President Joe Biden’s ATF nominee will not face further scrutiny from the Senate despite newly corroborated claims he made racist remarks during his time at the agency.
Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Dick Durbin (D., Ill.) said no on Monday to a request to bring nominee David Chipman back for a second hearing. The committee’s Republicans had unanimously requested a new hearing to investigate accusations Chipman had a complaint filed against him over racist remarks made while working for the agency. Durbin called the allegations “baseless” and attacked The Reload for publishing accounts of ATF agents discussing their knowledge of the situation.
Durbin accused The Reload of being an “extreme anti-gun safety website” and implied its sources were made up.
“Now comes the latest salvo—a claim published by an anti-gun safety website, allegedly based on the accounts of two anonymous individuals, that Mr. Chipman had made racially discriminatory remarks when he served at ATF,” he wrote in a letter. “As with the other claims manufactured by Mr. Chipman’s opponents, there is no evidence to support these allegations.”
Durbin’s refusal to schedule a second hearing on Chipman comes after two ATF sources said they had heard of Chipman denigrating black agents while on assignment in the agency’s Detroit bureau.
“He made some comments that he was surprised by the number of African Americans who have made it onto a specific promotional list,” a current ATF official told The Reload. “So, his insinuation was that they had to have cheated. Which is kind of despicable.”
“That one had to do with what’s called the assessment center, which would be to get promoted,” a former agent said. “Somebody would have had to file a complaint against him if he were a supervisor making those statements.”
The agents also complained Chipman’s history of paid gun-control activism would hamper their ability to effectively pursue cases that require cooperation from licensed gun dealers. Alongside former agent Rick Vasquez, they also expressed concern over his apparent change in attitude after leaving the agency.
The former agent specifically responded to Senator Durbin’s letter.
“Dear Senator Durbin, while I wish to remain anonymous, it is only because I am non-partisan and wish to remain so in this hyper-partisan era,” the agent told The Reload. “As I and others made quite clear, Dave Chipman was a very decent person when I knew him and worked with him at ATF. Far from attacking his character, something I find abhorrent, I clearly and plainly stated that Dave and his views, which he expressed before your committee for all to hear, are not what ATF and the country need. Any ATF agent who has worked cases and actually handcuffed the worst of the worst violent suspects, as my record of convictions shows I did over my career before I retired, knows this. Our nation’s inner cities and those most vulnerable within them don’t need ‘gun safety measures.’ Rather, they need ATF’s leadership, powerful federal firearms statutes targeting violent offenders, and strong federal sentencing to keep these offenders off the streets once we, or our state and local partners, arrest them (the opposite of the ‘revolving door’ we encounter in so many of our great cities). ATF needs a confirmed director. We simply don’t need one who, for reasons I do not understand, has chosen to embrace every wrong-headed idea.”
The current agent asked not to be named because he worried Chipman would retaliate against him if confirmed.
“If you’re not going to march to the beat of his drum, there is a concern that you’ll wind up somewhere,” the current agent previously told The Reload. “It’s not like when you work for a local police department where you find yourself in a new precinct on the other side of town. Here, you can find yourself in another part of the country or, even worse, on an island in one of our territories. That means uprooting your family, taking your kids out of school, and things like that.”
In his letter, Durbin also accused The Reload of being part of an “orchestrated effort by the far right to oppose Mr. Chipman by any means necessary.”
“The Committee will not hold a second hearing on Mr. Chipman’s nomination based on baseless allegations by anonymous sources published in venues with an obvious agenda,” he said. “ATF needs a Senate-confirmed leader, and Mr. Chipman is well-qualified and has been extensively vetted for the role. He deserves to be confirmed. And it is my fervent hope that Committee Republicans will quit embracing anonymously-sourced efforts to smear Mr. Chipman.”
Despite declaring the allegations against Chipman to be “baseless,” Durbin confirmed the existence of Equal Employment Opportunity complaints against the nominee. He did not advocate for the release of the complaints to allow the public to determine their validity. When asked for comment, Durbin’s office did not reply.