“We hope the Senate will quickly confirm Steve Dettelbach as head of the ATF – especially given his track record of prosecuting hate crimes – so that Dettelbach can help the Bureau redouble its efforts in the fight against domestic terrorism and gun crime,” White House spokesman Mike Gwin said. said Monday.
The ATF hasn’t had a permanent director since 2015. And Biden’s first choice for the job, David Chipman, was removed in September amid opposition from moderate Democrats. Hoping to secure the 50 votes needed for Dettelbach, gun control group Everytown for Gun Safety began circulating a memo to Senate offices on Monday that focuses specifically on his history of fighting the violent extremism both from his tenure as U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio and as Chairman of the Attorney General’s Civil Rights Advisory Subcommittee.
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Meanwhile, tells POLITICO he expects the Senate Judiciary Committee to hold its first hearing on Dettelbach’s nomination before the Senate goes on recess. at the end of next week.
The Buffalo shooting was just one of several over the past weekend. They came amid a flurry of Biden activity honoring the sacrifices of law enforcement and touting the administration’s efforts to increase funding to tackle rising violent crime. While harsh rebukes to Dettelbach may yet materialize, the appointment has so far been marked by a noticeable, if surprising, lack of coordinated opposition. The National Shooting Sports Foundation, the firearms industry trade association that played a major role in torpedoing Chipman’s nomination, has so far not engaged as aggressively on Chipman’s nomination. Dettelbach. But the group indicated that it was preparing to weigh in around its first audience.
Dettelbach has crisscrossed the country, often making long trips from his home base of Cleveland, to meet with law enforcement and other interest groups, racking up a slew of endorsements that officials deploy to neutralize any attack on his file. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), one of his home state’s senators, said the attacks in Buffalo and California were clear: “law enforcement officials understand the importance of confirming someone with a proven track record in countering domestic extremism to lead the ATF.”
Among Dettelbach’s endorsers are the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, which represents many rank-and-file ATF officers; the principal sheriffs of the county of America; seven members of the team that convicted Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing case; and the International Association of Chiefs of Police, where he was spotted attending a police week reception last week in Washington.
“I can’t remember the last time I saw a candidate making the rounds of receptions – if ever,” said the person who saw him.
If Dettelbach is able to secure 50 votes in the Senate, that would represent a significant win for Biden. The president has been stalled in his efforts to get Congress to expand background checks, renew the ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines and approve the billions in new funding he has proposed to fight. against violent crime. And some of the most aggressive gun control advocates expressed dismay on Monday that the White House — and Democratic Senate leaders — did not push hard for a review of new laws in the wake of the Buffalo shooting. .
“On issues they deem important – like abortion – they hold a vote to show voters that they are keeping the promises they have made. On this one [background checks and stronger gun laws], they didn’t,” said Igor Volsky, executive director of the advocacy group Guns Down America. “You have a key point that highlights the need for reform and Biden and [Senate Majority leader Chuck] Schumer did not present a vision to prevent this from happening again.
In the Everytown memo, the gun control group exposed Dettelbach’s own history of domestic extremism, including overseeing the pursuit of a man who burned down the First Azusa Apostolic Faith Church of God in Conneaut, Ohio – the only predominantly black church region.
In another case highlighted in the memo, Dettelbach helped lead the prosecution of a Toledo man with a prior homicide conviction who was described as “a one-man army of racial and religious hatred. “. Suspected neo-Nazi Richard Schmidt illegally possessed 18 firearms, body armor and more than 40,000 cartridges – and he was suspected of targeting Jewish and black community leaders in Detroit, according to the organization.
“He was always someone who listened to officers and pursued cases when necessary. If there was a case that he didn’t think was worth pursuing, he would say so too, which I respected,” Bob Browning, a former ATF special agent in charge in Ohio who worked on business with Biden’s ATF nominee, says in an interview.
“He also knows the Department of Justice very well – he is intimately familiar with interacting with members of the Senate and he can take the agency where it needs to go.”
Laura Barrón-López and Marianne LeVine contributed to this report.