AP sources: Acting ATF director to be replaced by U.S. Attorney of Arizona

Gary Restaino

The Biden administration is removing the acting director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives from his position and replacing him with the U.S. attorney in Arizona, three people familiar with the matter told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

The shakeup comes a little more than a week after President Joe Biden announced he was nominating Steve Dettlebach, who served as a U.S. attorney in Ohio from 2009 to 2016, to run the agency.

In the interim, the administration will put Gary Restaino, the U.S. attorney in Arizona, in charge while Dettlebach’s nomination wades its way through the Senate, the people said.

The current acting director, Marvin Richardson, is being demoted to deputy director and will remain at ATF for now to advise Restaino, the people said. The people could not discuss the matter publicly and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Biden was making the move under a federal law known as the Vacancies Reform Act, which sets the terms for temporarily filling jobs requiring Senate confirmation.

"We of course, are strongly advocating for and pushing for his eminently qualified nominee to be confirmed," Psaki said.

Biden had to withdraw the nomination of his first ATF nominee, gun-control advocate David Chipman, after it stalled for months because of opposition from Republicans and some Democrats in the Senate. The nominee will need a simple majority to be confirmed.

Both Republican and Democratic administrations have failed to get nominees for the ATF position through the politically fraught process since the director’s position was made confirmable in 2006. Since then, only one nominee, former U.S. Attorney B. Todd Jones, has been confirmed. Jones made it through the Senate in 2013 but only after a six-month struggle. Jones was acting director when President Barack Obama nominated him in January 2013.

The move was first reported by The Reload, which reports on firearms policy and politics.

Associated Press writer Zeke Miller contributed to this report.

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