WASHINGTON - Star gymnasts including Simone Biles, in addition to FBI Director Christopher Wray, are scheduled to testify before a Senate committee Wednesday about the FBI’s handling of sex abuse allegations against Larry Nassar - an investigation so badly bungled that FBI officials last week fired a key agent in the case.
Lawmakers are expected to hear emotional testimony from Biles and three other gymnasts who say they were sexually abused by Nassar, the former USA gymnastics doctor now serving the equivalent of a life term in federal prison.
Senators demanded a hearing on the matter after a scathing July report by Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz found major errors, omissions and lies by FBI personnel.
Michael Langeman, who worked as a supervisory special agent in the FBI’s Indianapolis office and interviewed gymnast McKayla Maroney in 2015 about her alleged abuse at the hands of Nassar, lost his job last week, two people familiar with the matter told The Washington Post on Tuesday.
They spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss personnel matters.
The inspector general’s report harshly criticized Langeman - without naming him - as well as his former boss, Jay Abbott, for their handling of the Nassar case, saying the FBI failed to pursue it and then lied to IG investigators when confronted with those failures.
At the time, officials said Langeman had been removed from the duties of an FBI agent - a move often taken before the bureau fires someone. Such firings are rare but not unheard of; most investigators facing serious discipline choose to retire or resign before they can be terminated.
Langeman declined to comment on Tuesday, as did the FBI and the inspector general’s office. Horowitz is also scheduled to testify at the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. Wray, who became director after the FBI conduct at issue in the Nassar case, has pledged to make significant changes to how agents pursue investigations involving sex crimes against children.
Wednesday’s hearing is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. One panel of witnesses will include gymnasts Biles, Maroney, Aly Raisman and Maggie Nichols, all of whom say Nassar victimized them under the guise of medical treatments. Biles, the world’s most accomplished gymnast, won a bronze medal in balance beam at the Tokyo Olympics this summer but withdrew from most of the competition, citing mental duress.
John Manly, a lawyer who represents many of Nassar’s alleged victims, called the FBI’s firing of Langeman “long overdue,” but added: “I can’t help but wonder if this is because of the Senate hearing and the timing seems cynical.”
Manly argued that everyone who participated “in what we believe is a conspiracy by the FBI, USA Gymnastics, and the Olympic committee to suppress the Nassar investigation should be criminally charged. The fact that Mr. Langeman perjured himself and lied to investigators, both of which are crimes, sends a message to others at the FBI that you can get away with it.”
A person familiar with Wray’s thinking said he is outraged by the handling of the Nassar case, “and wants to make clear that this is in no way acceptable, should not have happened, will not happen again, and is not reflective of the agency. Accountability is important to him, and he wants employees to know that they will be held accountable for misconduct.”
The inspector general’s report found “numerous and fundamental errors” in the FBI’s handling of the case, that agents violated multiple FBI policies, and that the Indianapolis office never even opened an investigation or assessment on Nassar when the allegations were brought to them.
The report found that while the supervisory special agent interviewed a gymnast in 2015 about her claims of Nassar’s abuse, he did not write up a formal report of that interview, known as a “302,” until 17 months later. Maroney’s lawyer has said even that report is fundamentally inaccurate.
Nassar was ultimately arrested by authorities in Michigan in late 2016. The inspector general said that in the time between the FBI being alerted to the allegations and his eventual arrest, Nassar went on to abuse about 70 more victims, though lawyers for those victims say the figure is more like 120.
Horowitz also found that while the FBI was dealing with the Nassar allegations in late 2015, the head of the bureau’s Indianapolis office, Abbott, talked to Stephen Penny, then-president of USA Gymnastics, about getting Abbott a job with the Olympic Committee.
The inspector general said Abbott applied for the job but did not get it, and when confronted about it later, falsely claimed to have not applied for the job. Abbott retired from the FBI amid the internal investigation. Both he and Langeman lied to the inspector general agents about their roles in the Nassar case, according to Horowitz’s report, but Justice Department officials declined to prosecute them for false statements.
The internal review of the FBI’s handling of the initial allegations against Nassar was launched in 2018, after Nassar - who also was a doctor at Michigan State University - was sentenced to decades in prison on state charges. He is currently in federal prison in Florida, serving a 60-year federal term for child pornography crimes.
The Post reported this summer that Bureau of Prisons officials allowed Nassar to spend more than $10,000 on himself while paying his only $300 of the more than $60,000 he owes to victims.