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The Walsh allies hope the turmoil over Boston ‘s best police officer will quickly fade

Walsh and his allies stood ready to answer questions about the history of former police commissioner Dennis White at his confirmation hearing in February, two sources said. But they never showed up.

The episode still developing could test Walsh’s standing in the anti-distraction Biden administration, especially as Walsh is tasked with selling the White House’s massive infrastructure package.

At home, the scandal divided the Massachusetts political class and largely held its breath. Even Walsh’s allies are reluctant to record a story on two radioactive themes: police accountability and domestic violence.

Walsh has been in direct contact with employees in Boston for the past few days who have described him as calm and focused on work issues. Those in Massachusetts political circles say they have intercepted frantic calls and texts from one another at any time of the day.

The situation is fluid and it could be a passing crease for Walsh, a Democrat who served as mayor for seven years after working his way up through state politics. But a protracted argument about what Walsh knew or didn’t know could prove to be a distraction from his duties as a labor secretary – or worse.

It all started when Boston’s then Police Commissioner William Gross abruptly retired in late January, just weeks after soon-to-be President Joe Biden Walsh announced his election for Labor Secretary. Walsh hastily replaced Gross with White, the ex-commissioner Deputy.

Less than two days after White was sworn in – and the night before Walsh was due for his Senate confirmation hearing in DC – decades old allegations of domestic abuse surfaced in a Boston Globe story, including an injunction against White the year 1999.

Walsh put his brand new commissioner on leave and said the city would open an investigation. The next day, his office admitted that the screening process “should have been more thorough.” According to a Boston Globe report, the government checked White by doing a Google search and reading old press releases.

But Gross swore in an affidavit this week that there was no way that Walsh knew anything about White’s background when he was named the best cop in town.

An independent report released by the city earlier this month expanded the 1999 allegations with allegations that White molested his then-estranged wife and told his daughter that he slept with a gun under his pillow. A second incident, dating back to 1993, was also uncovered in which there was an altercation with a 19-year-old woman who lived in his home.

The release of the report sparked a series of events that led to Gross’ affidavit that surfaced ahead of a Thursday trial in which White sought an injunction to protect the city, now run by incumbent Mayor Kim Janey, to prevent him from firing. Janey herself is running for a full term for mayor of Boston. A judge had not ruled on the injunction by Friday.

Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) Adds fuel to the fire. said Thursday that Walsh should step down if Gross tell the truth.

“Of course we need to know all the facts about his review. If Secretary Walsh turns out to be lying, he should resign too, ”Moulton told the Boston Globe on Thursday.

Other members of the Massachusetts congressional delegation reacted more diplomatically.

Walsh insists he knew nothing about White’s internal affairs report, which dates back to 2014, when White was ready for a post on the command staff. The White House did not respond to a request for comment.

“As I said on February 3, I was only aware of these serious allegations after I appointed White police commissioner,” Walsh said in a statement to POLITICO. or during another deliberation by Dennis White. If I had known, I would not have selected him as a police superintendent or for some other role. “

Former Police Commissioner William Evans, who served under Walsh for four years, stepped in to reiterate the former mayor’s claim. But Ed Davis, who served as commissioner Under Walsh’s predecessor, Mayor Thomas Menino told Globus that he would inform the mayor of the appointment of the command staff. Davis declined to comment on Friday.

During the hearing, an outside attorney hired by the city said, “It’s not about whether you know something, quote-unquotation, but whether you remember, remembering it at the right time.”

Walsh called Moulton Thursday about the lawmaker’s attention-grabbing quote Sources who refused to share the content of the call. While Walsh told reporters Moulton misspelled, Moulton sticks to his testimony. A source familiar with Moulton’s thoughts said Friday that lawmakers responded to a question about what should happen if Walsh lies and that he just wants the full story like everyone else.

Moulton’s comment made some Massachusetts sources seething. They said the move was typical of lawmakers and pushed coverage of the controversy to another day. Moulton, who ran for president in 2020, called for the overthrow of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) A few years ago.

Suffolk District Attorney Rachael Rollins, a progressive prosecutor in Boston, has also gotten into the controversy. Rollins told GBH radio that Gross’ account should “trump” Walsh’s testimony, an astonishing comment given that Rollins is viewed as a US lawyer for Massachusetts.

“Someone signed something under the pains and punishments of perjury that must trump for me – I love using that word – that must trump someone who just says, ‘Yeah, that never happened,” Rollins said.

Others were closer. National union presidents, once among Walsh’s strongest supporters, have remained noticeably silent on the news, declining or ignoring requests for comment on Friday on what an official called the “Boston Problem”.

In the days following the affidavit, Walsh went under the radar. The Labor Secretary canceled a media interview scheduled for late next week and skipped a trip to New Hampshire on Friday. He abruptly signed off at a virtual press conference Thursday with Congressional Democrats about childcare when Home Education and Labor Chairman Bobby Scott (D-Va.) Opened it up for questions.

“I have to jump now, but we will surely get an answer back if we have any questions to the Ministry of Labor,” he said. “I have a meeting in about a minute.”

He did not answer any questions during a press briefing Thursday with other senior government officials in Biden on climate change.

“I know he feels some regrets about the process and would have done other things in retrospect,” said a source familiar with Walsh’s thinking. “But he is very insistent that he knew nothing about Dennis’ IA record when he appointed him.”

The unions, most of whom supported Walsh for the cabinet job, appear to be clear until further details emerge. Walsh, himself a former union president, was a vocal advocate of Biden’s pro-union agenda, and since his hearing has been pushing for top union priorities like the Right to Organize Act, which would make it easier for workers to organize, and more.

Many unions contacted by POLITICO, including the AFL-CIO, declined to comment or did not respond to a request for comment. The AFL-CIO Massachusetts chapter also declined to comment.

Back in Boston, Walsh allies may, if requested, say the white story is not national news.

Many are angry with Gross, the former police superintendent who Walsh promoted in 2017 and who they feel stabbed Walsh in the back. Gross had recommended White to replace him as commissioner.

Gross did not respond to a request for comment.

There’s also a sense of frustration among Walsh allies that the former mayor is taking on the heat for White’s rise in the Boston Police Department, despite domestic violence allegations being tacitly resolved in the 1990s when the former mayor Ray Flynn and the late Menino were in command.

As the waves of controversy hit Washington, members of the all-democratic congressional delegation from Massachusetts, some closer to Walsh than others, are placed in an awkward position – but they are more on the line than Moulton.

In the same Globe article, Senator Elizabeth Warren said she wanted to “hear everyone’s story”. Rep. Richard Neal said Walsh “was a very good mayor.” Rep. Ayanna Pressley, who was a Boston councilor when Walsh was mayor, I stuck to an earlier statement about the need for greater police accountability.

Stephen Lynch MP, a Walsh ally, vigorously and publicly defended his friend during a press conference in Boston on Friday.

In a subsequent interview with POLITICO, Lynch called Moulton’s comments “unhappy” and “a bit much”.

“If anyone in this position had known anything at all, they would never have come in second,” said Lynch. “Those are pretty grave allegations that were made out there.”

Lynch insisted that the police drama was “a local problem” and that Walsh was “100% focused on his work as Secretary of Labor”.

Sam Stein and Rebecca Rainey contributed to this report.

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