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Biden chooses Arizona prosecutor as interim director of ATF

Steve Dettelbach, nominee for director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), speaks in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington on April 11 as President Biden looks on.
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President Biden has tapped Gary M. Restaino, the top U.S. prosecutor in Arizona, to serve as interim director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives until the Senate votes on the president’s nominee, Steve Dettelbach.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Wednesday that Biden had taken the step under the Vacancies Reform Act, which allows the president to temporarily fill a post that normally requires Senate confirmation, but she did not say whom the president had selected.

An official with knowledge of the situation said Restaino would replace Marvin Richardson, the agency’s current acting director, who is returning to his post as deputy director and will advise Restaino. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity ahead of a formal announcement.

The Reload was the first to report the move.

Biden had to withdraw his first nominee for ATF director — gun-control advocate David Chipman — due to opposition from Republicans and some Senate Democrats. Earlier this month, Biden announced that he was nominating Dettelbach, a former U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Ohio and a candidate for state attorney general in 2018.

The ATF has not had a Senate-confirmed director since 2015. Dettelbach faces a tough confirmation fight even though he was unanimously confirmed by the Senate in 2009 as a U.S. attorney, as some gun-rights groups are gearing up to oppose his nomination.

“We, of course, are strongly advocating for and pushing for this eminently qualified nominee to be confirmed and having an ATF-confirmed director for the first time in many years, which is something we would be eager to see happen,” Psaki said.