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DEA chief grilled over probe into no-bid contracts, hiring

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Lawmakers grilled U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration chief Anne Milgram on Thursday over hundreds of thousands of {dollars} in no-bid contracts which are the topic of a watchdog probe into whether or not the company improperly employed a few of her previous associates.

Milgram confronted a barrage of criticisms from principally Republican members of the House Appropriations Committee over an Related Press investigation that the DEA spent $4.7 million on “strategic planning and communication” and different no-bid contracts to rent folks Milgram knew from her days as New Jersey’s lawyer common and as a New York College legislation professor — at prices far exceeding pay for presidency officers.

“Everyone seems to be afforded the presumption of innocence till confirmed responsible. However these experiences are fairly robust,” stated Rep. Andrew Clyde of Georgia.

Added Rep. Mike Garcia of California: “To make the assertion that you simply’re doing this job nicely, or getting the job accomplished, is frankly flagrant and offensive. I don’t assume you’re doing a superb job.”

Milgram stated she welcomes the scrutiny from the Justice Division’s Workplace of Inspector Common on some sole-source contracts signed since she took over the DEA almost two years in the past. However she refused to deal with the allegations within the AP report, or whether or not she was a goal of the watchdog probe.

“The inspector common is conducting an administrative evaluate into some DEA contracts, which I welcome, and I’m not going to step in entrance of the inspector common or communicate extra about it whereas that evaluate is constant,” she stated.

“Does that imply you’re taking the Fifth?” replied Clyde.

“No sir,” she answered.

Among the many contracts being scrutinized by the Inspector Common is $1.4 million to a Washington legislation agency for a latest evaluate of the DEA’s scandal-plagued international operations that was broadly criticized for giving brief shrift to agent misconduct and easy methods to forestall it. That evaluate was co-authored by Boyd Johnson, former right-hand man to considered one of Milgram’s closest associates, Preet Bharara, when he was U.S. Legal professional in Manhattan. Bharara himself landed on the agency, WilmerHale, even because the evaluate was being performed.

Milgram, questioned by Clyde about “very disturbing” allegations that run counter to the DEA’s mission, stated she solely met Johnson after being nominated by the White House to guide the DEA.

She additionally acknowledged working in New Jersey with Jose Cordero, who inside three weeks of Milgram’s affirmation by the Senate was awarded with what has develop into an almost $400,000 no-bid contract to conduct information evaluation of crime stats.

“Mr. Cordero labored with me beforehand on violence discount,” she stated.

Milgram got here to Capitol Hill searching for congressional help for an almost 4% finances enhance to deal with a worsening fentanyl disaster that led to greater than 107,000 overdose deaths final 12 months.

She confronted criticism over the Biden administration’s refusal to confront China and Mexico over their function within the fentanyl disaster, in addition to how she is dealing with a string of scandals by brokers within the discipline.

Among the many highest profile is the arrest of José Irizarry, a disgraced agent now serving a 12-year federal jail sentence after confessing to laundering cash for Colombian drug cartels and skimming hundreds of thousands from asset seizures and informants to fund a global joyride of effective eating, events and prostitutes.

Milgram stated she has overseen a collection of modifications within the DEA’s inner disciplinary course of — a departure from previous administrations.

“What I’m most excited by is, how will we construct the proper piping transferring ahead?” she stated. “How will we go from a system the place we was monitoring using cash that we do for our cash laundering investigations … to now the place we have now a real-time system that our complete inspections division can see day by day?” ___

Goodman reported from Miami, Mustian reported from New York

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