US gymnasts testify before Congress about FBI's Nassar investigation

By Melissa Mahtani, Melissa Macaya, Meg Wagner and Mike Hayes, CNN

Updated 2114 GMT (0514 HKT) September 15, 2021
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1:05 p.m. ET, September 15, 2021

McKayla Maroney: FBI made "entirely false claims about what I said"

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US Gymnastic star McKayla Maroney said during her opening statement that after telling the FBI her "entire story of abuse" by former team doctor Larry Nassar, they not only didn't report it, but later made "entirely false claims about what I said."

"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," she said.

Maroney noted that after she read the inspector general's report, she "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."

Maroney said that to have her "abuse be minimized and disregarded by the people who were supposed to protect me just to feel like my abuse was not enough." 

She continued: "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."

 

11:17 a.m. ET, September 15, 2021

In an emotional statement, Simone Biles blames "an entire system that enabled and perpetuated" sex abuse

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Pool

US Gymnastic star Simone Biles opened her testimony at the Senate hearing by saying that she could "imagine no place that I would be less comfortable right now than sitting here...sharing these comments."

Biles said that she is a survivor of sexual abuse. She said that the abuse that she suffered happened in part because USA Gymnastics "failed to do their jobs."

"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 (USAG) and the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) – failed to do their jobs," she said.

The athlete said that along with disgraced and imprisoned former USA gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar, she blamed "an entire system that enabled and perpetuated his abuse."

"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," Biles said with her voice cracking with emotion.

"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," she told the committee.

She added that even though USA Gymnastics knew that she was abused, the FBI never contacted her about their investigation into sex abuse claims.

"In May of 2015, Rhonda Faehn, the former head of the 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," she said.

WATCH:

1:13 p.m. ET, September 15, 2021

US senators call for prosecution of FBI agents who botched investigation into Nassar abuse of gymnasts

From CNN's Christina Carrega

Several US senators have called for the FBI agents who botched the investigation into sexual assault allegations against the former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar to be prosecuted during a congressional hearing this morning.

"I understand it's a long-standing department policy not to comment on decisions, not to prosecute, but robust oversight of the Department of Justice is a core responsibility of this committee,” Senate Judiciary Chairman Dick Durbin said in his opening remarks. “The FBI is handling of a Nassar's case is a stain on the bureau.”

Four members of the Olympics USA Gymnastics team are testifying before the committee. The hearing is being held after scathing report from the Justice Department's inspector general's office this summer revealed a number of missteps by the FBI in the case.

Nassar is currently serving a 40-to-174-year state prison sentence after 150 women and girls came forward to expose that he abused them over the course of 20 years.

"Today we believe Nassar abuse more than 300 athletes before he was brought to justice. As the details of Nassar's crimes emerged, there's been a consistent theme of neglect and inaction by those who are responsible for protecting the athletes," Durbin said. 

Decorated gymnasts Simone Biles, McKayla Maroney, Maggie Nichols and Aly Raisman as well as the FBI Director Christopher Wray and Inspector General Michael Horowitz are scheduled to testify. 

The inspector general's report found that FBI Special Agent in Charge W. Jay Abbott and Supervisory Special Agent Michael Langeman conducted a "limited follow up" investigation in 2015 and neglected to interview two of the three accusers. 

"I hope to hear more about exactly what happened at FBI Headquarters, other than its children you in it who knew about the Nassar allegations, how and when they learned of these allegations and what they did in response," Sen. Chuck Grassley said in his opening remarks. "If there's one thing the inspector general's report illustrates it says that we need to make sure the bureau is more effective and held more accountable."

Following the inspector general's report, the Justice Department declined to prosecute Abbott and Langeman. Abbott retired and Langeman was fired in recent weeks. 

"It's not only that the FBI failed to do its job, systematically, and repeatedly, it is also the cover of the cover up that occurred afterward,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal said in his opening remarks.

“When FBI agents made material, false statements and deceptive omissions referred by the Inspector General for criminal prosecution, those referrals were declined, without explanation, without any public explanation at all," Blumenthal said. "My hope is that the Department of Justice, which was invited today and has declined to appear, will explain why those lies by FBI agents did not lead to criminal prosecution, and accountability and even days before this hearing."

