Acting DEA Chief Abruptly Resigns

There is a lot of political news today that will take up a lot of oxygen. So many thinkpieces about Roy Moore winning the GOP Senate runoff in Alabama! Which means that the news of acting Drug Enforcement Administration director Chuck Rosenberg's departure, with one week's notice, from his position will get buried. Especially because on its face, it doesn't seem all that extraordinary. But it's one of the most important political items of the day.

Rosenberg, who is an Obama administration holdover, has been running the DEA as acting director since 2015. He has repeatedly butted heads with the Trump administration — publicly taking issue with Donald Trump's July speech in which he urged police to rough up suspects, and disagreeing with Attorney General Jeff Sessions on a number of issues, including marijuana research and prioritizing focus on the Central American gang MS-13 instead of the drug cartels.

Given that Rosenberg's leadership was always meant to be temporary, and his various issues with the Trump administration, it's no surprise that Rosenberg is leaving.

But two things about his departure are worth noting.

First, at the New York Times, Michael S. Schmidt reports that law enforcement officials said Rosenberg is leaving because he "had become convinced that [Donald] Trump had little respect for the law." That is no small thing. And it's easy to dismiss it with a "no kidding," but that's only because Trump has already, in 250 days in office, pushed our expectations so far out of whack that it barely registers when a career bureaucrat feels obliged to leave his employ in the federal government because the president doesn't respect the law.

Secondly, at the Washington Post, Devlin Barrett and Matt Zapotosky report that Rosenberg is so disgusted with the entire administration that he refused a transfer.
According to two officials familiar with the matter, Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein had previously asked Rosenberg if he would be interested in serving as the presidentially appointed head of the DEA, and Rosenberg declined. Because Rosenberg was considered a career Justice Department employee, one of the officials said, Rosenstein then asked if he would be interested in another Justice Department job, and Rosenberg said he would not.
Further, Rosenberg decided to leave now, even though no successor has been identified: "It was not immediately clear who would replace Rosenberg, although people with knowledge of internal discussions said Col. Joseph R. Fuentes, the head of the New Jersey State Police, was thought to be a leading contender."

And, like many other Trump appointees, Fuentes' primary qualification for the job appears to be hating President Obama.
He harshly criticized the Obama administration for striking a deal with Cuba to restore diplomatic relations with that country without addressing the question of long-sought fugitives, including one who killed a New Jersey state trooper in 1973.

"We approach the next presidential administration with a renewed sense of optimism and moral superiority that justice will prevail," Fuentes said in a statement in January.
So, to sum: A career bureaucrat has abruptly resigned, reportedly because he has become convinced that the president has contempt for the law, and his likely replacement is a loyalist who believes that the president with contempt for the law is indicative of "moral superiority." All amidst a national opioid crisis that urgently requires sustained attention from qualified people who can effectively address a deadly scourge.

Rosenberg's resignation may seem like a "small" story compared to other things in the news, but it's so perfectly, terribly emblematic of what is wrong with the Trump administration. Competent people don't want to work for this scofflaw president and his administration of malicious sycophants. The jobs go to loyalists, regardless of their lack of expertise or experience, and irrespective of the crucial demands on the office they will hold.

This is how authoritarian regimes emerge. It is also how states fail.

This story is one brick in the crumbling edifice of the republic. But there are countless bricks just like it. And we'd better start paying attention to them — and what they mean for our future.

Shakesville is run as a safe space. First-time commenters: Please read Shakesville's Commenting Policy and Feminism 101 Section before commenting. We also do lots of in-thread moderation, so we ask that everyone read the entirety of any thread before commenting, to ensure compliance with any in-thread moderation. Thank you.

blog comments powered by Disqus