It is, sadly, a combination of grandstanding and defensive politics.
Cummings is a gun control advocate, and has been for quite some time — a position no doubt hardened by the murder of his nephew in April. But Cummings is also the ranking member of the Democratic delegation to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and was a member in the previous Congress where calls to clean up the organization by other whistleblowers had been ignored.
The primary reason Cummings is calling this forum was clearly indicated in his actions earlier this year, when he refused to sign a letter to President Obama asking the White House to direct the Department of Justice to cooperate with the Gunwalker investigation. At the time the Oversight Committee had authored the letter asking the president to compel DOJ officials to provide documents relating to the scandal to the committee. Cummings refused to sign the letter asking for the evidence, which all other Democrats on the committee did.
Cummings’ aide defended his actions by claiming:
The Justice Department (DOJ) had recently been cooperating very well with Issa’s subpoena for documents relating to the gun-tracking operation.
“It’s not consistent with what we’ve been experiencing with DOJ,” the aide said. “As of late they’ve been cooperating and showing us documents and pulling together documents in response to the subpoena, so I can’t imagine that given what we know about the investigation that we would have signed a letter saying that DOJ was not cooperating.”
The assertion by Cummings’ aide that the DOJ ever cooperated with the Oversight Committee is a blatant falsehood. It is a statement of a party loyalist attempting to shield his president and by extension, the Democratic Party, as much as possible from expected Gunwalker fallout.
The reams of heavily redacted “black paper” submitted by the Justice Department to the Oversight Committee stood in stark contrast to the congressman’s claims of cooperation. In addition to sending useless blacked-out pages, the Department of Justice supplied just one witness to the Oversight Committee hearings — an official from a separate branch of the Justice Department from the Criminal Division that was the conduit to the ATF on Gunwalker. It was a bit of brinksmanship that allowed the DOJ to make the disgraceful if accurate claim that they did send “someone” to the Oversight hearings, even though that “someone” had the explicit job of saying “I don’t know” repeatedly.
Instead of seeking answers from those Obama administration officials who are culpable for a rogue government program that has left cops, soldiers, and civilians dead, the congressman from Baltimore will use his position in order to provide airtime to those who would place blame at the feet of American citizens.
There may be a more disreputable role for a congressman to play during such a scandal, but I’m finding it hard to think of one.