Michele Leonhart, the chief of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, announced Tuesday that she would retire after more than three decades serving the agency. According to inner sources, Ms. Leonhart has been pressurized to retire by Congress members that criticized the way she handled a recent sex scandal involving DEA agents.
Michele Leonhart became head of the agency in 2007 and was the second female to hold such a position. But last week, she was severely criticized for the way she responded to a worrisome report which revealed that her agency’s agents attended sex parties with foreign prostitutes sponsored by Colombian drug traffickers.
Last week, she had to provide some explanation to the House Oversight Committee where the inspector general questioned her ability to run the agency since agents involved in the scandal received only symbolic punishments. Moreover, most panel members expressed their lack of confidence in her because she failed several times in changing the DEA’s “culture.”
The statement which reveled that she was no longer a reliable person for Congress was signed by nine Republicans and 13 Democrats. Rep. Jason Chaffetz and the House Oversight Committee’s ranking member Elijah Cummings even called for her resignation or firing on Tuesday. The two regulators said that Ms. Leonhart’ departure was the most appropriate step to take since it would allow a better leadership to handle the agency’s problems.
Obama administration had a more neutral tone. On Tuesday, its spokesperson Josh Earnest stated that the White House was concerned about the inspector general’s report and his findings. He also said that the report “raised legitimate and serious questions” on the way the agency handles its officers’ misconduct, and that Obama still holds a very high standard for the officials that serve in his administration especially if law enforcement officials are involved.
Attorney General Eric Holder announced that Ms. Leonhart would step down by mid-May. Mr. Holder praised Ms. Leonhart for several of her job-related achievements such as annihilating dangerous drug trafficking groups. He also said that he was proud to have her as a partner when working to safeguard the U.S.’ national security and protect individuals from exploitation, abuse and crime.
On Tuesday, Ms. Leonhart declined to attend a border security trade show in Phoenix where she was expected to receive an award from sponsors.
Robert Bonner, a former Customs and Border Protection commissioner, criticized the way Congress handled last week’s hearing. He believes that the current DEA chief was unfairly blamed, as the House presented a distorted and mostly untrue image of the agency.
“Sadly, what we’re witnessing in Washington is ‘gotcha’ politics in action,”
Mr. Bonner said.
But Michele Leonhart recently stirred another wave of criticism for her stance on legalizing marijuana. According to critics, her agency obstructed attempts to remove the drug from the Schedule I list of controlled substances. This list also contains dangerous substances such as peyote and heroine.
But under her watch, the DEA also concluded a series of decisive criminal cases such as the recent capture of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, a Mexican drug lord considered one of the most powerful in the world.
Image Source: Boston Herald