A top Republican on the Senate judiciary committee is demanding that the head of the US Drug Enforcement Administration, Anne Milgram, address allegations of improper recruitment and hiring of her former associates.
Thursday’s request from Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa follows an Associated Press investigation that found a federal watchdog is investigating whether strict federal rules on hiring and no-bid hiring may have been violated to funnel DEA work to Milgram Associates.
“These are serious allegations, and the DEA must respond to them and set the record straight,” Grassley wrote in a letter sent to Milgram’s office, a copy of which was obtained by the AP.
The scrutiny of the Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General comes as the DEA is grappling with repeated revelations of agent misconduct and a fentanyl crisis that claims more than 100,000 overdose deaths a year that Milgram has called the “deadliest drug threat our country has ever faced”.
The DEA did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the letter. But Milgram’s supporters inside and outside the agency have defended her actions as part of an ongoing effort to clean house, recruit talented people and find innovative ways to protect national security and the health of the American people.
Much of Grassley’s five-page letter focuses on a $1.4 million no-bid contract with a Washington law firm for a recent review of the DEA’s scandal-plagued foreign operations that he criticized for giving little importance of agent misconduct and how to prevent it. That review was co-written by Boyd Johnson, a former right-hand man to one of Milgram’s closest friends, Preet Bharara, when he was a federal prosecutor in Manhattan. Bharara himself landed at the firm, WilmerHale, even as the review was underway.
“In every way, the report fell well short of the mark, spending most of its scant 49 pages citing publicly available sources or DEA operations manuals,” Grassley wrote, demanding that Milgram provide any correspondence with WilmerHale where the DEA issues instructions or suggests changes. from the report “Instead of answering the questions we had, this only raises new ones.”
Grassley, who is also co-chair of the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control. She said her office had received “multiple credible allegations” from whistleblowers of irregular recruitment pointing to a possible waste of federal resources, as well as conflicts of interest among DEA leaders.
Among them, he cites a no-bid award of nearly $400,000 for data analysis to José Cordero, a former law enforcement officer who worked closely with Milgram when he served as New Jersey’s attorney general more than a decade ago. The DEA awarded The Cordero Group a contract within three weeks of confirmation by the Milgram Senate to lead the agency based on Cordero’s track record of devising public safety strategies with rigorous analysis of crime data .
“These do not appear to be skills possessed by a single company, which calls for an explanation as to why the contract was awarded outside of the normal bidding process required by law,” Grassley wrote.
The Iowa Republican is also looking into whether Milgram or anyone else at the DEA directed contractors to specifically hire specific subcontractors, including a New York City publicist and a former Democratic congressional staffer Milgram knew from a public safety project he helped run in Indianapolis while teaching. at New York University School of Law.
Goodman reported from Miami, Mustian from New York. Contact AP’s global investigative team at Investigative@ap.org.