Durbin Nixes Second Hearing For Chipman As Dems Circle The Wagons

AP Photo/Susan Walsh, Pool

The Democrats’ latest strategy in their attempt to confirm gun control activist David Chipman as permanent director of the ATF? Accusing Republicans of trying to smear Chipman’s name with unfounded allegations of racism, despite what the facts actually show.

After every Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee demanded a second round of questioning for Chipman over racist remarks allegedly made while he was serving in the Detroit field office of the ATF, Durbin decided to go on offense; rejecting their call for another hearing and proclaiming that the longtime gun control lobbyist is the victim of GOP smears.

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.

As with the other claims manufactured by Mr. Chipman’s opponents, there is no evidence to support these allegations. Committee staff from both sides of the aisle reviewed Mr. Chipman’s extensive background investigation. After that review, both sides “cleared” the background investigation and agreed that Mr. Chipman’s nomination should proceed to a hearing. Moreover, in response to a Question for the Record (QFR) submitted by Senator Cruz, Mr. Chipman acknowledged receiving two Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) complaints, both of which he notes “were resolved without any finding of discrimination.”

The letter also raises questions about Mr. Chipman’s “effectiveness as a leader.” But Mr. Chipman’s career at ATF makes clear that he was an effective leader, as demonstrated by the support he has received from numerous former ATF agents, who, unlike the anonymous sources your letter cites, have come forward publicly. Criticism on extreme anti-gun safety websites of Mr. Chipman’s ATF tenure appears to simply be another part of the orchestrated effort by the far right to oppose Mr. Chipman by any means necessary.

In this age of the Big Lie, does evidence count for anything?

There are a couple of issues with Durbin’s attempt to portray The Reload’s reporting as dirty politics. First, Stephen Gutowski is one of the best gun-related reporters around, and he’s not afraid to upset pro-2A groups or the gun control lobby with his reader-funded reporting.

Then there’s the fact despite the Majority Whip’s protest that there’s no evidence to support the allegations against Chipman, we know in fact that there were two EEOC complaints filed against him when he was in the Detroit field office. Chipman says that those complains didn’t result in any disciplinary action, but that doesn’t mean that the claims were determined to be unfounded. There are some legitimate questions about the EEOC investigation, but Durbin wants to foreclose any attempt to learn more about those complaints.

Which brings us to the third issue with Durbin’s comments: his double standard. As it turns out, just a few years ago Durbin himself called on Brett Kavanaugh to request that his own confirmation hearing be suspended until more public records from his past were released to the public.

“If you believe that your public-service record is one that you can stand behind and defend, I hope that at the end of this you will ask this Committee to suspend until we are given all the documents, until we have the time to review them, and then we resume this hearing.  What I’m saying to you is basically this: if you will trust the American people, they will trust you.  But if your effort today continues to conceal and hide documents, it raises a suspicion,” Durbin said.  “For the sake of this nation, for the sanctity of the Constitution that we both honor, step up.  Ask this meeting, this gathering, to suspend until all the documents of your public career are there for the American people to see.”

Now it’s Durbin himself who apparently wants to conceal and hide documents related to a nominee’s professional background, even though under his own standard he should have demanded Chipman release any materials he has from the EEOC investigation before the Judiciary Committee voted on his nomination (the committee ended up deadlocked 11-11 on the nomination, with every Democrat voting to confirm and every Republican voting against the nomination).

Despite Durbin’s attempt to minimize the allegations against Chipman, the fact remains that we know there was an EEOC complaint filed. We don’t, however, have any confirmation about the allegations itself or the outcome of that investigation. Maybe the evidence shows that the complaints were truly unfounded, or perhaps there are other reasons why Chipman avoided any formal disciplinary action. We don’t know, but the answers are out there. It’s just that this time Durbin doesn’t want those documents available for the American people to see.

It’s not just Durbin who’s unwilling to address this issue. The Washington Post’s editorial on Monday supporting Chipman completely ignored the recent allegations while proclaiming that the real problem with Chipman’s nomination lies with Second Amendment supporters and their “delusional oversensitivity.”

It’s only remarkable if you think the Washington Post’s editorial board wants to inform readers about why Chipman has yet to get the backing of all 50 Democrats in the Senate. If, on the other hand, you believe the Post’s editorial board exists to advance the Democrats’ agenda, then the fact that paper is ignoring these allegations is completely unsurprising.

Of course, if the media won’t accurately and honestly report on Chipman’s troubles as a nominee, just imagine what they’d be willing to ignore if Chipman is actually confirmed as permanent director of the ATF. That’s yet another reason why Chipman’s nomination should be rejected by the full Senate, though I suspect that argument has more resonance among those already committed to his defeat and not the handful of red state Democrats who are still publicly on the fence.