David Chipman will not be the director of the ATF.
Multiple sources have told Politico, The Washington Post, and CNN the White House plans to withdraw his nomination after failing to garner 50 votes in the Senate. Chipman was unable to secure support from even the Democratic caucus after a contentious confirmation hearing and a series of Reload stories on allegations of racism on his part coming from former ATF agents. The Reload stories led to calls from Republicans for new hearings and a whistleblower report being filed with the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
In August, a black former ATF agent told The Reload that Chipman had falsely accused him of cheating on a promotion assessment because he believed the agent had done too well on a section of the examination.
“I couldn’t believe it when it happened,” the agent said. “But when I read about his other comments, in my mind, I was like ‘that motherf*****.’ That’s what happened. He said, ‘Hey, a lot of African Americans qualified to be promoted on this certification list; they must have been cheating.’ And then he had to go and find one. I happened to be that one.”
The agent said Chipman’s complaint against him initiated a years-long inspector general investigation against him in 2007 that sidetracked his career before exonerating him. The Department of Justice confirmed Chipman had initiated an investigation against an agent over accusations of cheating in 2007. However, they would not release the report or confirm any further details about it. The department did defend Chipman against allegations of racial bias, though.
“Any allegations of bias against David Chipman are false,” Dena Iverson, principal deputy director of DOJ’s Office of Public Affairs, said at the time, “and in the two times he was the subject of a workplace complaint over a 25-year career at the ATF, the claims were thoroughly investigated and found to be meritless.”
That allegation came shortly after two ATF agents corroborated the existence of a separate allegation that Chipman made a racist remark about black agents applying for promotions while serving in the agency’s Detroit office. That story prompted all Republican members of the Judiciary Committee to ask for a second hearing on Chipman and led Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) to call on the White House to withdraw his nomination.
Those calls were rejected by Senate Judiciary Chairman Dick Durbin (D., Ill.), who implied the sources in The Reload‘s stories were made up and attacked the publication for being an “extreme anti-gun safety website.”
Chipman’s problems extended beyond the allegations of racism which neither he nor the White House ever responded to. While he had experience as an ATF agent, his work for gun-control organizations after leaving the agency created a great deal of opposition to his appointment among gun-rights groups and sportsmen’s associations alike. He even remained employed by Giffords, one of the country’s leading gun-control organizations, while seeking the directorship of the agency that regulates the firearms industry.
He also stood by policies to the left of even most Democratic Senators during his confirmation hearing in May. He said he supports a ban on so-called assault weapons, though he was unable to define the term during the hearing. He also advocated requiring the registration and potential confiscation of tens of millions of AR-15s currently owned by Americans.
His history at the ATF and adoption of controversial gun-control policies led several ATF agents to speak out publicly against his nomination as well. They warned his adversarial approach to the gun industry would harm the agency’s ability to carry out its mission.
“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 August. “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.”
The combined opposition led every Republican member of the Senate to publicly state they would vote against his nomination. It also left a handful of key Democratic Senators publicly undecided. The White House pulling his nomination indicates they no longer believed he could get all of the Democratic votes required to be confirmed.
The White House did not respond to a request for comment on the decision to pull Chipman or what it now plans to do with the nomination.