U.S. Attorney Rachael Rollins to Resign Amid Ethics Inquiry

The U.S. attorney for Massachusetts, Rachael S. Rollins, announced on Tuesday that she planned to resign, a day before a Justice Department watchdog was expected to release results of an inquiry into her conduct in office, including an appearance at a Democratic fund-raiser.

Ms. Rollins, 52, who was confirmed by the Senate in December 2021 after a bitter fight in which Vice President Harris cast the tiebreaking vote, will submit her resignation to the White House on Friday, her lawyer said.

The investigation into Ms. Rollins, the first Black woman in Massachusetts appointed to one of the country’s marquee prosecutorial posts, initially focused on her decision to attend a Democratic National Committee event featuring Dr. Jill Biden. But it later expanded to include her use of a personal cellphone to conduct department business, according to a person familiar with the situation.

Ms. Rollins’s “presence has become a distraction” to federal prosecutors in her office, her lawyer, Michael R. Bromwich, said in an email. “The work of the office and the Department of Justice is far too important to be overshadowed by anything else.”

Ms. Rollins plans to make a fuller statement and address the circumstances surrounding her departure “after the dust settles and she resigns,” added Mr. Bromwich, who served as the Justice Department’s inspector general from 1994 to 1999.

Ms. Rollins, who supported a different approach to criminal justice during her tenure as district attorney for the county that includes Boston, departs as her office tackles one of its highest-profile cases in recent years: the investigation into the leak of classified national security documents by Airman Jack Teixeira, a 21-year-old Air National Guardsman assigned to an intelligence wing at a base in Cape Cod.

The U.S. Office of Special Counsel, another federal watchdog, has also been investigating whether Ms. Rollins’s attendance at the fund-raiser in Andover, Mass., last July violated the Hatch Act, a federal law that prohibits electioneering by federal officials, according to The Associated Press, which earlier reported details of the inspector general’s investigation.

Ms. Rollins and her aides have recently been debating with officials at the Justice Department headquarters in Washington where the case against Mr. Teixeira should unfold. Officials at the headquarters have pressed for it to be moved from Massachusetts to Northern Virginia, where prosecutors have greater experience in pursuing national security cases.

The inquiry that ensnared Ms. Rollins, which was viewed as an embarrassment by department leaders who have emphasized ethics, played a role in the push for a venue change, according to people familiar with the situation.

A spokeswoman for Attorney General Merrick B. Garland declined to comment. A spokeswoman for the department’s inspector general, Michael E. Horowitz, also declined to comment.

Ms. Rollins has been a longtime supporter of changes in criminal justice policy intended to address racial disparities. Those include the sharp reduction of penalties for shoplifting, property crimes, drug possession and driving offenses.

That stance has, however, earned her the enmity of many conservatives, who have accused her of ignoring the rise in violent crime. All 50 Senate Republicans opposed her nomination in an evenly divided Senate when her confirmation came to a vote in late 2021.

Shortly after she appeared at the fund-raiser last July, Senator Tom Cotton, an Arkansas Republican who led opposition to her nomination as a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, demanded an investigation.

Ms. Rollins initially dismissed the idea and played down the significance of her attendance.

“I had approval to meet Dr. Biden & left early to speak at 2 community events last night,” Ms. Rollins wrote on social media at the time.

She added a jab at her critics: “Nice try though.”

Members of the inspector general’s staff began their investigation shortly after.

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