BOSTON (AP) — Massachusetts U.S. Attorney Rachel Rollins He will resign following a month-long investigation by the Justice Department’s inspector general into political fundraising and other potential ethics issues, his attorney said Tuesday.
The Justice Department’s watchdog has yet to release its report detailing the findings of its investigation, but Rollins’ lawyer told The Associated Press that he will submit a letter of resignation to President Joe Biden by close of business Friday.
The resignation of a U.S. attorney amid ethics concerns is a rare occurrence, and particularly notable for the Justice Department, which has sought to restore normalcy and good governance under Attorney General Merrick Garland following four tumultuous years of the Trump administration.
Rollins’ attorney said he has “deep respect” for serving as U.S. attorney and is proud of the work of his office, but “understands that his presence has become a distraction.” Attorney Michael Bromwich — a former Justice Department inspector general — said Rollins would prepare himself to answer questions “after the dust settles and he resigns.”
“The work of the office and the judiciary is too important to be overshadowed by anything else,” Bromwich said.
The Justice Department did not immediately comment Tuesday. The inspector general’s office declined to comment.
Rollins was a controversial pick for Massachusetts’ top federal law enforcement post, and was twice tied by Vice President Kamala Harris to advance in the Senate amid fierce opposition from Republicans who portrayed him as an extremist.
Before taking the top U.S. attorney job, he was chief prosecutor for Suffolk County, which includes Boston. In his role there, he battled with Boston’s largest police union and pushed for ambitious criminal justice reforms, particularly the policy of not prosecuting certain low-level crimes like shoplifting.
She was the first woman of color to serve as a district attorney in Massachusetts and the first black woman to become a U.S. Attorney For the state.
Massachusetts Democratic Sens. Ed Markey and Elizabeth Warren, who pushed for Rollins’ nomination, said in a joint statement that they respect his decision to step down.
“Rachel Rollins has devoted herself for many years to the people of Massachusetts and to equal justice under the law,” they said.
The Associated Press first reported the story in November The inspector general’s office opened an investigation into Rollins’ appearance last year at a home in Andover, Massachusetts, for a Democratic National Committee fundraiser featuring first lady Jill Biden. According to two people briefed on the investigation, they spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the investigation.
The Office of the Inspector General typically investigates allegations of fraud, abuse, or other violations of judicial policy.
People familiar with the investigation told the AP at the time that the investigation expanded, including Rollin’s use of his personal cellphone to conduct Justice Department business and his trip to California paid for by an outside group.
Rollins said in a July tweet that he was “permitted” to meet with the first lady and left the event early to speak at two community events. A person familiar with the discussions leading up to the event told the AP that Rollins was given limited permission to meet with Jill Biden outside the home.
Another federal watchdog, the US Office of Special Counsel, also investigated Whether Rollins’ participation in the fundraiser violated the Hatch Act, a law that restricts the political activities of government employees. The status of that investigation is unclear.
The inspector general’s office copied the phone contents of some employees in Rollin’s office as part of their investigation into the possibility that his personal phone was used for judicial business, a person familiar with the matter told the AP last year.
Investigators also looked into Rollins’ travel to California, which was paid for by an outside group, although Justice Department employees are not allowed to accept travel expenses. The trip was for CAA Amplify, an annual gathering of entertainment, business and political figures hosted by Creative Artists Agency, one of Hollywood’s leading talent agencies.
Republican Senate of Arkansas. Tom Cotton, a fierce critic of Rollins who sought to block his confirmation, urged the inspector general last year to investigate whether the US attorney’s actions violated the Hatch Act.
In a letter to Inspector General Michael Horowitz earlier this month, Cotton accused the “whistleblower” of recently “removing a substantial number of documents” from the U.S. attorney’s office. Leadership of the Judiciary.”
Rollins’ attorney called the allegation “absolute nonsense,” saying Cotton’s time “would be better spent learning the facts about running a law enforcement agency and fighting crime in our major cities.”
In a statement Tuesday, Cotton said he warned Democratic senators that “Rachel Rollins is not only a pro-criminal ideologue, but also has a history of poor judgment and ethical lapses.”
Tucker reported from Washington. Associated Press reporters Steve LeBlanc in Boston and Lindsay Whitehurst in Washington contributed.
The story was corrected to reflect that Rollinston was the first black woman to serve as U.S. attorney in Massachusetts.