A League of Their Own: The Rollins Decision Follows a Troubling Pattern at the DOJ

Below is my column in The Messenger on the recent decision not to prosecute Rachael Rollins, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts. The decision follows a pattern of DOJ refusing to charge its own. It is a league (and license) of their own.

Here is the column:

The Department of Justice’s special counsel, Jack Smith, is continuing his work toward possible criminal charges against former President Donald Trump. While I continue to doubt the viability of criminal charges based on Trump’s speech before the Jan. 6, 2021 riot on Capitol Hill, I have repeatedly said that the Mar-a-Lago matter could present a serious threat for Trump.

However, a recent (and little-reported) decision by the DOJ may complicate the final decision in the case with new concerns over a double standard in charging decisions.

Last week, the Justice Department announced that it would not charge Rachael Rollins, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts, despite a referral from the DOJ’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG), which found evidence that she lied to investigators and may have improperly sought to influence an election. Rollins resigned from office on Friday.

The OIG released detailed findings against Rollins for allegedly seeking to influence a Suffolk County, Mass., district attorney election last year. She also was accused by the OIG of lying under oath during an investigation into the matter. The report states that “on December 16, 2022, pursuant to the Inspector General Act, 5 U.S.C. § 404(d), the OIG referred the false statements allegation to the Department for a prosecutive decision. On January 6, 2023, the Department informed the OIG that it declined prosecution.”

According to the OIG, Rollins sought to help Boston City Councilman Ricardo Arroyo in the Democratic primary for Suffolk’s district attorney by providing derogatory information to the Boston Globe and Boston Herald regarding his opponent, then-interim D.A. Kevin Hayden. The OIG said the information included “non-public, sensitive” DOJ material that Rollins acquired as a result of her federal position. The material suggested that Hayden was being investigated for public corruption.

The OIG further found that Rollins leaked more material after Arroyo lost to Hayden.

The OIG accused Rollins of violating a host of Standards of Ethical Conduct for Employees of the Executive Branch, including Section 2635.702 (the use “of public office for private gain”) and Section 2635.703 (the use “of nonpublic information”).

The most serious charge was that Rollins “falsely testified under oath … when she denied” providing the non-public information to the Herald reporter.

The investigation also found an array of other violations, including disregarding ethical warnings on political activities and soliciting expensive sports tickets.

What is most striking about the OIG report is that Rollins took some of these steps after barely being confirmed by the U.S. Senate because questions were raised over her judgment and partisanship. Rollins was confirmed in 2021 after Vice President Kamala Harris cast a tie-breaking vote due to all 50 Republican senators opposing her nomination. Every Democratic senator voted for her despite the concerns, including a video from January 2021 in which she threatened the arrest of reporters.

The DOJ’s declination of charges follows a similar pattern that suggests a higher threshold standard applied by prosecutors in charging one of their own.

Conversely, this is the same department that pursued figures like Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn for false or misleading comments made to agents about a meeting with Russian diplomats. The media heralded that case, and legal experts clamored for prosecution.

Now, the Justice Department is considering charges against Trump for false statements given to investigators on classified material at Mar-a-Lago. (He also faces other possible legal action, of course, including potential state charges in Georgia for election law violations.)

With Rollins, after an investigation found that she lied to investigators, the DOJ refused to file any charges at all. It is unclear what the DOJ felt was lacking in those findings or the underlying evidence. However, as shown by prior declinations — in cases like the contempt referral against former Attorney General Eric Holder, or the determination that former FBI Director James Comey removed FBI material and, through a friend, leaked it to the media — the Justice Department often seems to find insurmountable problems when asked to charge a fellow prosecutor or investigator

The Rollins case could be raised by the Trump team with other declined criminal cases as evidence of selective prosecution, if Trump is indicted. Although some in the media will cry “whataboutism,” charging decisions are made in the context of other cases to ensure consistency and to avoid selective prosecution. While state and city prosecutors like Alvin Bragg and Letitia James may run for office on promises of selectively targeting Trump, federal prosecutors usually aspire to a higher standard.

