A team of federal prosecutors in Texas had extensive evidence in the fall of 2018 that Walmart provided hundreds of thousands of opioid prescriptions that put its U.S. customers at risk, and in some cases, killed them by overdose, ProPublica reported Wednesday. Yet when the prosecutors presented their case to top Trump appointees at the Department of Justice, the indictment was blocked from moving forward. According to the report, the two-year investigation found that pharmacists from across the country who dispensed opioids for Walmart repeatedly warned the retail giant’s corporate office that the prescriptions were coming from “pill mill” doctors. They also told the company that they did not want to fill the prescriptions. In response, an opioid compliance manager told an executive that their main priority should be “driving sales” and the company did nothing to stop the dangerous practices, ProPublica reported, citing the documents collected.
The prosecution team included U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Texas Joe Brown and Heather Rattan, a longtime prosecutor for the office. When Rattan told Walmart that she was preparing to indict the company for violating the Controlled Substances Act, ProPublica reports executives relayed their concerns to Trump-appointed officials at the DOJ, who ordered the prosecutors to halt the case. The Texas prosecutors persisted, however, and presented their case to then-Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and other DOJ officials, telling them “we have to act.” Rosenstein, however, did not pursue the criminal case.