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McConnell to Biden: Maybe pull your ATF nominee over claims about racist remarks?

AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

Ya think? David Chipman’s nomination as director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) had stalled anyway over his four years as a gun-control lobbyist. The media didn’t cover that problem, preferring to chalk up Chipman’s woes as the result of “contentious dynamics of gun politics.”

Can they ignore complaints about racist remarks? Stephen Gutowski dug into Chipman’s record at the ATF and found this nugget, along with fears that Chipman would retaliate if given the top job there:

Multiple ATF sources back up the existence of a complaint alleging President Biden’s nominee to lead ATF, David Chipman, made racist comments during his previous stint at the agency.

The agents, who have decades of experience at the agency, told The Reload they heard the accusation that Chipman denigrated black ATF agents up for promotion. The officials said they heard about Chipman’s alleged comments before they were referenced in a recent lawsuit seeking the release of the complaint.

“He made some comments that he was surprised by the number of African Americans who have made it onto a specific promotional list,” a current ATF official told The Reload. “So, his insinuation was that they had to have cheated. Which is kind of despicable.”

The Daily Caller first raised this issue five weeks ago. Their foundation filed a FOIA action to get Chipman’s records from the ATF after hearing rumors of the complaint, and Chipman’s denial that they had any basis in fact:

The pro-gun control nominee, David Chipman, told Sen. Ted Cruz in writing that he received two Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) complaints during his 15 years as a manager with the ATF. Chipman said the complaints were “resolved without any finding of discrimination and no disciplinary action was taken against me.”

Chipman added that his ATF personnel file is under the control of the federal government, but he did not answer when asked if he would be willing to provide his file to the Senate Judiciary Committee. The ATF declined to comment to the DCNF.

Tom Jones, the president of the American Accountability Foundation, said he filed two FOIA requests with the ATF in May requesting records related to any complaints and disciplinary measures taken against Chipman during his 25-year tenure with the agency. The AAF’s lawsuit said the ATF failed to produce the records in the timeframe allotted by the law, despite Chipman’s acknowledgment in his written statement to Cruz that the federal government has control of his personnel file.

Jones said AAF’s FOIA lawsuit could produce records related to an incident around 2007 in which Chipman allegedly made a derogatory comment about black ATF agents performing too well on a selection exam.

Jones told the Daily Caller News Foundation he spoke with a former ATF agent who personally witnessed Chipman making the derogatory comment after reviewing results for candidates who had passed an assessment to become an assistant special agent in charge.

Gutowski has now found corroborating sources for the complaint in his report at The Reload. That will raise all sorts of interesting questions, including how Cruz knew to ask about this issue in the first place. One has to assume that Chipman left enough of a negative impression behind at ATF that its career agents want to make sure he never comes back. That may be also why these sources have made themselves to reporters — reporters who are willing to look critically at Chipman, anyway, which is unfortunately a surpassingly small number.

Mitch McConnell has heard enough. Yesterday afternoon, he called on Joe Biden to cut bait on Chipman:

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) told President Joe Biden on Thursday to drop Chipman’s nomination in response to the allegations. He said the claims combined with Chipman’s history of supporting strict new gun laws made him unworkable as an ATF director.

“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.

If Biden doesn’t pull Chipman’s nominee, the Republicans on the committee overseeing the nomination will demand a new hearing into the complaint:

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 now that 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 is doing Biden a favor in more ways than one. The last thing Biden and Democrats need is a hearing on how they glossed over accusations of racism in order to push a lobbyist into a powerful enforcement position. On top of that, Chipman’s nomination has gone far beyond the “mostly dead” stage. His confirmation is now at the “go through his pockets and look for loose change” status. The delay in recognizing that is doing neither Biden nor Chipman any favors, and now it threatens to blow up into a major scandal with no upside whatsoever.