“This was a failure”: Biden’s ATF selection says the White House left him open to attack


David Chipman’s endorsement odyssey began with a brief congratulations from Attorney General Merrick B. Garland in April and ended, he said, with a long, remorseful phone call from Presidential Advisor Steve Ricchetti, who admitted that the White House “fell short.”

Mr Chipman, a bold gun control activist whose nomination to head the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives imploded this month, said he had no other contact with the White House, which often made him feel alone, on “an island.” , “When pro-weapon groups attacked him.

Instead, the West Wing’s strategy focused on getting Mr. Chipman to Senator Joe Manchin III Democrats at least one vote among the 50 votes required for confirmation.

“Either it was impossible to win this or the strategy failed,” Chipman told the New York Times in his first public comment since President Biden withdrew the nomination, admitting he couldn’t get the votes. “That was a failure.”

Mr Chipman’s defeat represented a big win for the gun lobby and a big loss for gun control groups, who saw the appointment of a strong director for the office as the most important step Mr Biden could take as Republicans block legislative action. It was a reminder of Mr Biden’s efforts, eight months into his presidency, to keep great promises he made to progressives regarding voting rights, immigration and arms.

In an extensive interview, Mr. Chipman, who served as an agent in the office for 25 years before becoming one of the most prominent gun control activists in the country, praised the White House for what he jokingly called the nomination’s “gangster move” to someone like him primarily.

However, he questioned the government’s willingness to implement a coordinated strategy to get him through the Senate and expressed concern about the next steps. He said he found it “unusual” that he had not spoken to anyone in the White House since being nominated.

“In the back of my mind I always thought there was going to be a Plan B, but so far there hasn’t been one,” said Chipman.

White House officials rejected the stalled proposal, saying they are considering several possible nominees and pointed to new gun control, community engagement and anti-crime initiatives that Mr Biden outlined earlier this year.

“We know this work will be difficult – especially with the Republicans on Capitol Hill acting in lockstep with the arms industry – but the president is absolutely determined to move forward with both legislation and personnel to combat gun violence,” said Michael Gwin, a spokesman for Mr. Biden.

Chipman, 55, said he is speaking now in hopes of encouraging Mr Biden’s team to focus on reforming and strengthening the long-neglected agency left by decades of assaults on legislation by the National Rifle Association and other professionals was handcuffed. Weapon groups.

He prefers to do so externally and declines a recent offer to serve in the Justice Department. He has returned to his position as advisor to the organization founded by former MP Gabrielle Giffords, a survivor of gun violence he described as braver than anyone in Washington.

Chipman blamed the main blame for his defeat on the gun lobby, particularly the National Shooting Sports Foundation, an industrial trade group that campaigned on behalf of Mr. King and others.

And he picked Lawrence G. Keane, a top executive at the group, for posting a picture on his website showing a federal agent – falsely identified in a tabloid as young Mr. Chipman – working in the smoldering Wrecked the Davidian branch in 1993, which he believed sparked a spate of online threats.

“Larry Keane posted a photo of me he knew was wrong and tried to kill me,” said Mr. Chipman, who arrived in Waco, Texas to help the investigation long after the ATF found one The attack began, which eventually resulted in the deaths of 82 civilians and four federal agents.

Mr. Keane described the allegation as “categorically false” in a telephone interview, adding, “The moment we found out that it actually wasn’t, we removed it from our website. If I had known it wasn’t him, we would never have used the photo. “

He admitted that Mr. Chipman had faced death threats which he described as “extremely unfortunate and inappropriate”. But he said Mr. Biden should never have appointed anyone as aggressive towards gun owners, manufacturers and dealers as Mr. Chipman.

However, on one point the two men agreed: The White House, along with Mr Chipman’s small support team in the Justice Department, did not do nearly enough to quell this story or other allegations against him that were rife in conservative media.

Mr Chipman praised the Justice Department team’s dedication, but said his attempts to get them to send reporters documents debunking the Waco claim have failed – and he ended up having to give the information to journalists himself after seeing it had come to the conclusion that “no one is defending me”.

Administration officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity for not having the authority to speak publicly about the matter, said they quietly countered negative stories about Mr Chipman but believed that under the radar media strategy was the smartest way to go.

They said the problem was not Waco but Mr. King, an independent sitting down with the Democrats who outsmarted them by speaking out against Mr. Chipman when the nomination turned into a floor vote in late June.

One person close to Mr. King said his position should not have come as a surprise. He had already told administrators that he objected to their sales pitch – that ATF, an agency he considered a neutral regulator, would be the focus of arms policy under an activist director like Mr. Chipman.

Mr. Chipman received the news personally in July when Mr. King called him into his office.

When he arrived, Mr. King told the candidate that Mr. Chipman’s father – a King supporter who lives in Maine – had sent him a letter asking him to vote for his son.

“At least he like you, ”joked Mr. King.

Then the senator, who was the subject of intense lobbying by pro-arms groups in his home state, presented his grievances. Chipman said the senator told him that “my friends who are arms dealers in Maine” had objected to the nomination .

Mr Chipman, who had vowed to step up inspections of state-licensed arms dealers if confirmed, did not give in – and polite calls from Mr Biden, Ms Giffords and Thomas Brandon, a former acting director of the agency, over the next few years Weeks did nothing to the senator.

In early September, the White House bowed to the inevitable. Mr. Ricchetti called Mr. Chipman and spent about 20 minutes expressing his regret for everything he had gone through while the candidate stood near a sunflower field he was visiting with his wife.

Last week, Mr. King stated his position in a letter to voters saying that Mr. Chipman could not be a “fair and objective regulator” because his association with gun safety groups meant he could not be “on an equal footing” with arms dealers.

Mr. Chipman drew another conclusion from the meeting: that Mr. King had been “captured” by the gun lobby and that his own defeat was a reflection of their continued power.

“I left his office and thought, ‘Does he really think that people who regulate industries can only get these jobs if they are friends with the industry?'” Said Chipman. “He said the quiet part out loud.”


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