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Despite 'Fast & Furious' Questions, Biden Praises New ATF Director


"We're finally putting the ATF back in business."

Acting Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Director B. Todd Jones talks to Attorney General Eric Holder in the South Court Auditorium at the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013, after President Barack Obama signed executive orders outlining about proposals to reduce gun violence. Obama will nominate Jones as the next ATF director. Credit: AP

Vice President Joe Biden said the administration "couldn't have picked a better man or woman for the job" as chief of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives than director B. Todd Jones.

Attorney General Eric Holder speaks with then-acting Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Director B. Todd Jones in January. (AP)

Jones has served as the acting ATF director since August 2011 when the previous acting director Kenneth Melson resigned at the height of the scandal over Operation Fast and Furious. He was confirmed by the Senate despite questions about whether he was intimidating agency whistleblowers and taking other questionable actions regarding the investigation into the botched Justice Department sting program that allowed hundreds of guns to flow to Mexican drug trafficking organizations. The program was halted in December 2010 after two guns from the program were found at the murder scene of U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry.

Delivering remarks during Jones' ceremonial swearing-in for Jones at the White House, Biden said the ATF needs to move beyond a string of acting directors to a permanent director to properly enforce the nation's gun laws.

"We're finally putting the ATF back in business," Biden said. "They've been in my view over the last period of time been marginalized, or attempted to be marginalized by the process, but no longer."

In a video message to employees, Jones talked about “choices and consequences.” This prompted some ATF agents to contact Congress about what they perceived as a veiled threat.

“Choices and consequences means simply that if you make poor choices, that if you don't abide by the rules, that if you don't respect the chain of command, if you don't find the appropriate way to raise your concerns to your leadership, there will be consequences, because we cannot tolerate—we cannot tolerate—an undisciplined organization," Jones said in the video released by Congress last July.

This came after reported retaliation from the bureau against Fast and Furious whistleblowers, who were exonerated by the Justice Department's Office of Inspector General.

Additionally, during Jones' tenure as acting director, an ATF Field Director William McMahon – while on paid administrative leave as a disciplinary action – was allowed to accept a separate job with J.P. Morgan.

In a January letter, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said Jones has done little to protect whistleblowers or hold others in the agency accountable for Fast and Furious.

Obama nominated Jones in January. He was confirmed by the Senate in May as part of a Senate deal to approve several Obama nominations and prevent the Senate Democratic majority from changing the rules of the Senate to strictly limit the filibuster rights of the Republican minority.

Jones was previously a U.S. Attorney for the District of Minnesota.



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