Rifts in Congressional Black Caucus over Fast and Furious, Holder

A Congressional Black Caucus staffer told The Daily Caller on Monday that the “general feeling” of most caucus members is that the congressional investigation into Operation Fast and Furious is warranted. But, the staffer added, most members think the investigation has turned into a “witch hunt.”

The CBC hasn’t taken an official stance on Fast and Furious or whether Attorney General Eric Holder is responsible for the scandal-plagued operation. There have been major rifts among its members over the scandal. For instance, Georgia Democratic Rep. Hank Johnson, a member of the House Judiciary Committee made infamous by wondering aloud if Guam would capsize from overpopulation, told TheDC last week that he thinks the tea party and the National Rifle Association “manufactured” the scandal surrounding the program that led to the deaths of at least 300 Mexican citizens and Border Patrol agent Brian Terry.

“I think this is another manufactured controversy by the second amendment, NRA Republican tea party movement,” Johnson said outside a Judiciary Committee hearing where Attorney General Eric Holder was testifying on the scandal last Thursday.

But, the House oversight committee’s ranking Democratic member, Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings, disagreed with Johnson’s claims that the tea party movement and the NRA “manufactured” the controversy. During an interview on Monday, Cummings, also a CBC member, told TheDC that he thinks Fast and Furious really is a scandal and wasn’t “manufactured” by the tea party movement and the NRA.

“No, no, I don’t think so,” Cummings said. “I think what happened is there were some agents on the lower level who — and by the way it did not just start during the Obama administration. We know of three instances of Fast and Furious type operations during the Bush administration.”

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“I think you had some people who were a little bit overzealous on the lower level and did not communicate properly to the upper levels and botched an operation and it should have never happened,” Cummings added.

Cummings previously told CBS News that he thinks Terry’s family deserves answers and accountability, but he does agree with the unofficial CBC stance that the investigation into Fast and Furious has turned into a “witch hunt.”

Fast and Furious was a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives program overseen by the Justice Department. The operation started under Holder’s leadership at the Justice Department, but he claims he was unaware of what was going on during until after press reports of the scandal emerged in early 2011.

The operation facilitated the sale of thousands of weapons to Mexican drug cartels via straw purchasers. Straw purchasers are people who legally purchase guns in the United States with the known intention of illegally trafficking them somewhere else. In Fast and Furious, the straw purchasers were known to be trafficking the weapons into Mexico, effectively arming Mexican drug cartels.

Cummings spokeswoman Ashley Etienne doubled down on the top oversight committee Democrat’s support for investigating the DOJ’s actions throughout Fast and Furious.

In an email to TheDC on Monday, Etienne said that Cummings thinks the investigation into Fast and Furious is well deserved and that he doesn’t think it’s a scandal the tea party and the NRA contrived. “Cummings has always said that the allegations regarding Fast and Furious are serious and deserve a thorough, even-handed, and full investigation,” Etienne said.