The DOJ already has a full plate of previously declined prosecutions outside of the DOJ, from the Holder and Comey cases to the perjury allegations leveled against Obama national intelligence director James Clapper, and more. It also will face a reckoning over the classified documents found in President Biden’s various offices and residences; those documents were clearly divided and moved repeatedly, and Biden’s lawyers — like Trump’s — completed searches only to have more documents discovered in these locations.

If the past is any indication, most of the media would not delve too deeply into such contradictions if Trump is charged. And selective prosecution complaints are notoriously difficult to litigate. Even if the Justice Department did not secure a favorable judge for such a case, most judges are leery of adjudicating claims of motivation and bias.

Attorney General Merrick Garland has long maintained he is above politics and treats the DOJ’s targets equally without regard to political pressure. For some of us who supported his confirmation, he seemingly has shrunk in stature in office — but he has not disappeared. He will have to make the final decision in conjunction with any recommendation by special counsel Smith. Episodes like the Rollins case will only complicate that decision.

Jonathan Turley, an attorney, constitutional law scholar and legal analyst, is the Shapiro Chair for Public Interest Law at The George Washington University Law School.

163 thoughts on “A League of Their Own: The Rollins Decision Follows a Troubling Pattern at the DOJ”

  1. So where are the reforms for Joseph Nacchio (former Qwest Communications CEO)? This event happened about 7 months BEFORE 9/11 when no wartime emergency existed.

    Maybe start here for DOJ reforms, then reform Bush’s violation of Reagan’s Torture Treaty by DOJ attorneys. Not to disparage the fine DOJ employees but the “system” seems to need major reforms. 20 years later seems like sufficient time to reform the DOJ systems.

  2. It is unclear what the DOJ felt was lacking….

    As we Cubans say, no tienen cojones.

    The DOJ should have a few Chinese Spanish interpreters to figure that out.

    Just in case: 沒有科鐘斯

  3. “It is unclear what the DOJ felt was lacking . . .”

    Obviously, she lacks two things: She’s not white, and she’s not a republican.

  4. The Durham Report said the Mueller Report was not needed, because the FBI and the Obama White House knew the Russia Hoax was written by Hillary’s campaign. The FBI, as part of the Deep State and the Obama White House interfered in the 2016 election. The FBI and the Deep state interfered in the 2020 election. Between the two elections, the Deep state was trying overthrow the Trump Administration.

    “The Rollins case could be raised by the Trump team with other declined criminal cases as evidence of selective prosecution, if Trump is indicted.” Going by the statements of the most recent whistleblowers, I imagine slow walking Biden’s known document fiasco will move even slower. Glacially slower.

    At this moment, how anyone can believe anything from Democrat political hacks and the MSM, regarding Trump crimes, needs to be rethought. I’m ready to wager the “classified documents” story wafts away. If the documents don’t have real national interest value, this would be made up allegation number 391. If these documents are menus from White House dinners, somebody code named Lucy, has some splaing to do.

    1. Mike, in order to be able to classify important decisions up to seven years ago, it’s necessary to look at milestones of the timeline:

      6/16: Former MI6 spy Christopher Steele began investigating Donald Trump on behalf of Fusion GPS, an opposition research firm that was working for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the DNC.
      6/20/16: Steele completed 1st of 17 sections of the dossier
      7/5/16: According to NYT, FBI received part of Steele Dossier directly from him
      Mid 7/16: Victoria Nuland, then Assistant Secretary of State, received the Dossier directly from Steele whereupon the State Department turned it over to the FBI
      7/31/16: “Crossfire Hurrican” FBI counterintelligence investigation was opened without notifying GOP leading House (247-188) and Senate (54-46).
      10/11/16: Steele met with Asst. Sec. of State Kathleen Kavalec
      10/21/16 FISA court grants FBI warrant to surveil Trump adviser Carter Page
      11/8/16: Donald J. Trump won presidency, GOP leading House (241-194) and Senate (52-48).
      9/12/16. Then Senator John McCain (R) personally gave Steele Dossier to FBI Director James Comey His minion David Kramer (now: executive director of the George W. Bush Institute past it over to several left-leaning media outlets.
      2/9/17 AG Jeff Sessions (R) in Office
      5/17/17: Acting AG Rod Rosenstein (R) appointed Robert Mueller (R) as Special Counsel to investigate “allegations that there were links or coordination between President Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and the Russian government” as well as “any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation”.
      2/14/19: AG Bill Barr in Office
      4/18/19: DOJ published “Report On The Investigation Into Russian Interference In The 2016 Presidential Election”
      6/14/18: OIG published “A Review of Various Actions by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Department of Justice in Advance of the 2016 Election”
      10/19/20: AG Barr appointed John Durham as Special Counsel
      5/15/23: Final “Report on Matters Related to Intelligence Activities and Investigations Arising Out of the 2016 Presidential Campaigns” publicity released

