More former ATF agents who worked alongside President Joe Biden’s director nominee are speaking out against his confirmation.
Seven former agents, each with 25 or more years of experience at the ATF, wrote a letter to Senate Judiciary Committee leaders on Tuesday urging them to vote against David Chipman. In a copy of the letter obtained by The Reload, the agents criticize Chipman’s turn from ATF agent to paid gun-control activist. They argued he did not have the experience or temperament to lead the agency and his appointment would degrade ATF’s ability to do its job.
“David’s strong personal beliefs on firearms issues will create serious and long-lasting problems for the Bureau and the effective execution of its law enforcement mission,” the agents said in the letter. “We relied on effective partnerships with industry, stakeholders, and other law enforcement agencies to execute our missions. Unfortunately, if David were confirmed, ATF partners would see someone who is coming to the agency with his top priority being to implement a divisive gun control agenda.”
Chipman’s nomination has been hanging in limbo since a contentious confirmation hearing in May, where he spent much of his time apologizing for comments he’d previously made and doubling down on his personal support for strict new gun-control laws. His nomination came under new scrutiny last week when The Reload published a report where ATF sources corroborated the existence of allegations Chipman made racist comments during his time at the agency. Republicans have called for a new hearing to investigate the claims, but committee chairman Dick Durbin (D., Ill.) denied the request, called the allegations “baseless,” and implied the sources were made up.
Many of the concerns raised by the agents who signed their names to the letter match those expressed by the current and former agents who spoke with The Reload. The agents all complained about Chipman’s history of supporting controversial new gun bans and making controversial statements mocking gun owners. The agents in the new letter and the ones in The Reload report agreed the agency needs a long-term director but said Chipman would not be the right fit, based on what they saw while working alongside him.
“Having been at the Bureau at the same time as Mr. Chipman and having followed his career after he left the Bureau, we are very familiar with his leadership style and his approach to leading the agency,” the former agents said in the letter. “While an agent, David did not exhibit the collaborative and respectful type of leadership required of an agency Director that must manage a diverse workforce with challenging issues. While we can say without hesitation that David is very smart, we can also say without hesitation that he was very often not a team player and had a troubling tendency to think he was always right.”
Senator Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa), the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, said the concerns raised by the agents in their letter to him and Durbin should be addressed as part of a new hearing.
“The concerns raised by these former agents are serious and very relevant to the committee’s and the Senate’s consideration of Mr. Chipman’s nomination,” Grassley told The Reload. “I stand by our request for another hearing and more information. Full transparency is what’s needed.”
The former agents also argued Chipman’s record shows he does not have the experience necessary to run the agency.
“While in the Bureau he never progressed to the Senior Executive Service or to senior leadership within the agency. Putting David in charge of ATF would be like asking a small business owner to lead a Fortune 500 company. Even though he was an ATF agent, David would be the least qualified individual to lead the agency in its history.”
The agents concluded by stating that the ATF’s need for a Senate-confirmed director still doesn’t justify confirming Chipman.
“ATF needs a Director whose personal beliefs about gun ownership would not be a distraction from the critically important work of the men and women of ATF,” they said. “A nominee with a proven track record of leadership, fairness, and diplomacy is not only needed for the Director’s position, it is necessary to ensure that ATF can execute on its mission – David Chipman is not that nominee. ”
The letter was signed by retired ATF agents Tim Buns, Gregory Alvarez, Mike Meadows, Wadene Musgrave, Pamela Potaczek, Judith M. Bender, and Larry Luckey.
Senator Durbin and the White House did not respond to a request for comment.
UPDATE 4:51 p.m. August 3rd, 2021: This piece has been updated to include comment from Senator Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa).