- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 10, 2020

The head of the Justice Department’s criminal division announced Wednesday that he will be stepping down next month.

Brian Benczkowski, who oversaw several high prosecutions during his roughly two years in the position, did not say why he was leaving the department. His last day is July 3.

“It truly has been the honor of my professional career to serve at the department once again and to lead the men and women of the criminal division,” Mr. Benczkowski said in a statement. “Their work ethic and steadfast commitment to the cause of justice, the rule of law and vindicating the rights of victims have inspired me every day.”

Attorney General William Barr said Mr. Benczkowski served the department with distinction.

“In addition to his able handling of some of the most complex white-collar investigations the Department has ever conducted, one of his greatest contributions to the country were his efforts combatting the nation’s opioid crisis,” Mr. Barr said in a statement.

“His decision to use data analytics changed our approach and undoubtedly saved many lives. That is just one example of the many ways Brian innovatively approached today’s law enforcement challenges to make a lasting impact,” the statement continued.

Mr. Benczkowski will be replaced by Brian Rabbitt, who has served as the the principal deputy in the criminal division since March. Previously, Mr. Rabbitt worked as a White House attorney, senior policy advisor at the Securities and Exchange Commission, and Mr. Barr’s chief of staff.

The departure comes while the criminal division simultaneously pursues federal charges against individuals who rioted and looted in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death and fraud cases stemming from the coronavirus pandemic.

Mr. Benczkowksi was confirmed as head of the criminal division in July 2018 after a highly contentious fight among lawmakers.

Democrats claimed his lack of prosecutorial experience and representation of a Russian bank while a private lawyer made him a poor choice for the position. Republicans said he had the necessary experience because he oversaw the Justice Department transition from the Obama to Trump administrations.

Mr. Benczkowski’s achievements as head of the criminal division included the formation of the Appalachian Regional Prescription Opioid Strike Force to combat opioid addiction and the prosecution of the notorious drug lord known as “El Chapo.”

• Jeff Mordock can be reached at jmordock@washingtontimes.com.

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