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

Apr 27, 2023, 9:38 AM

In this image from video provided by the U.S. House Appropriations Committee, Drug Enforcement Admi...

In this image from video provided by the U.S. House Appropriations Committee, Drug Enforcement Administration chief Anne Milgram speaks during a meeting with the committee on Capitol Hill in Washington on Thursday, April 27, 2023. During the session, lawmakers questioned Milgram over millions of dollars in no-bid contracts that are the subject of a watchdog probe into whether the agency improperly hired some of her past associates. (U.S. House Appropriations Committee via AP)

(U.S. House Appropriations Committee via AP)

Lawmakers grilled U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration chief Anne Milgram on Thursday over millions of dollars in no-bid contracts that are the subject of a watchdog probe into whether the agency improperly hired some of her past associates.

Milgram faced a barrage of criticisms from mostly Republican members of the House Appropriations Committee over an Associated Press investigation that the DEA spent $4.7 million on “strategic planning and communication” and other no-bid contracts to hire people Milgram knew from her days as New Jersey’s attorney general and as a New York University law professor — at costs far exceeding pay for government officials.

“Everyone is afforded the presumption of innocence until proven guilty. But these reports are pretty strong,” said Rep. Andrew Clyde of Georgia.

Added Rep. Mike Garcia of California: “To make the assertion that you’re doing this job well, or getting the job done, is frankly flagrant and offensive. I don’t think you’re doing a good job.”

Milgram said she welcomes the scrutiny from the Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General on some sole-source contracts signed since she took over the DEA nearly two years ago. But she refused to address the allegations in the AP report, or whether she was a target of the watchdog probe.

“The inspector general is conducting an administrative review into some DEA contracts, which I welcome, and I’m not going to step in front of the inspector general or speak more about it while that review is continuing,” she said.

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

“No sir,” she answered.

Among the contracts being scrutinized by the Inspector General is $1.4 million to a Washington law firm for a recent review of the DEA’s scandal-plagued foreign operations that was widely criticized for giving short shrift to agent misconduct and how to prevent it. That review was co-authored by Boyd Johnson, former right-hand man to one of Milgram’s closest friends, Preet Bharara, when he was U.S. Attorney in Manhattan. Bharara himself landed at the firm, WilmerHale, even as the review was being conducted.

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

She also acknowledged working in New Jersey with Jose Cordero, who within three weeks of Milgram’s confirmation by the Senate was awarded with what has become a nearly $400,000 no-bid contract to conduct data analysis of crime stats.

“Mr. Cordero worked with me previously on violence reduction,” she said.

Milgram came to Capitol Hill seeking congressional support for a nearly 4% budget increase to tackle a worsening fentanyl crisis that led to more than 107,000 overdose deaths last year.

She faced criticism over the Biden administration’s refusal to confront China and Mexico over their role in the fentanyl crisis, as well as how she is handling a string of scandals by agents in the field.

Among the highest profile is the arrest of José Irizarry, a disgraced agent now serving a 12-year federal prison sentence after confessing to laundering money for Colombian drug cartels and skimming millions from asset seizures and informants to fund an international joyride of fine dining, parties and prostitutes.

Milgram said she has overseen a series of changes in the DEA’s internal disciplinary process — a departure from past administrations.

“What I’m most interested in is, how do we build the correct piping moving forward?” she said. “How do we go from a system that we used to be tracking the use of money that we do for our money laundering investigations … to where we have a real-time system that our entire inspections division can see every day?” ___

Goodman reported from Miami, Mustian reported from New York

United States News

President Joe Biden addresses the nation on the budget deal that lifts the federal debt limit and a...

Associated Press

Biden’s theory of the case for 2024 is governing and competence over Trump-era combat and chaos

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden promised voters in 2020 that he knew how to get things done in Washington and could bring stability to the capital. It seemed like a message out of step with the more combative era brought on by Donald Trump. But the bipartisan debt limit and budget legislation he signed […]

7 hours ago

File - Apple CEO Tim Cook discusses the Apple Watch at the Apple event at the Bill Graham Civic Aud...

Associated Press

Apple is expected to unveil sleek headset aimed at thrusting the masses into alternate realities

Apple appears poised to unveil a long-rumored headset that will place its users between the virtual and real world, while also testing the technology trendsetter’s ability to popularize new-fangled devices after others failed to capture the public’s imagination. After years of speculation, the stage is set for the widely anticipated announcement to be made Monday […]

7 hours ago

FILE - A person, reflected in glass, walks near the Tropicana Las Vegas on May 16, 2023, in Las Veg...

Associated Press

Las Vegas ballpark pitch revives debate over public funding for sports stadiums

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) — Gov. Joe Lombardo wants to help build Major League Baseball’s smallest ballpark, arguing that the worst team in baseball can boost Las Vegas, a city striving to call itself a sports mecca. Debate about public funding for private sports clubs has been revived with the Oakland Athletics ballpark proposal. The […]

1 day ago

FILE - Coretta Scott King, widow of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., speaks at an ...

Associated Press

Carter and the Kings: A friendship and alliance — but after MLK’s assassination

ATLANTA (AP) — The voice of Martin Luther King Sr., a melodic tenor like his slain son, carried across Madison Square Garden, calming the raucous Democrats who had nominated his friend and fellow Georgian for the presidency. “Surely, the Lord sent Jimmy Carter to come on out and bring America back where she belongs,” the […]

1 day ago

Last seasons plant stalks are seen at Seth Jacobs' marijuana planting field at his Slack Hollow far...

Associated Press

Slow start to New York’s legal pot market leaves farmers holding the bag

ARGYLE, N.Y. (AP) — Seth Jacobs has about 100 bins packed with marijuana flower sitting in storage at his upstate New York farm. And that’s a problem. There aren’t enough places to sell it. The 700 pounds (318 kilograms) of pungent flower was harvested last year as part of New York’s first crop of legally […]

1 day ago

FILE - Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., speaks during a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions con...

Associated Press

Wisconsin Republicans look for rebound, Democrats stay on offensive as 2024 fights loom

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin once again be a battleground. Democrats, recognizing that four of the past six presidential elections in the state have been decided by less than a percentage point, are trying not to become overconfident in the face of recent gains. They are gathering for their annual state convention starting June 10 […]

1 day ago

Sponsored Articles


Desert Institute for Spine Care

Spinal fusion surgery has come a long way, despite misconceptions

As Dr. Justin Field of the Desert Institute for Spine Care explained, “we've come a long way over the last couple of decades.”



Why drug-free weight loss still matters

Wanting to lose weight is a common goal for many people as they progress throughout life, but choosing between a holistic approach or to take medicine can be a tough decision.

(Photo: OCD & Anxiety Treatment Center)...

OCD & Anxiety Treatment Center

Here’s what you need to know about OCD and where to find help

It's fair to say that most people know what obsessive-compulsive spectrum disorders generally are, but there's a lot more information than meets the eye about a mental health diagnosis that affects about one in every 100 adults in the United States.

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