Rep. Elijah E. Cummings said Sunday that he agreed that the Republican-led investigation into the ATF operation known as Fast and Furious has become a witch hunt and argued that the controversial nature of the program had not been communicated to top Obama administration officials.
"All we want is a responsible and balanced investigation," the Baltimore lawmaker and top ranking Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee said on CBS's Face the Nation on Sunday. "Just because if you don't like some facts you don't throw them out the door and say I'm not going to look at those."
The Fast and Furious program, which began in 2009, allowed illegal "straw purchases" of firearms under the expectation that they would be tracked to higher ups in Mexican gangs. But the ATF lost track of many of the weapons, including some left at crime scenes. Two of the weapons were found at the scene of the murder of U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry.
The burgeoning scandal has been the highest profile investigation led so far by Rep. Darrell Issa, the California Republican who chairs the House oversight panel. Earlier this month the panel subpoenaed documents from Attorney General Eric Holder and Issa has requested that Holder return to Congress to explain what he knew about the operation and when he had been briefed on it.
Several Obama administration officials, including acting ATF director Kenneth Melson, have been reassigned since the investigation began.
Cummings and Issa, who have had a contentious relationship on the committee, appeared on CBS separately Sunday. In his segment, which came first, Issa argued that the Justice Department is withholding critical information.
"There's clearly details that have been redacted that we should have," said Issa, holding up a redacted document left entirely black by redaction, which he likened to a "black cow at midnight eating a licorice."
"We have tried to be narrow," Issa said. "We haven't had the cooperation you would expect from the Justice Department when they know they've made a horrible mistake."