Updated 8:44 AM EDT, Wed, Aug 18, 2021

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DEA Chief Michele Leonhart Retires Amid Agents' Sex Scandal

Michele Leonhart

(Photo : Reuters) DEA administrator Michele Leonhart testifies before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform in a hearing on sexual harassment and misconduct allegations at the DEA and FBI in Washington April 14, 2015.

Embattled Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Chief Michele Leonhart  is resigning amid mounting criticisms over her handling of the controversial sex scandal involving DEA agents. She is expected to leave the agency in mid-May.

Leonhart announced her plans to retire on Tuesday, a week after facing the House Oversight Committee.  There, she told lawmakers she had no power to fire the agents who admitted taking part in "sex parties" with prostitutes paid for by Colombian drug cartels.

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Most lawmakers in the panel said they had lost confidence in her. Thirteen House Democrats and nine Republicans, including the committee chairman Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah, signed the no-confidence statement and called for Leonhart's resignation. 

Chaffetz and ranking Democrat Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland called Leonhart's retirement as good news.

"Ms. Leonhart's retirement is appropriate," Chaffetz and Cummings said in a statement on Tuesday. 

Leonhart was a career drug agent and has led the agency since 2007. She was the second woman to hold the agency's top post.

The White House did not defend Leonhart saying President Barack Obama had found the accusations against the agents disturbing, raising serious questions on the agency's culture. White House Spokesman Josh Earnest said Obama expects high standard of work quality and professionalism from anybody who serves under his administration, particularly law enforcement officials.

The Justice Department released the report in March about the DEA agents' misconduct. The document said local DEA leaders failed to report about their agents allegedly frequenting a brothel and participated in sex parties. Seven of 10 agents accused, admitted to attending such parties.

They were only suspended for a period ranging from two to 10 days. One agent was even cleared of all wrongdoing.

Leonhart had found an ally in Attorney General Eric Holder who praised her for her achievements that led to the dismantling of drug trafficking groups.

"Michele has led this distinguished agency with honor, and I have been proud to call her my partner in the work of safeguarding our national security and protecting our citizens from crime, exploitation and abuse," Holder said.

A former DEA administrator and Customs Border Protection commissioner Robert Bronner also defended Leonhart saying she is a victim of unfair treatment. Bronner pointed out that Leonhart must not be blamed for her agents' misconduct.

"Sadly, what we're witnessing in Washington is 'gotcha' politics in action," Bronner said.

During Leonhart's stint at the DEA, the agency was able to capture some of the most powerful drug traffickers in the world including Mexico's Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman in 2014.

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