Republicans aren’t giving up on getting a second hearing on President Joe Biden’s ATF director nominee.
They want to bring David Chipman back to answer for newly-uncovered stories and aren’t happy with Chairman Dick Durbin (D., Ill.) for dismissing the request out of hand on Monday. Durbin called the recently-corroborated claim that Chipman made racist remarks while working as a manager at the agency “baseless’ in a letter to the Republicans and attacked The Reload for publishing a story on the accusation. The Republican committee members responded by asking Durbin to help get the sealed Equal Employment Opportunity complaints filed against Chipman released to determine the validity of the claim.
“You primarily recounted attacks against Mr. Chipman that have not been made by Republicans on this Committee or discounted criticisms that you don’t like by some of us,” the Republicans said in the letter which was first obtained by Fox News. “You fail to address our substantive concerns and so we reiterate our requests that a follow-up hearing be scheduled and that you help us uncover the documents the Justice Department presumably has and that could clear up this controversy.”
Chipman’s nomination has remained in limbo since June’s vote to discharge him from the committee tied along party lines. Every Republican senator has publicly committed to voting against his nomination. Democratic holdouts, including Senators Angus King (I., Maine), Joe Manchin (D., W.Va.), and Jon Tester (D., Mont.), will ultimately decide whether he can garner the 50 votes necessary for confirmation, but they have remained non-committal in recent weeks and have not commented on the allegation of racism levied against Chipman.
The senators noted that most of Durbin’s response to their initial request for a new hearing centered around attacks on the credibility of The Reload and implications its sources were made up. They said the committee shouldn’t “silence” the anonymous whistleblowers who have spoken out about allegations Chipman denigrated black agents who passed an assessment for promotion by saying they must have cheated to do so.
“The idea that numerous current and former ATF agents—who are very possibly people of color—should have their stories erased is, frankly, surprising in this day and age,” The Republicans said. “Are we to believe that law enforcement in America is beset by systemic racism and implicit bias—but not the Detroit field office of the ATF under David Chipman?”
They went on to point out that The Reload story Durbin derided featured an on-record complaint about Chipman from former ATF agent Rick Vasquez who expressed concern about the nominee’s turn to paid gun-control activism after leaving the agency. The group also pointed to a recent letter sent to the committee from seven other on-record former ATF agents who opposed Chipman for similar reasons.
“And the fact is that there are on-the-record allegations from another agent—and person of color—Rick Vasquez,” the senators said. “Our concerns with Mr. Chipman’s effectiveness come from what he told Mr. Gutowski with his name on it. The fact that he had other complimentary things to say about Mr. Chipman just goes to show that Agent Vasquez lacks ‘an obvious agenda,’ making his recollection of Mr. Chipman’s circumstances in Detroit all the more relevant to the Committee’s work. Just this week the Committee received a letter from seven, named, former ATF agents further calling into serious question Mr. Chipman’s fitness to serve.”
They pointed to an endorsement of The Reload‘s reporting by CNN’s Jake Tapper, one of its earliest subscribers, as further evidence against Durbin’s claim the site is part of an “orchestrated effort by the far right” to block Chipman.
“To begin with, much of your response’s tenor involves taking shots at The Reload—or the ‘antigun safety website’ with ‘an obvious agenda,'” they said. “It’s ironic that you invoke “the Big Lie” in your attempts to discredit this reporting, because none other than Jake Tapper—arguably the biggest proponent of that term in the media—has said of The Reload’s founder, Stephen Gutowski, and the newsletter itself, ‘Worth a follow and also a subscription imho[.]'”
The senators then noted a new story about Chipman’s failure to disclose to the committee an appearance on Chinese-state media to promote US gun-control laws in 2012 had come up on Wednesday.
“Politics is supposed to stop at the water’s edge,” they wrote. “It’s shocking that Mr. Chipman’s gun-control agenda not only didn’t, but it eagerly found a willing host among the Chinese communists.”
The Republicans said all of the recent stories about Chipman need to be investigated through a new hearing.
“We ask again that Mr. Chipman have a second hearing to address these allegations,” they said. “This Committee, under your leadership, shouldn’t sweep marginalized voices under the rug, nor take corroborated allegations of racism lightly.”