US Attorney for Massachusetts to Step Down After Ethics Investigation – According to her attorney, Rachael Rollins, the US attorney for Massachusetts, will step down following an extended ethics investigation conducted by the inspector general of the justice department. The investigation focused on her participation in a political fundraiser and other related matters.
Although the federal watchdog has not yet made its report public, Rollins’ attorney stated that she intends to send a letter of resignation to President Joe Biden before the end of business on Friday. “Rachael has been profoundly honored to serve as US attorney over the past 16 months and is incredibly proud of all her office has accomplished during that limited time, especially in the areas of gun violence and civil rights,” her attorney, Michael Bromwich, a former justice department inspector general, said in a statement.
“She is optimistic that the important work she started will continue but understands that her presence has become a distraction. The work of the office and the Department of Justice is far too important to be overshadowed by anything else.” The departure of a US attorney due to ethics-related issues is an extremely uncommon occurrence, which holds particular significance for a department that, under the leadership of US Attorney General Merrick Garland, has aimed to establish a sense of stability following the tumultuous Trump administration.
Rollins took office as the leading federal law enforcement officer in Massachusetts in January 2022, having previously served as the district attorney for Boston and nearby areas. Despite facing strong Republican resistance, Rollins garnered praise from progressives prior to her appointment as the US attorney. Vice President Kamala Harris had to cast tie-breaking votes on two occasions to advance her nomination.
In November, The Associated Press broke the news that the inspector general had initiated an investigation regarding Rollins’ attendance at a Democratic fundraiser last year, where Jill Biden, the first lady, was present. Sources have indicated that the investigation has since broadened to encompass additional matters such as the use of a personal cellphone for justice department-related affairs and a trip to California funded by an external organization.
In July, Rollins was captured in a photograph as she arrived at a residence in Andover, Massachusetts, where the fundraising event with Jill Biden took place. Typically, the inspector general’s role involves probing allegations of fraud, misconduct, or violations of various policies. Rollins said in a tweet she “had approval” to meet the first lady and left the event early. One person told the AP that Rollins was only given permission to meet Jill Biden outside the home.
Rollins acknowledged the investigation in a December meeting with reporters, saying she did not want her office to be “distracted”. “I certainly think any time there’s an investigation into anyone – and I’ve been the chief law enforcement officer in two different roles – it impacts you for sure,” Rollins said.
The US Office of Special Counsel, which serves as another federal watchdog, has been conducting an investigation to determine if Rollins’s participation in the fundraiser violated the Hatch Act. The Hatch Act imposes restrictions on political activities for government employees. The current status of this investigation remains uncertain.
Last year, as part of the inquiry into the potential use of Rollins’s personal phone for federal matters, the inspector general’s office obtained copies of phone contents belonging to certain employees within Rollins’s office, according to a source. The inspector general also scrutinized a trip to California that was funded by an external group.
Justice department employees are prohibited from accepting travel payments. The trip in question pertained to CAA Amplify, an annual event organized by the Creative Artists Agency that brings together figures from the entertainment, business, and political sectors.
During her tenure as district attorney for Suffolk County, Rollins advocated for ambitious reforms in the criminal justice system, including a policy not to prosecute certain minor offenses like shoplifting. Upon her nomination for the position of Massachusetts’s top federal law enforcement officer, Republicans portrayed Rollins as a radical. Following a tied vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee, she ultimately secured confirmation in a 51-50 vote, with Vice President Harris breaking the tie.