Massachusetts US attorney will resign; probe finds 'extraordinary breach of public trust'

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AP Rachael Rollins

Massachusetts U.S. Attorney Rachael Rollins addresses the media at the Moakley Federal Courthouse in May 2022 in Boston. Photo by Charles Krupa/The Associated Press.

Updated: Massachusetts U.S. Attorney Rachael Rollins will resign Friday, two days after new investigative reports condemned her for attending a Democratic fundraiser and for leaking information to the press in "an extraordinary breach of public trust."

A report by the Office of Special Counsel, an independent federal investigative agency, said Rollins had leaked nonpublic U.S. Department of Justice information about a candidate she opposed to the news media, Law360 reports.

A letter to President Joe Biden that accompanied the report said the leak “constitutes an extraordinary abuse of her authority.”

A second report by the DOJ’s Office of the Inspector General also accused Rollins of the leak, along with other wrongdoing, CBS News reports. The report said Rollins lied under oath to the inspector general’s office when she initially denied that she was the source of the leak.

Rollins’ lawyer, Michael R. Bromwich, said in a statement Rollins was resigning because 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,” Bromwich told Law360, Reuters and the Associated Press.

The Office of Special Counsel and the DOJ’s inspector general investigated Rollins after the Boston Herald photographed her arriving at the fundraiser in a government vehicle, according to Reuters.

The Office of Special Counsel considered whether Rollins violated the Hatch Act, which prevents federal employees from engaging in political activity at work or while using a government vehicle. The law also bars employees from using their official authority or influence to affect the result of an election.

The special counsel report said the fundraiser and the leak were violations of the Hatch Act. Rollins “committed an extraordinary abuse of her power as U.S. attorney,” the report concluded.

She attended the fundraiser in her official capacity in July 2022 “in disregard of legal advice from her own agency,” the report said.

Rollins had asserted in a July tweet, however, that she had approval to meet first lady Jill Biden at the event, and she left early to speak at two community events.

Rollins’ second Hatch Act violation happened throughout August and September 2022, the Office of Special Counsel report said. During that time, Rollins “repeatedly attempted to sabotage the campaign of a political candidate by leaking nonpublic U.S. Department of Justice … information to the media to plant a story that he was facing a DOJ investigation.”

The second violation “is one of the most egregious Hatch Act violations that [the Office of Special Counsel] has investigated,” the report said.

The political candidate was Kevin Hayden, the incumbent district attorney of Suffolk County, Massachusetts. Rollins had leaked information about her office’s recusal from a potential DOJ investigation of Hayden at a time that he was a candidate for reelection, according to the report.

The report also said Rollins had worked as a de facto campaign adviser to Hayden’s opponent in the Democratic primary.

Rollins formerly worked as the Suffolk County, Massachusetts, district attorney. She is a progressive prosecutor who became the first Black woman to fill the U.S. attorney post in Massachusetts. In Suffolk County, she became DA after promising not to prosecute some low-level offenses, including trespassing, drug possession and shoplifting.

The inspector general report said Rollins also:

  • Secretly disclosed nonpublic letters about two separate, ongoing DOJ civil rights matters to two local reporters.
  • Used her office to solicit 30 Boston Celtics tickets for youth basketball players and accepted two tickets for herself.
  • Accepted outside funding for two trips without approval.
  • Used a personal cellphone to conduct government business.

Updated May 17 at 11:45 a.m. to include and report on information about the reports from the Office of Special Counsel and the Department of Justice’s Office of the Inspector General. Updated May 22 at 8:30 a.m. to reflect that the Office of Special Counsel is an independent federal investigative agency.

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