally unacceptable. These individuals betrayed the core duty that they have of protecting people; they failed to protect young women and girls from abuse.
And the work we do certainly is often complicated and uncertain. And we're never going to be perfect but the kinds of fundamental errors that were made in this case in 2015 and 16 should never have happened period.
WRAY: And as long as I'm FBI Director, I'm committed to doing everything in my power to make sure they never happen again. The FBI cannot carry out its vital mission of protecting the American people without trust and in this case, FBI agents, certain FBI agents broke that trust repeatedly and inexcusably.
And to pretend otherwise would be yet one more insult to the survivors. Failures, like the ones that happen in this case threatened the very confidence we rely on every day to keep people safe. So I want to make sure the public knows that the reprehensible conduct reflected in this report is not representative of the work that I see from our 37,000 folks every day.
The actions instead of the agents described in this report are a discredit to all those men and women who do the job the right way, with uncompromising integrity the way the American people rightly expect and deserve.
Throughout my career as a prosecutor, and now at the Bureau, I have found that the agents and officers who investigate crimes against children and sex crimes are among the most compassionate and fiercely dedicated out there, and I suspect, a number of you on the committee have had the same experience on your end.
And I am grateful to the women who came forward today so that I can say to everyone that there is no more important work in law enforcement than helping victims of abuse, it's work that's got to get done right every single time. It is essential that we do everything we can to ensure that victims continue to come forward with confidence that their reports are going to be thoroughly and aggressively investigated. A big part of that is accountability and holding our folks to the highest standard our work requires.
When I received the Inspector General's report and saw that the Supervisory Special Agent in Indianapolis had failed to carry out even the most basic parts of the job, I immediately made sure he was no longer performing the functions of a special agent.
And I can now tell you that that individual no longer works for the FBI in any capacity. As for the Former Indianapolis, specialist in charge, the descriptions of his behavior also reflect violations of the FBI's long standing code of conduct and the ethical obligations for all FBI employees, especially senior officials.
Now that individual has been gone for the Bureau for about three and a half years, having retired in January of 2018 before any review launched. And I will say - I will say it is extremely frustrating that we are left with little disciplinary recourse when people retire before their cases can be adjudicated.
But let me be clear people who engage in that kind of gross misconducts have no place in the FBI. I can also assure you that the FBI's response is not limited to dealing with those who failed so profoundly back in 2015.
To make sure that something like this never happens again, we've already begun fully implementing all of the inspector general's recommendations that includes strengthening our policies and procedures, strengthening our training to firmly underscore the critical importance of thoroughly and expeditiously responding to all allegations of sexual assault or abuse because, as I said, a moment ago, the American people are counting on us to get this done right, every time.
And finally, I'd like to make a promise to the women who appeared here today and to all survivors of abuse. I am not interested in simply addressing this wrong and moving on. It's my commitment to you that I and my entire senior leadership team are going to make damn sure everybody at the FBI remembers what happened here in heartbreaking detail.
We need to remember the pain that occurred when our folks failed to do their jobs. We need to study it. We need to learn from it. That is the best way I know to make sure that this devastating tragedy is never repeated. So thank you, Mr. Chairman, Ranking Member Grassley, and members of the committee for the opportunity to testify today. I look forward to your questions.
DURBIN: Thank you. Inspector General Horowitz?
MICHAEL HOROWITZ, DOJ INSPECTOR GENERAL: Thank you, Chairman Durbin, Ranking Member Grassley and members of the Committee.
HOROWITZ: I also want to begin my testimony by recognizing the many courageous gymnasts who came forward to report Larry Nassar's abuses. And by thanking Ms. Biles, Ms. Maroney, Ms. Nichols and Ms. Raisman for their compelling testimony today.
These gymnasts have showed remarkable bravery in detailing the sexual assaults they endured at the very same time they were competing at the highest levels for our country. They did so with the belief that their actions would save other young women and girls from the serial abuse they endured.
Sadly, as detailed in our report, the response of the FBI agents who received that information betrayed their law enforcement responsibilities and their duties to these victims. Nassar's abuses could and should have stopped sooner if appropriate action had been taken.
Not only did that not occur, but after the agents failures came to light records were created that inaccurately describe their handling of the matter and falsely summarize the testimony as you heard of Ms. Maroney.
Further when called to account for their actions to have the agents lie to our OIG investigators. The OIG was able to investigate and identify these failures only because of the courage of the athletes who spoke to our investigators.
What they did was extraordinarily difficult, and I want to thank them for their cooperation and strength and coming forward and speaking to us. Because of their actions critical reforms are being undertaken to ensure that events such as these do not occur again.
Let me briefly just summarize the results of our investigation. In July 2015, USA Gymnastics reported the sexual assault allegations against Nassar to the FBI's Indianapolis Field Office. USA Gymnastics officials described graphic information that had been provided by Ms. Maroney, Ms. Nichols and Ms. Raisman and informed the FBI that all three athletes were available to be interviewed.
However, it wasn't until six weeks later on September 2nd, that the Indianapolis Office interviewed Ms. Maroney by telephone as you heard, and neither Ms. Nichols nor Ms. Raisman were ever interviewed by that office.
Moreover, the Indianapolis Office did not formally document its interview of Ms. Maroney at the time or its July meeting with USA Gymnastics. Your office also didn't formally open an investigation or an assessment of the matter.
Immediately following that September 2nd interview, the Indianapolis Office and local federal prosecutors concluded there was no venue in Indianapolis for the federal investigation. Both offices also had serious questions as to whether there was federal criminal jurisdiction, as opposed to state or local jurisdiction. Yet, the Indianapolis Field Office didn't advise state or local authorities about the allegations and didn't take any actions to mitigate the risks to gymnast that Nassar was continuing to treat. Further, that office failed to transfer the case to the FBI Office that actually might have had venue despite informing USA Gymnastics that it had actually done so.
After eight months of FBI inactivity in May 2016, USA Gymnastics officials contacted the FBI Los Angeles Field Office to report the same allegations that had provided to the Indianapolis Office. Following this meeting, the L.A. office opened a federal investigation and undertook numerous investigative steps.
But critically, it didn't contact state or local authorities, and it didn't take action to mitigate the ongoing threat presented by Nassar. It wasn't until August 2016 when Michigan State University Police that Police Department received a separate sexual assault complaint from another gymnast.
And in September 2016 the next month, the MSU Police Department executed a court authorized search of Nassar's residents. Among other things, they seized devices containing over 30,000 images of child pornography.
According to civil court documents, approximately 70 or more young athletes were allegedly sexually abused by Nassar under the guise of medical treatment between July 2015 when the FBI first received these allegations until September 2016.
We further found when the FBI's handling of the Nassar's matter came under scrutiny in 2017 and 2018 Indianapolis officials provided inaccurate information to make it appear that they had actually been diligent in their follow up efforts and did so in part by blaming others.
In addition, it resulted in the Internationalists Supervisory Special Agent, drafting a summary of his telephonic interview of Ms. Maroney from 2015 that summary included statements as you heard from Ms. Maroney that didn't actually accurately reflect what she had told them and could have actually jeopardized the criminal investigations by providing by including false --
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