DEA chief out over agent 'sex parties'

Credit: Jamie Dupree

Credit: Jamie Dupree

One week after lawmakers openly said they had lost confidence in the leadership of the Drug Enforcement Administration chief over how she dealt with the misbehavior of drug agents, Michele Leonhart informed her bosses that she would leave her post next month.

It was a fresh reminder of the power of oversight by the Congress, as lawmakers used a hearing last week to seize on an internal report that revealed not only examples of sexual misconduct, but also showed how the DEA and FBI refused to cooperate with investigators about the incidents.

"In light of the DOJ Inspector General’s report and the testimony we heard before our committee, Ms. Leonhart’s retirement is appropriate," said the top two lawmakers on the House Oversight Committee, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) and Rep. Elijah Cummings (R-MD).

Last week, lawmakers in both parties blasted Leonhart for doing little to toughen the punishment of agents who had joined in sex parties in South America, evidently paid for by the drug cartels they were supposed to be watching.

At the hearing, Leonhart said under federal civil service laws, she had no role in proposing any penalties, an argument that fell flat with members.

As at the Secret Service, lawmakers in both parties what may be needed at the DEA is a leader from outside the agency, not someone like Leonhart, who has worked there since 1980, steadily moving up the ladder to the agency's top job.

"After over a decade of serving in top leadership positions at DEA, Administrator Leonhart has been woefully unable to change or positively influence the pervasive “good old boy” culture that exists throughout the agency," 22 lawmakers wrote last week in expressing their lack of confidence in Leonhart.

As reports surfaced on Tuesday that Leonhart might not stay in her post, the White House had pointedly refused to give any sort of public lifeline to the DEA chief.

"The President, as you know, maintains a very high standard for anybody who serves in his administration, particularly for law enforcement officials," said White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest.

Asked about reports that Leonhart would leave her post soon, Earnest refused to comment, directing reporters to the Justice Department.

"I believe a change in leadership at the DEA is warranted," said Rep. Robert Goodlatte (R-VA).

"The DEA’s pattern of protecting its own agents at the expense of the transparency and justice that the American people deserve must end," Goodlatte added.