Durbin said he's "disappointed" that the Justice Department declined to participate in Wednesday's hearing but promises an oversight hearing with them in the fall.

Grassley said that he is working on "legislation to close the legislative loophole in the sex tourism statute that the inspector general flag in his report. This gap in the law allowed Larry Nassar to evade federal prosecution for assaulting children while traveling abroad, and that can never happen again."

 

11:23 a.m. ET, September 15, 2021

Gymnasts sworn in ahead of testimony

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Pool

US Gymnastics stars Simone Biles, McKayla Maroney, Aly Raisman and Maggie Nichols were just sworn before their testimony at the Senate committee on the FBI’s handling of the Larry Nassar investigation.

The four gymnasts will now give statements. Biles is going first.

10:41 a.m. ET, September 15, 2021

Senate Democrat: "This investigation was mishandled from coast to coast"

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Pool

Sen. Richard Blumenthal called the FBI's mishandling of the Larry Nassar investigation a "systematic" failure that leaves many wondering "if the FBI is capable of these kind of sexual abuse allegations."

"This failure was systematic. This investigation was mishandled from coast to coast, from Indianapolis to Los Angeles," the Democrat from Connecticut said while speaking at today's hearing.

A report from the the Justice Department's inspector general found FBI officials investigating allegations of sexual abuse against Nassar violated the agency's policies by making false statements and failing to properly document complaints by the accusers.

Nassar, a former USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University doctor, was sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison, after more than 150 women and girls said he sexually abused them over the past two decades.

10:33 a.m. ET, September 15, 2021

Committee chair: "The FBI's handling of the Nassar case is a stain on the bureau"

From CNN's Tierney Sneed

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Senate Judiciary Chairman Dick Durbin noted at the start of the hearing how athletic institutions had failed to protect the athletes from abuse.

"It shocks the conscience when those failures come from law enforcement itself," Durbin said.

"Our focus today is on the FBI, how did it fail, so badly, when it came to Nassar's victims, and what are FBI leaders doing today to ensure this never happens again," he continued, saying that the victims deserve better from the FBI.

"The FBI's handling of the Nassar case is a stain on the bureau," he said.

Durbin said he was committed to trying to prevent similar events from happening and pursuing legislation to hold abusers like Larry Nassar, the former USA Gymnastics team doctor, accountable and "provide justice to survivors."

Gymnasts Simone Biles, McKayla Maroney, Maggie Nichols and Aly Raisman are set to speak soon.

Some context: The hearing is examining how the FBI mishandled its investigation into the Nassar allegations, which were first brought to the agency in July 2015. Several violations of protocols led to months of delay, as captured in a scathing Justice Department inspector general report released in July.

While the federal investigation languished, Nassar abused scores of victims, the inspector general report said.

Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz and FBI Director Chris Wray will also testify.

10:05 a.m. ET, September 15, 2021

NOW: Senate judiciary committee holds hearing on FBI's handling of Nassar investigation

From CNN's Tierney Sneed

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Pool

The Senate Judiciary Committee is hearing testimony today from four elite gymnasts — Simone Biles, McKayla Maroney, Maggie Nichols and Aly Raisman — who say they were abused by Larry Nassar, the former USA Gymnastics team doctor who is now serving a several-decade prison sentence.

The hearing is examining how the FBI mishandled its investigation into the Nassar allegations, which were first brought to the agency in July 2015. Several violations of protocols led to months of delay, as captured in a scathing Justice Department inspector general report released in July.

While the federal investigation languished, Nassar abused scores of victims, the inspector general report said.

FBI officials "failed to respond to the Nassar allegations with the utmost seriousness and urgency that they deserved and required, made numerous and fundamental errors when they did respond to them, and violated multiple FBI policies," the report stated.

Read more about today's hearing here.

10:05 a.m. ET, September 15, 2021

Nassar makes minimum payments to his victims, despite having thousands of dollars in his prison account

From CNN's Christina Carrega and Amir Vera

Disgraced former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar, who is currently serving a decades-long sentence in federal prison for sexual abuse, has been delinquent in his payments toward court-ordered criminal penalties, according to a new court filing.