      From this background, let me ask some questions to part of your comments:

      1. “The Deep state was trying overthrow the Trump Administration.”
      * As government (DOJ!) and Congress were lead by Republicans, why could such an unrealistic proposal be successful?
      * As the “lock her up” chants increased on campaign trail, what did Special Counsel found out?
      * What was the progress within the Special Counsel investigation of then VP Biden-families “business dealings” between 2008 and 2017?

      2. “The FBI and the Deep state interfered in the 2020 election.”
      How could that happend as Bill Barr was DOJ and Senate was lead by Mitch McConnel (R-KY)?

      3. “statements of the most recent whistleblowers”
      Do you talk about those whistleblowers they came forward before 2020 election cycle?

      4. “I’m ready to wager the “classified documents” story wafts away.”
      After FBI executed a search warrant (aka “raid”) at Mar-a-Lago, then House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) promised to establish “Weaponizing” Committee if GOP flips House. What’s the progress?

      5. “The Durham Report said the Mueller Report was not needed”
      What is new we didn’t know before ’20 election cycle?

      It goes without saying that we mere mortals are unable to answer these questions. Unfortunately, our esteemed host has other priorities to take care off.

      1. Charlotte, do not assume the R at the end of a name indicates the person is not biased against Trump, isn’t being duped, doesn’t care, isn’t being paid off, isn’t afraid of being exposed, etc.

        I will examine one of your comments.

        “1. “The Deep state was trying overthrow the Trump Administration.”
        * As government (DOJ!) and Congress were lead by Republicans, why could such an unrealistic proposal be successful?”

        Examine each Republican individually and figure out who was a Never Trumper, who disliked Trump, who had something to hide, who Trump’s policies would interfere with, who was afraid of losing votes, etc. Then you will have your answer.

        1. Trump is a pig, misogynist, xenophobe and racist. Most Republicans know that. Trump is a loser–how many elections does he have to lose to prove this? Most Republicans know that. Trump has always been a grifter, cheater, liar, and braggadocious narcissist who can’t even successfuly run his own businesses. Most Republicans know that. After cheating to get into office, he made a total mess of this country’s public health, our economy and our relations with other countries, espcially our EU and NATO allies.
          Most Republicans know that. Acknowledging these truths is NOT being “biased against Trump”. In fact, failing to acknowledge these inconvenient truths is being biased in favor of Trump. The spoiled child of a wealthy father who financed him well into his forties, who has bankrupted 6 times, who is on his third marriage, who has 5 children with 3 different women, and who is generally viewed as a bloated oaf who beleives himself entitled to grab women by their privates, to insult anyone who won’t kiss his ring, and who has virtually no understanding of micro or macro economics, world history or US political relations, and who’s every interaction is purely transactional for personal aggrandizement and attention, he has no qualfications to successfully run this country. He’s already proven that. Opposing this clown does not involve any “deep state” or being a “Lefty” or “RINO”–all convenient terms to describe people who see him for the a malignant narcissist, who didn’t, and still doesn’t, understand that government employees do not work for him. They work for the United States. They don’t exist and aren’t paid by the taxpayers to make him look good. No one was “out to get” Trump. They don’t need to be–he has no leadership abilities, no altruism, no political agenda other than attention and adulation for himself. America has suffered enough under the weight of Trump’s ego.

