Sep 29, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Chipman on ATF nomination: It was "impossible to win, or the strategy failed"

ormer special agent at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) David Chipman

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

David Chipman, whose nomination to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) was ultimately withdrawn, told the New York Times that the lack of communication from the White House often made him feel alone and on "an island" amid attacks from pro-gun groups.

Driving the news: Chipman, a gun control advocate, was nominated by President Biden to head the agency in April. His nomination, however, faced widespread opposition from Senate Republicans, as well as Sen. Angus King (I-Maine).

The big picture: "Chipman’s defeat represented a major victory for the gun lobby and a huge loss for gun control groups, who saw appointment of a strong director for the bureau as the most important move Mr. Biden could make as Republicans block legislative action," the Times notes.

What he's saying: “Either this was impossible to win, or the strategy failed,” Chipman said in his first public comments since his nomination was withdrawn earlier this month. "This was a failure."

  • Chipman, who mostly blamed the gun lobby for his failed nomination, told the Times that outside of a phone call with presidential adviser Steve Ricchetti, who admitted the administration fell "short," he's had no other contact with the White House.
  • Chipman said he found the lack of communication "unusual," adding, “In the back of my mind, I always thought that there would be a Plan B, but so far there hasn’t been."
  • "We absolutely worked to get him confirmed,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said. "But we weren't naive about how challenging that would be given the history." She added that the administration was looking to find him another role.

Michael Gwin, a Biden spokesperson, told the Times: "We know this work is going to be difficult — especially with Republicans on Capitol Hill moving in lock-step with the gun industry."

  • "[B]ut the president is absolutely committed to pushing both legislation and personnel to combat gun violence," he added.
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