Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives are setting their sights on a White House lawyer and former general counsel at the American Suppressor Association for his work overturning a ban on foreign sales of suppressors to private individuals.
The House Oversight and Reform Committee’s Subcommittee on National Security announced this week an investigation into then-Deputy Assistant to the President and Counselor to the White House Chief of Staff Michael B. Williams. Prior to his role in the Trump administration, Williams worked as general counsel for the ASA alongside his brother and president of the ASA, Knox Williams.
On July 10, 2020, the Trump administration overturned a ban on American companies selling suppressors to private foreign individuals. House Dems allege that Williams acted out of personal and financial interest to push the White House to overturn the ban since suppressor companies stand to make millions from the decision.
“Michael Williams’ involvement in U.S. gun policy, and specifically his reported role in overturning the State Department’s 2002 restrictions on the foreign export of firearm suppressors, raises significant concerns about whether the safety of our men and women in uniform is being exchanged for personal or commercial profit,” Rep. Stephen Lynch, D-Mass. and chairman of the Subcommittee on National Security, wrote in a letter to the director of the Office of Management and Budget Tuesday.
The investigation stems from a July 13 New York Times article that attempted to peg Williams with illicit or illegal behavior.
But the hit piece was unsuccessful. The Times was unable to find any evidence that Williams violated any lobbying or ethics rules, including the Trump administration rule that prohibits government officials from working on matters affecting their former employers within two years of leaving. Williams left ASA in 2017 and did not work on suppressor-related issues until 2019.
American suppressor companies were already able to sell their products to foreign governments, but House Dems argue that selling suppressors to private foreign individuals will put American service members in danger.
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But it’s unclear whether this situation would actually arise, and a State Department spokeswoman told the New York Times that the ban was ineffective: suppressors are more readily available in foreign countries now than when the ban was imposed, she said.
She also told the Times that suppressor companies shouldn’t be boxed out of markets that other manufacturers can take advantage of.
“U.S. companies should have the same opportunity to compete in the international marketplace as other manufacturers around the world,” she said.