David Chipman said the White House left him alone on “an island” amid personal attacks before his nomination to head the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives was pulled, The New York Times reported Wednesday.
Chipman, a strong gun control advocate, told the Times that the White House’s strategy to get him approved focused on winning over moderate Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.
In doing so, Chipman lost the backing of Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, and faced attacks from pro-gun groups.
“Either this was impossible to win, or the strategy failed,” Chipman told the Times in his first public comments since President Joe Biden withdrew his nomination. “This was a failure.”
Chipman said he found it “unusual” that he spoke to no one at the White House after being nominated.
“In the back of my mind, I always thought that there would be a Plan B,” he said, “but so far there hasn’t been.”
Presidential adviser Steve Ricchetti called Chipman to inform him that the nomination was being pulled, saying the White House had fallen “short.”
The withdrawal of Chipman’s nomination marked a huge loss for gun-control groups, and a major victory for the gun lobby, which Chipman says shoulders most of the blame.
In particular, he cited the National Shooting Sports Foundation, which lobbied lawmakers including King.
Chipman singled out Lawrence Keane, a top executive at the NSSF, for posting a picture on its website showing a federal agent — falsely identified in one tabloid as a young Chipman — standing in the smoldering debris of the Branch Davidian compound in 1993, which he said prompted online threats, the Times said.
“Larry Keane put up a photo of me that he knew was false, trying to get me killed,” said Chipman, who assisted in the investigation at Waco, Texas, long after a law enforcement siege resulted in the deaths of 82 civilians and four federal agents.
Keane told the Times that Chipman’s accusation was “categorically false,” adding that “the moment we found out that it was in fact not him, we pulled it from our website. If I had known it wasn’t him, we would never have used the photograph.”
An agent at the bureau for 25 years before becoming one of the country’s most prominent gun-control activists, the 55-year-old Chipman praised the White House for the “gangster move” of nominating someone like him in the first place.
White House officials told the Times they are considering several possible nominees.
“We know this work is going to be difficult — especially with Republicans on Capitol Hill moving in lock-step with the gun industry — but the president is absolutely committed to pushing both legislation and personnel to combat gun violence,” Biden spokesman Michael Gwin told the Times.
Chipman, who turned down a recent offer to work in the Justice Department, told the newspaper he was speaking out in hopes of encouraging Biden’s team to focus on reforming the long-neglected agency.
He has returned to his position as an adviser to Giffords, the organization founded by former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., a survivor of gun violence.