McConnell Says Biden "Must Withdraw" Chipman Nomination

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Another big development in the ongoing saga of gun control activist David Chipman’s nomination as permanent director of the ATF courtesy of Stephen Gutowski of The Reload, who reports that in the wake of his story this week about Chipman’s alleged racially discriminatory comments when he was in a leadership position at the ATF’s Detroit field office, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is calling on Joe Biden to withdraw the nomination entirely.

“In light of these credible allegations, and Mr. Chipman’s long record of anti-Second Amendment extremism, the President must withdraw Mr. Chipman’s nomination,” McConnell told The Reload.

The White House did not respond to a request for comment about McConnell’s call to withdraw Chipman.

Additionally, every Republican member of the Senate Judiciary Committee called for a new hearing on Chipman to further investigate the report and access the complaints made against him. In a letter to Judiciary Chairman Dick Durbin (D., Ill.) obtained by The Reload, the Republicans demanded the release of the complaints and a committee investigation into how Chipman came to work in the Detroit office well as the circumstance surrounding his departure. They noted the allegation he made comments denigrating black agents first surfaced in a June lawsuit but deserve new scrutiny after more ATF agents corroborated their existence.

“These were serious charges, not to be taken lightly, but the fact is that it was an anonymous claim in the press without any corroboration,” the 11 Republican senators on the committee said. “That has changed. In a July 28 article at the independent news site The Reload, it was reported that multiple current and former ATF agents corroborated that they had heard that Mr. Chipman had made racially insensitive comments while serving in the Detroit field office of the agency.”

McConnell backed up the call for a new hearing if Biden is unwilling to withdraw the nomination.

“If the President won’t do the right thing, at the very least Senate Democrats must hold a second hearing and release Chipman’s entire record,” he said. “The American people deserve the full truth about Mr. Chipman’s time at ATF, including especially these racist statements.”

As is always the case with Gutowski’s reporting, it’s worth your time to read his entire story.

During his confirmation hearing, Chipman acknowledged two EEOC complaints had been filed against him, but said that the investigations were closed without any disciplinary action being taken. Chipman didn’t relate the specifics of the complaints filed against him, however, nor have the results of any EEOC investigation been made available for the public or the senators who will vote on Chipman’s nomination to see.

As Gutowski notes, the Senate Judiciary Committee deadlocked on party lines on Chipman’s nomination, which means it’s up to either Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer or McConnell to bring the nomination to the Senate floor. In the meantime, Chipman’s nomination is still in the hands of the committee, so it’s within the power of Judiciary Chairman Dick Durbin to hold a new hearing.

Having the power to do something is much different than having the desire to do it, however, and at this point I’m pretty sure that Dick Durbin is getting a little tired of the Chipman circus. The second-in-command in the Senate admitted this week that Chipman still doesn’t have the votes needed to confirm him, and the allegations by ATF agents of racially charged comments certainly won’t be moving the needle in Chipman’s favor.

The only upside for Democrats in holding a second hearing would be the opportunity for Chipman to dispel those allegations, but given his lackluster performance during his original hearing I wouldn’t be eager to put him back in front of hostile senators for another round of questioning if I were in Durbin’s shoes.

I think the most likely response from Democrats to McConnell’s demand is to claim that the opposition is purely partisan in nature, accuse Republicans of smearing Chipman’s character, and hope that the nominee can garner a sympathy vote from red state Democrats like Montana’s Jon Tester and Joe Manchin of West Virginia. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see Chipman himself offer up some sort of statement about the complaints that were filed in an attempt to defuse the issue, though I highly doubt that the former ATF agent turned gun control activist is going to provide enough specifics to satisfy Republicans on the Judiciary Committee.

Of course, even if Chipman is able to adequately explain away his alleged comments about black ATF agents, there’s still the fact that he’s been a paid gun control lobbyist for much of the past decade and has displayed hostility and contempt for gun owners and the firearms industry he’d be policing as ATF director. Whatever excuse Chipman might offer for his alleged remarks in Detroit, there’s no getting around the fact that Chipman’s active role in the gun control lobby and his desire to carve new criminal offenses out of the right to keep and bear arms makes him unfit for duty at ATF headquarters.