(CNN) Olympic gymnasts McKayla Maroney and Simone Biles ripped the FBI and the Justice Department in Senate testimony Wednesday for how FBI agents mishandled abuse allegations brought against Larry Nassar and then made false statements in the fallout from the botched investigation.
“They allowed a child molester to go free for more than a year and this inaction directly allowed Nassar’s abuse to continue,” Maroney told the Senate Judiciary Committee after recounting the vivid details she provided the agent interviewing her about Nassar’s abuse.
“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?” she added.
Maroney and Biles were joined by gymnasts Maggie Nichols and Aly Raisman, who were also among the hundreds of athletes assaulted by Nassar, the former USA Gymnastics team doctor who is now serving a several-decade prison sentence.
“It truly feels like the FBI turned a blind eye to us and went out of its way to help protect,” USA Gymnastics and the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee, Biles testified while holding back tears.
“A message needs to be sent: If you allow a predator to harm children, the consequences will be swift and severe. Enough is enough,” she said.
Raisman called for more investigation into how the Nassar probe was mishandled and said that the FBI pressured her to accept Nassar’s plea deal.
“The agent diminished the significance of my abuse. It made me feel my criminal case wasn’t worth pursuing,” Raisman said.
Allegations into Nassar 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.
Maroney identified herself as the gymnast described — but not named — in the report who spoke to the FBI about her allegations in September 2015. The agent who took her interview violated key FBI procedures and made false statements in a summary the agent wrote of the interview more than a year later, according to the inspector general’s report.
She and others criticized the Justice Department for its decisions, according to the IG report, to not prosecute the agent as well as an FBI supervisor who was also accused of mishandling the probe and then later making false statements about it.
“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 the report 17 months later, they made entirely false claims about what I said,” Maroney recalled.
Later in the hearing, Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz noted that the false information could have jeopardized the criminal case brought against Nassar.
“The Department of Justice refused to prosecute these individuals. Why?” Maroney said, while calling out Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco for her absence at the hearing Wednesday. “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.”
Attorney General Merrick Garland and Monaco are expected to appear before the Judiciary Committee in October, a senior Justice official said.
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.
FBI Director Chris Wray testified that he felt “heartsick and furious” once he learned the extent of the agency’s failures.
Still, he painted the botched investigation as the product of “individuals” who “betrayed the core duty that they have of protecting people,” rather than as being reflective of the agency as a whole.
“I want to make sure that 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,” Wray said, adding that those actions “discredit” the work of the FBI employees who do the job “the right way.”
Wray vowed to “make damn sure that everybody at the FBI remembers what happened here in heartbreaking detail.”
Nassar pleaded guilty in 2018 to seven counts of criminal sexual conduct in a case brought by Michigan’s attorney general. He was sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison, after more than 150 women and girls said in court that he had sexually abused them over the past two decades.
In recent weeks, the FBI agent accused in the inspector general’s report of failing to launch a proper investigation was fired by the FBI, Wray confirmed. A supervisor who was also singled out in the IG report for violating protocol and false statements retired from the FBI in January 2018.
Gymnasts willing to speak out
The gymnasts testifying Wednesday have all previously spoken publicly about being the victims of Nassar’s abuse. Nassar, who also worked for Michigan State University, touched athletes inappropriately under the guise of performing medical treatments on them.
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…