Dem: Issa is on "Fast & Furious" witch hunt

Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., on CBS' "Face the Nation," Oct. 16, 2011.

Rep. Elijah Cummings, the ranking Democrat on the Oversight & Government Reform Committee, said Sunday he thinks committee Chair Darrell Issa is conducting a witch hunt regarding the ATF "Fast and Furious" gunwalking scandal - and that Issa has issued "some very unfortunate statements about the chief law enforcement officer in our country," Attorney General Eric Holder.

Cummings, appearing on CBS' "Face the Nation" Sunday, said Holder absolutely "didn't know" what was going on with the "Fast and Furious" operation, or that the program - which was aimed at taking down a major Mexican drug cartel - resulted in letting thousands of guns "walk" into the hands of suspected traffickers. Two of those weapons turned up at the scene where Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was murdered last December.

"The man in charge of the ATF has told us, has told Mr. Issa, that he never communicated the controversial tactics with regard to 'Fast & Furious' to Attorney General Holder," Cummings told CBS' Bob Schieffer.

In fact, Cummings said, the head of the ATF himself wasn't even aware of the tactics being used.

"And still, Chairman Issa goes out there - and Republicans - accusing the highest law enforcement officer in the land of being an accessory to murder and things of that nature, and calling for his resignation," he added. "Just because ... you don't like some facts, you don't throw them out the door and say, 'I'm not going to look at those.' You look at the entire picture.

"That simply has not happened here," he said.

When asked if he agreed with the notion that "the chairman is on a witch hunt here," Cummings said, "I do."

"He's come up with these statements and then he goes in search of the facts," he added.

Cummings condemned the attack that led to Terry's death, and argued that the reason Holder and other top officials were unaware of the controversial tactics being used in "Fast and Furious" were that it was a very "bottom-up and not a top-down situation."

"We do know that [the origin of the plan] was the Phoenix office," Cummings said. "We know it was hatched there. That's [from] all the testimony we have heard so far.

Cummings reiterated his commitment to finding out specifically who was responsible for the program.

"I know that we will get to the very bottom," he said. "I've said over and over again we must pursue the facts wherever they may lead. I have... absolutely no doubt that we'll accomplish that."