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Controversial DOJ criminal chief Lanny Breuer leaving

By Terry Frieden, CNN Justice Producer
updated 8:13 PM EST, Wed January 30, 2013
Lanny Breuer, assistant attorney general of the Criminal Division, announced he will leave government service on March 1.
Lanny Breuer, assistant attorney general of the Criminal Division, announced he will leave government service on March 1.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Justice Department confirms March 1 will be his last day on the job
  • He's best known for his defense of President Bill Clinton against impeachment efforts
  • Eric Holder had named Breuer to oversee the Deepwater Horizon Task Force in 2010
  • He was criticized for Fast and Furious operation, lack of action in white collar crime cases

Washington (CNN) -- After several days of rumors and denials, the Justice Department finally made it official on Wednesday -- Lanny Breuer is leaving. The assistant attorney general of the Criminal Division announced he will leave government service on March 1.

Breuer, best known for his defense of President Bill Clinton against impeachment efforts, has been a target of Republican critics throughout his term. Despite their best efforts, the critics were unable to pry Breuer from his post. In fact, his nearly four years in the job makes Breuer one of the longest serving Criminal Division chiefs.

"Serving as assistant attorney general for the Criminal Division has been the greatest privilege of my professional life," Breuer said in a statement. "From my first day on this job nearly four years ago, I have loved it, and I am so proud of what the Criminal Division has accomplished over the past four years," Breuer said.

The announcement came the day after Breuer celebrated a victory in the criminal investigation of BP in the 2010 Gulf oil disaster. A federal judge in New Orleans on Tuesday approved the largest package of criminal fines and penalties in U.S. history, which will cost BP $4 billion.

Attorney General Eric Holder had named Breuer to oversee the Deepwater Horizon Task Force in 2010. The record amount in the guilty plea allows Breuer to depart on a high note.

The chief criticisms against Breuer had focused on Wall Street prosecutions -- or lack thereof -- and the ATF's Operation Fast and Furious.

In regards to white collar crime, Breuer faced extensive criticism for the Justice Department's failure to bring major prosecutions against the nation's largest financial institutions responsible for financial crisis in 2008 and 2009. But Breuer insisted that the banks and their employees needed to be protected against an implosion that could cause greater problems.

In several cases, he relied on deferred prosecutions that allowed the financial leaders to avoid going to jail in exchange for exhibiting good corporate behavior.

In the case of Fast and Furious, Breuer was the top administration official stung by the investigations.

Breuer apologized for an inaccurate letter to a senator in which the Justice Department denied the ATF allowed guns to be smuggled to Mexican drug cartels.

Breuer's announcement Wednesday gave no hint about his plans.

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