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DEA Chief Expected To Step Down Amid Scandal

Felipe Dana, AP
DEA administrator Michele Leonhart.

With her agency embroiled in scandal, Michele Leonhart, the chief of the Drug Enforcement Agency, is expected to step down as soon as today, a US official familiar with the matter tells NPR's Carrie Johnson.

In recent weeks, Leonhart came under fire from lawmakers after an Inspector General report found that some DEA agents had "sex parties" in Colombia with prostitutes paid for by drug cartels.

Earlier this month Republican and Democratic members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee released a statement saying they had "no confidence" in Leonhart.

"From her testimony, it is clear that she lacks the authority and will to make the tough decisions required to hold those accountable who compromise national security and bring disgrace to their position," the committee wrote.

Carrie reports that Leonhart came up the ranks during the Bush administration. She was appointed to the post in 2007 and Obama kept her in place.

This, Carrie says, is not the first time she has had a tough go of it with the administration.

"Leonhart famously got taken to the woodshed by Attorney General Eric Holder after she declined to support his efforts to roll back long mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenders," Carrie reports. "Last year she also took issue with President Obama's comments that marijuana isn't a dangerous substance, or no more dangerous than alcohol, in remarks to the sheriff's association. The sheriffs gave her a standing ovation but as you can imagine the White House did not."

Asked today whether Obama had confidence in Leonhart, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest repeated previous comments that the inspector general report "raised legitimate and serious questions about the conduct of some DEA officers."

Earnest said the president "maintains a very high standard for anybody who serves in his administration, particularly when it comes to law enforcement officials."
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