A motion filed July 28 by the US Justice Department said that since Nassar's incarceration, he had received deposits into his inmate trust account that reached $12,825, including two stimulus checks totaling $2,000.

As of July 28, Nassar had $2,041.57 in his account, according to the motion. It is unclear where the additional money – more than $10,000 – went.

In addition, he was sentenced on Jan. 24, 2018, to up to 175 years in Michigan state prison after pleading guilty to seven counts of criminal sexual conduct. At the sentencing, 156 victims spoke, recounting similar stories of how they went to Nassar to receive treatment for sports injuries only to be sexually assaulted and told it was a form of treatment.

He is currently serving his federal sentence in the US Penitentiary in Sumterville, Florida.

Despite having money in his account, Nassar has only paid $300 toward the more than $62,000 he was ordered to pay, according to the motion. He was ordered to pay $57,488.52 in restitution to five victims in the child pornography case, along with an extra $5,000 for a special assessment fee pursuant to the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2015, the motion read.

All of Nassar's payments toward his restitution have been "in the form of the minimum $25.00 quarterly payments based on his participation" in the Inmate Financial Responsibility Program, the motion said.

"In other words, Nassar has paid approximately $8.33 toward his criminal monetary penalties per month," the motion said.

The motion requests that the court order the Bureau of Prisons to turn over the funds in his account, up to $62,488.52, to be applied to his outstanding restitution and special assessment debt.

Included with the motion was a letter from the US Marshal Service on July 22 to the warden at US Penitentiary Colemen II in Sumterville, requesting that "all outbound financial transactions and withdrawals from his trust account be frozen pending further order of this Court," the motion reads.

The Bureau of Prisons told CNN that it "is committed to taking all appropriate steps to help ensure that inmates meet their financial obligations, including court-ordered payments to compensate victims. As part of that process, it regularly analyzes and monitors inmate accounts. BOP also partners with other law enforcement agencies and regularly notifies relevant authorities – such as the U.S. Marshals and US Attorneys' offices – when it identifies funds that are appropriately subject to seizure. BOP took such steps here. As reflected on the public docket, the government has asked the court to order that all funds in an inmate's account be turned over to satisfy a restitution judgment. The BOP will continue to examine its policies in an effort to do all it can to help ensure that inmates meet their fundamental financial obligations."

Read the full story here.

CNN's Evan Perez, Devan Cole and Tierney Sneed contributed to this report.

9:50 a.m. ET, September 15, 2021

The gymnasts testifying today have previously spoken out about abuse from Nassar

From CNN's Tierney Sneed

Olympic gold medalist Aly Raisman listens to testimony during a Senate Commerce subcommittee hearing in Washington, DC, July 2018.
Olympic gold medalist Aly Raisman listens to testimony during a Senate Commerce subcommittee hearing in Washington, DC, July 2018. Susan Walsh/AP

The gymnasts testifying today have all previously spoken publicly about being the victims of former USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar's abuse. Nassar, who also worked for Michigan State University, touched athletes inappropriately under the guise of performing medical treatments on them.

Simone Biles — a winner of seven Olympic medals, as well as several world and national championships — revealed this year that she was motivated to compete in the Tokyo Summer Olympics in part because it would force the sport to confront its shortcomings in protecting its athletes.

"I feel like if there weren't a remaining survivor in the sport, they would've just brushed it to the side," Biles told NBC's Hoda Kotb. "But since I'm still here, and I have quite a social media presence and platform, they have to do something."

Aly Raisman — who won Olympic medals in 2012 and 2016 — has also been vocal in criticizing how Nassar and others were allowed to get away with abusing gymnasts for so long, telling CNN's "New Day" in March:

"Monsters don't thrive for decades without the help of people."

Raisman, fellow Olympian McKayla Maroney and Maggie Nichols, who competed on the USA's 2015 world championship team, all made public statements in the court proceedings against Nassar.

Nichols reported Nassar to US Gymnastics in 2015, alleging that his inappropriate touching started when she was 15 and that he also sent her Facebook messages complimenting her looks.

They will now be speaking to the Senate as lawmakers pressure the Justice Department to take more steps to address the lapses in its Nassar investigation.