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Former US gymnast calls for ‘follow-through’ after Larry Nassar hearing

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By Shawna Mizelle, CNN

Former US rhythmic gymnast Jessica Howard said Wednesday that she “would really like to see some follow-through” after top US gymnasts gave harrowing testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee about how Federal Bureau of Investigation agents mishandled the Larry Nassar investigation.

The testimony from Simone Biles, McKayla Maroney, Aly Raisman and Maggie Nichols came after a DOJ inspector general report released in July found FBI officials investigating allegations of sexual abuse by Nassar, the disgraced former USA Gymnastics team doctor, violated the agency’s policies by making false statements and failing to properly document accusers’ complaints. The report stated that even though the FBI was aware of allegations against Nassar, the Indianapolis Field Office “did not advise state or local authorities about the allegations and did not take any action to mitigate the risk to gymnasts that Nassar continued to treat.”

Howard, who is a survivor of Nassar’s abuse, appeared on CNN’s “Newsroom” Wednesday after she was visibly shaken throughout Wednesday’s testimony where her fellow athletes detailed the abuse they faced. Howard said the hardest part for her now is that Nassar, who is serving a several-decade prison sentence, was able to assault more than 100 new victims “while these men knew that was happening and they were discussing how to avoid it, how to promote themselves, and there’s just no more basic level of corruption.”

She expressed her disappointment with the Justice Department’s failure to prosecute and appear at the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.

“It feels, even to me as an adult, like they are saying, ‘The sexual abuse of children is not an important matter to us. We will not act. And we will push this aside until the media blows over. And we’ll see if we’re going to prosecute.’ They have evidence. They have witnesses, they have victims. They have every possible thing they need to prosecute individuals that made this possible,” Howard told CNN.

She continued: “The Justice Department not being there today shows us that that’s still in question.”

Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal also called out the Justice Department for being a “no-show” at the hearing. “The Department of Justice failed to appear. They have responsibility ultimately for the FBI, for the prosecutions, and for action here,” the Connecticut Democrat said.

When asked for comment, DOJ spokesperson Anthony Coley referred to Judiciary Chairman Dick Durbin’s opening remarks at the hearing Wednesday. Durbin said the committee asked the department to testify, adding, “I understand it’s a long-standing department policy not to comment on decisions not to prosecute, but robust oversight of the Department of Justice is a core responsibility (of) this committee.”

He continued: “I am committed to ensuring that committee members have an opportunity to question the Department of Justice about this issue, and at an oversight hearing in the fall.”

Attorney General Merrick Garland and Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco are expected to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee in October, which could be the first opportunity for lawmakers to publicly question them about the Nassar investigation, a senior Justice Department official tells CNN.

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