Chuck Rosenberg is a veteran of the U.S. Justice Department who served as chief of staff to the FBI director before he was named head of the DEA. (Alex Wong, Getty Images file)

Top FBI official Chuck Rosenberg appointed as new DEA chief

Rosenberg worked closely with FBI Director James B. Comey as his chief of staff before taking his new role at the helm of the Drug Enforcement Administration.

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department on Wednesday appointed a top FBI official and former U.S. attorney to be the new head of the embattled Drug Enforcement Administration.

Chuck Rosenberg, chief of staff to the FBI director, will become acting administrator of the DEA, replacing Michele Leonhart, who retired in April after being harshly criticized during a Capitol Hill hearing. The hearing focused in part on allegations that her agents in Colombia had sex parties with prostitutes hired by local drug cartels overseas.

The allegations of the sex parties, revealed in a report by the Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz, led to a department review of the security clearances of the agents involved and a memo from then-Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. that warned all employees that soliciting prostitutes is a violation of department policy, even when employees are off duty.

The DEA is tasked with enforcing the nation’s controlled-substances laws and regulations, and its agents investigate criminals and drug gangs here and abroad.

Rosenberg has worked closely for the past year and a half with FBI Director James B. Comey and other senior FBI officials on counterterrorism, cyber, intelligence, criminal investigative issues and management issues.

“Chuck Rosenberg is one of the finest people and public servants I have ever known,” Comey said in a statement. “His judgment, intelligence, humility and passion for the mission will be sorely missed at FBI.”

Rosenberg is a veteran of the Justice Department. He was hired by the department out of the University of Virginia law school and served in numerous positions, including as chief of staff to the deputy attorney general, counselor to the attorney general, a trial attorney for the tax division and a prosecutor in the Eastern District of Virginia. He served as U.S. attorney of the Southern District of Texas from 2005 to 2006 and as U.S. attorney in Virginia from 2006 to 2008.

“Throughout his distinguished career in law enforcement and public service, Chuck has earned the trust and the praise of his colleagues at every level,” said Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch. “He has proven himself as an exceptional leader, a skilled problem solver and a consummate public servant of unshakeable integrity.”

Rosenberg will be taking over an agency that has not only been the subject of criticism on Capitol Hill but also at times out of step with the rest of the administration.

In her public remarks, Leonhart was seen as reluctant to embrace the Obama administration’s views on the enforcement of marijuana laws and on federal sentencing policies.