          1. Gigi, why don’t you tell us how you really feel about Trump.

            He was a good President.
            He didn’t take welfare.
            Unlike Obama, Trump built rather than destroyed.
            Unlike Biden, Trump know what he was doing. Biden can’t find where is leash is attached.

            Trump stands for economic freedom, freedom of speech, peace and a growing economy.
            Biden stands for graft, and more graft when he is not touching the hair of little girls.

            What do you stand for?

  5. The DOJ and FBI are corrupt Criminal organizations that need to be prosecuted under RICO and Punished as harshly as legally possible.

    1. One of countless Government/Mafia comparisons hit the nail: Government has the legal monopoly to enforce the law by those who use the badges to decide what a criminal organisation is and how they have to be punished.

    2. YES and YES. But it seems to be very clear that Republicans are at a complete loss on how to get this done. Comer has produced evidence of millions flowing to the Bidens from countries that Biden was engaging with while VP and from China as well. And there is blatant evidence of Hunter’s felon-level violation by lying on his gun application. Plus much more.
      HARD STOP. Now it’s come to a complete standstill. Can someone from the RNC study what the Democrats next move would be if this was all reversed? THEY know how to indict and prosecute. Republicans obviously do not. I suppose the DOJ can’t/won’t indict themselves. So who does do that, now that evidence has been secured? If anyone knows, please contact Comer and Jim Jordan ASAP.

      1. “Republicans are at a complete loss on how to get this done.”
        No they are not, they do this by intention & perform only within a lame puppet show!

        1. As most of information Chairman Comer presented, are well known before ’20 election.[1], Senator Johnson (R-WI) revealed recently that head puppeteer didn’t allow to subpoena Joe and Hunter Biden because it’s “too political”
        2. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) promised (she did this by good intentions) last year [2] that GOP will subpoena Hunter Biden if they flip the House.
        3. Speaker McCarthy promised he will release J6 footage. Stopped “for security reasons”!

        As GOP didn’t hold the Bidens accountable (these “business dealings” took place mainly between 2008 and 2017) the time AG Jeff Sessions/Bill Bar stayed in office (and GOP leads Congress), why should head puppeteer give his approval stamp now?

        [1] https://nypost.com/2023/05/25/comer-says-alleged-biden-bribe-was-5m-threatens-fbi-with-contempt-vote/
        [2] https://nypost.com/2022/03/26/house-republicans-will-subpoena-hunter-biden/

        1. No they are not, they do this by intention & perform only within a lame puppet show!

          I have lost count of the number of Executive agencies giving the middle finger to the House GOP with and without threats of contempt, impeachment, censure, etc. Democrats held to circuses on our dime, completely disregarded multiple dumpster fires in our nation, to impeach Trump for absolutely nothing. And yet, here we are, sadly into a far worse circus, the Biden administration run by Marxists, many of whom who colluded, per the Durham Report, to organize a coup against an elected President, and McCarthy does..

          I never liked George Bush or his sons because they typified royalty and beta males. Today’s GOP leadership have less testicular fortitude than Dylan Mulvaney.

          Americans should focus on those areas where they can have an impact: their health, their nutrition, their sedentary lifestyle, their addictive behaviors, their goals or lack thereof, their loved ones (assuming they have any), their happiness, their spirituality, and their financial independence from the government (i.e., they should assume they will never receive social security nor Medicare). These tasks alone are enough to keep any intelligent person busy for decades. They may want to consider cutting the cord to the internet.

          Relying on our politicians to solve our national problems, never mind their own dysfunctional inner housekeeping, is unwise. There is no evidence to support the belief that they can do for us what we can do far better.

          Oh, and buy plenty of ammo. One never knows when we will be hunted by predators become hunters of food to feed our families.

          1. Our lives are our own.

            That is fundamental.

            Other people can not give us what we want.
            We do not even each want the same things.

            I would create a different list of things that are important than what you have. Your list is not wrong. It is just not mine.

            And that is why – Only I can manage my own life.

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