- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 9, 2001

The Republican congressman who helped George W. Bush win Arkansas in the 2000 presidential election and served as a House manager during President Clintons impeachment trial is expected to be named as the new head of the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Rep. Asa Hutchinson, three-term Arkansas congressman previously mentioned as a possible choice for White House drug czar, will replace DEA Administrator Donnie R. Marshall, the first DEA agent ever to rise through the ranks to lead the agency.

The announcement, expected within the next several days barring last-minute complications in an ongoing background investigation, came as a surprise to many of the DEA´s rank-and-file workers, several of whom questioned why the White House would move to replace an administrator, former agent and veteran DEA executive who was both successful and well-respected by the agency´s 4,600 agents.

"The only logical answer is politics," said one veteran agent who asked not to be identified. "As late as last week, Donnie Marshall was talking about the future, about things he hoped the agency could do. Now he´s out."

White House spokeswoman Ann Womack declined to comment yesterday, saying she could not "confirm, deny or speculate" on any appointment Mr. Bush might make.

In an internal memo yesterday to DEA agents worldwide, Mr. Marshall confirmed that he had been asked by the Bush administration to step down after 32 years with the agency and he did so with "mixed feelings." He told the agents he would stay on with DEA until a successor was formally nominated and confirmed.

In the memo, Mr. Marshall praised the "dedicated, talented and courageous men and women" of DEA and said their efforts had made a "dramatic impact" on drug organizations around the world.

He also encouraged the agents to "maintain their faith in our mission," adding that his appointment as administrator had been the "highest honor I could ever hope to achieve."

Mr. Hutchinson was elected to the House in 1996 from a heavily Republican district in northwest Arkansas. He has declined to comment on the appointment, telling an Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce-Associated Industries of Arkansas banquet Monday only that they should "stay tuned."

His spokesman, Christian Brill, said yesterday the congressman believed it would be "inappropriate" to comment on any pending appointment before a presidential announcement. But Mr. Hutchinson´s brother, Tim, the state´s Republican U.S. senator, hinted during that same banquet that the job belonged to Mr. Hutchinson, saying, "I know he´s going to do a great job."

Asa Hutchinson, former chairman of the Arkansas Republican Party, played major roles in the impeachment of Mr. Clinton in the Monica Lewinsky scandal in both the House, where he emerged as a leader during the House Judiciary Committee´s impeachment debate, and in the Senate, where he was one of 13 House managers who prosecuted the case against Mr. Clinton. The former president was acquitted.

A former federal prosecutor, he has been actively involved in DEA issues as a member of the House Judiciary subcommittee on crime. In 1997, he joined with DEA officials on a fact-finding mission to Colombia to review joint U.S.-Colombian anti-drug operations. He has had a long-standing interest in fighting the drug trade and as a member of Congress, made the drug issue a top priority.

A graduate of Bob Jones University and the University of Arkansas School of Law, Mr. Hutchinson was approached in January by Bush administration officials about a possible Justice Department job.

Several close associates said the congressman was first tabbed to become deputy attorney general, who oversees the DEA, FBI, U.S. Marshals Service and the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, and later as head of the White House Office of Drug Control Policy.

Mr. Marshall was confirmed as head of the DEA in May 2000.


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