U.S. Attorney Rachel Rollins in federal court in Boston in April. (Nancy Lane/Boston Herald)
The Herald’s request for interview transcripts behind the Justice Department’s Office of Special Counsel investigation into former U.S. Attorney Rachel Rollins was denied in its entirety, with the agency citing “privacy” exemptions.
“I am writing in response to your request dated May 19, 2023, in which you asked the Office of the US Special Counsel (OSC) to provide you with ‘the complete transcripts of the OIG’s interviews with the US Attorney and all other interviewees,'” Chauncey Lawson of the agency’s FOIA team wrote in a Friday letter to this reporter.
“In reviewing your FOIA request, the OSC identified 183 pages of responsive records,” his letter continued. “However, all 183 pages will be withheld in their entirety” under three exceptions to the law.
These are Exemption 5, which “protects from disclosure interagency or intra-agency information that would normally be protected from disclosure in civil litigation based on one or more statutory privileges (including, in this case, deliberative process and attorney employment privileges)” ; exception 6, which “protects information if disclosure would constitute a manifestly unjustified invasion of privacy”; and Exception 7(c), which “protects information from law enforcement if disclosure would reasonably be expected to constitute an unreasonable invasion of privacy.”
Rollins resigned from the U.S. attorney’s office on May 19 following two scathing reports from two Justice Department watchdog offices: the Office of Special Counsel and the Office of Inspector General. Both reports found that she significantly violated federal ethics rules, from using her position to win Celtics tickets to illegally sharing confidential information about ongoing federal cases with reporters to score political points for friends and hurt rivals.
“We found that Rollins’ conduct … violated federal regulations, numerous Department of Justice policies, its Ethics Agreement and applicable law, and fell far short of the standards of professionalism and judgment the Department should expect of any employee, much less a prosecutor of the United States,” the OIG report concluded.
It wasn’t much better than the OSC, which concluded that her actions “committed an extraordinary abuse of her power.”
The Herald, which has filed FOIA requests with both agencies and is still awaiting a response from the other, has 90 days from the date of the response letter to appeal the OSC’s denial.
President Biden nominated Rollins, who at the time was Suffolk County District Attorney, in July 2021. She went through a contentious confirmation process that ended with Vice President Kamala Harris casting the deciding vote on December 8, 2022.
Rollins’ downfall began last July when a Herald reporter asked her if it was against the law for Hatch to continue going to a DNC fundraiser in Andover to see first lady Jill Biden. The act is an ethical road map for senior federal officials.
Rollins told the Herald, “No.”