Law enforcement, bipartisan prosecutors back Biden ATF pick

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EXCLUSIVE: President Biden’s nominee to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Steve Dettelbach, has already received a number of endorsements from top law enforcement officials and federal prosecutors—appointed under both Republican and Democrat administrations.

The White House announced Monday that the president intends to nominate Dettelbach as director of ATF.

A White House official described him as a “highly qualified candidate,” and a “highly respected former U.S. attorney and career prosecutor” with a “proven track record.”

Fox News has learned that a number of Republican-appointed federal prosecutors have offered their endorsements for Dettelbach as of Monday morning—including former Trump deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein.

“Steve Dettelbach has spent many years fighting violent crime and illegal guns, and he will continue that important work as Director of ATF,” Rosenstein said.

Kenneth Wainstein, the former assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s National Security Division under the Bush administration; a former U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia; and a former counterterrorism advisor to former President George W. Bush also endorsed Dettelbach.

“Steve has devoted his career to public service, establishing himself as a leader with a reputation for building and leading strong law enforcement partnerships, for acting with absolute professionalism and without regard to politics or partisanship, and for always giving his all to fight crime and protect victims,” Wainstein said. “He will be a great ATF Director.”

Another Bush appointed U.S. Attorney, for the Northern District of Ohio, Greg White, also offered his endorsement, calling Dettelbach someone who “respects the rule of law and can work with others in law enforcement to uphold it.”

“I can also say without hesitation that Steve enjoys an outstanding reputation,” he said. “He is widely regarded as being honest, evenhanded, bright, energetic, compassionate and knowledgeable in the law.”

As for federal prosecutors appointed by former President Trump, David DeVillers, the former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, also endorsed Dettelbach, saying agents and U.S. attorneys across the country “have universally trusted his judgment and skill.”

“I have never known, or heard, of politics to ever come into play in his decisions as a prosecutor,” DeVillers said. “In my career I have worked with ATF more than any other agency and I have a profound appreciation for its unique role in law enforcement.  I am confident in saying that Steve would be an excellent choice to head up ATF”.

And David Sierleja, who served under the Trump administration as an acting U.S. attorney, and a former assistant U.S. attorney, said Dettelbach was a “great pick” for ATF, adding that “bringing his leadership skills to the Bureau will move the agency forward in a positive and decisive fashion.”

Dettelbach also was endorsed by a number of law enforcement officials— including former FBI special agents in charge, and local and state law enforcement leaders.

The White House told Fox News that the president made the decision to nominate Dettelbach because he is a “highly respected former U.S. Attorney and career prosecutor who spent over two decades as a prosecutor at the U.S. Department of Justice.”

The White House said ATF is the “top federal law enforcement agency responsible for enforcing our commonsense gun laws.”

“But it doesn’t just combat gun crime,” a White House official told Fox News. “It helps combat violent crime such as domestic extremism, religious violence, and arson.”

“The American people deserve to have a Senate-confirmed leader in charge of ATF, so it is time for Congress to confirm the President’s new nominee – Steve Dettelbach — to serve as Director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms,” the official said.

The official pointed to Dettelbach’s record, saying he has “received bipartisan praise and support from law enforcement for his work.”

The official also pointed to 2009—when Dettelbach was confirmed “unanimously” for his position as a U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Ohio.

The White House said he has “a proven track record of working with federal, state, and local law enforcement to fight violent crime and combat domestic violent extremism and religious violence – including through partnerships with the ATF to prosecute complex cases and take down violent criminal gangs.”

Throughout his career, Dettelbach also worked closely with local law enforcement and community leaders to “develop and implement data-driven and neighborhood-based efforts to prevent and fight violent crime,” a White House official said.

The White House official told Fox News that Dettelbach’s “leadership and his record of innovation in promoting public safety make him ready from day one to aggressively and creatively address those pressing issues at the ATF.”

The president’s nomination of Dettelbach comes as he and his administration work to ensure that ATF “has the leadership it needs to enforce our commonsense gun laws and fight gun crime.” 

Biden, last year, appointed David Chipman as his nominee for director of ATF in 2021. Chipman faced fierce backlash from pro-gun rights groups almost immediately following his nomination earlier this year. 

The 25-year ATF veteran has made a name for himself as a strong advocate for increased regulations of guns and has returned to his role as an advisor for Giffords, a gun control advocacy group named after former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona who was shot while in office.

Biden pulled Chipman’s nomination Sept. 9 after his confirmation failed to get through the Senate.

Meanwhile, president, on Monday, is also set to announce that the U.S. Department of Justice has issued a final rule to rein in the proliferation of “ghost guns” – unserialized, privately-made firearms that law enforcement are increasingly recovering at crime scenes in cities across the country.

This final rule bans the business of manufacturing the most accessible ghost guns, such as unserialized “buy build shoot” kits that individuals can buy online or at a store without a background check and can readily assemble into a working firearm in as little as 30 minutes with equipment they have at home. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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