The ATF will officially be receiving a new acting director.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki confirmed reporting first seen in The Reload that Acting Director Marvin Richardson is being demoted and replaced. When asked by an Associated Press reporter during her Wednesday briefing, Psaki said somebody else would be assuming control of the agency.
“I know there have been reports about this out there, and I will say that the President is making that designation under the Vacancies Reform Act,” Psaki said.
The confirmation comes after the Associated Press, New York Times, and CBS News independently verified the details of the initial Reload story. It shows the Biden Administration is committed to immediately revamping the agency in charge of regulating the gun industry even with an election looming and the potential it could damage backlash could do to its permanent director nominee.
The shakeup of current ATF leadership also comes just weeks after President Biden announced his nomination of Steve Dettelbach to run the agency long-term.
President Biden remains focused on getting Dettelbach across the finish line.
“We, of course, are strongly advocating for and pushing for his eminently qualified nominee to be confirmed,” she said. “To have an ATF confirmed director for the first time in many years is something we would be eager to see happen.”
Psaki did not comment on Richardson’s replacement. However, three sources with knowledge of the move told The Reload that Gary Restaino would be taking over as acting director while Richardson stays on in the short term as acting deputy director. Restaino was confirmed as the US Attorney for the District of Arizona in November.
Demoting Richardson after he became the subject of public criticism from gun-control groups and a few months before he was slated to retire anyway could inflame concerns around the decision to replace him. Richardson, who is African-American, has spent over 30 years inside the agency, where he worked his way from agent to director. President Biden has twice passed him over for white nominees with established records supporting more restrictive gun-control laws.
Richardson is also popular inside the agency. ATF sources who spoke with The Reload viewed his demotion as a politically-motivated punishment.
“Acting Director Richardson is well respected and liked within the agency,” one source said. “He is known as a selfless and apolitical leader.”
“A lot of the tips that we would get on illegal firearms activity from straw purchasers to traffickers came from dealers,” a second source said.”So, those partnerships are important, and Marvin really did a great job at nurturing those relationships. The fact that he had those relationships may not have sat well with the current administration. And I’m sure that might’ve helped them push him out.”
Dettelbach’s confirmation hearing has not been scheduled yet but is expected sometime in May. If confirmed, he would be only the second permanent director since the position began requiring Senate approval in 2006. His nomination faces an uphill battle that was too steep for Biden’s previous nominee, David Chipman, to overcome last summer.