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August 2022


How to Become a Bounty Hunter

Tag: merit protection board

Charles Lutz: Things Aren’t What They Seem When It Comes to the Forced Retirement of the DEA’s Michele Leonhart

Charles Lutz is a retired DEA Senior Executive. This column was written for

Michele Leonhart

By Charles Lutz

Things in Washington are seldom what they seem. The media has portrayed the forced retirement of DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart as the result of agents in Colombia holding parties with prostitutes paid for by Drug Cartels, and the lenient punishments they received. As outrageous as their conduct was, it’s not likely the cause of her untimely departure.

A Congressional Hearing plowed that ground last week, only to discover that the events in Colombia happened long before Michele Leonhart’s tenure as Administrator, and that when it did come to her attention she referred it to DOJ’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) for investigation. But the OIG said they were too busy and sent it back to DEA to handle. So apparently in conjunction with the FBI, the DEA conducted an investigation and submitted the findings to their Board of Conduct and Deciding Officials to mete out punishments in conformance with Civil Service rules. Congressmen criticized the DEA Administrator for not firing the agents, and seemed astonished to learn that Congress had not given her that authority. Civil Service rules require the heads of agencies keep an arm’s length from the disciplinary process or risk reversal by the Merit System Protection Board. And punishments are based on a formula for disciplinary action across government for similar offenses. So the only charge left standing was that DEA and the FBI neither cooperated fully nor in a timely manner with the OIG while reviewing the investigation.

What has not been mentioned by the media in this context is that Michele Leonhart has been an outspoken critic of marijuana legalization. She even had the audacity to criticize the President at the National Sheriff’s Association convention last year for his comment to The New Yorker Magazine that marijuana is no more harmful than alcohol (a statement that Mr. Obama retracted days later in an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper that received little media attention).

Many were surprised that Leonhart had lasted this long. But the media has failed to connect the dots between her stand on marijuana and her forced retirement.

There is no doubt in my mind that the President was determined to use this incident in Colombia as cover to get rid of who he sees as a troublemaker, perhaps encouraged by marijuana legalization campaign financier, and close Obama advisor, George Soros. When the primary charges vanished under the light of a public hearing, embarrassed Congressmen saved face by citing their lack of confidence in the DEA Administrator for her lack of cooperation with the OIG.

And an undeterred Obama cited this same internal squabble within the DOJ, an argument between the DEA and the FBI with the OIG, to single out the DEA Administrator for punishment. Funny thing is the FBI Director didn’t get so much as a reprimand.