Rep. Elijah Cummings defended himself on Twitter on Saturday: “It is my moral duty to fight for my constituents.” | J. Scott Applewhite/AP Photo
The president’s scathing and scolding words spark condemnation, as well as increased debate over his use of divisive rhetoric.
By DAVID COHEN
07/28/2019 07:59 AM EDT
Updated 07/28/2019 11:53 AM EDT
Having spent Saturday lashing out against Rep. Elijah Cummings and other Democratic opponents, President Donald Trump began Sunday by attacking the Maryland Democrat again.
The weekend fusillade gave more ammunition to those critical of the way the president condemns African-American political foes, and led to new debate over his use of discordant rhetoric for political gain, whatever the consequences.Story Continued Below
The president opened Sunday by tweeting: “Someone please explain to Nancy Pelosi, who was recently called racist by those in her own party, that there is nothing wrong with bringing out the very obvious fact that Congressman Elijah Cummings has done a very poor job for his district and the City of Baltimore.“
He added: “The Democrats always play the Race Card, when in fact they have done so little for our Nation’s great African American people. … Elijah Cummings has failed badly!“
Trump had attacked Cummings on Saturday with a series of tweets. “Cummings has done nothing but milk Baltimore dry, but the public is getting wise to the bad job that he is doing,” he said in one of them. In another, the president claimed: “His district is considered the Worst in the USA.” He also called Baltimore “rat and rodent infested.”
The tweets about Cummings followed a pattern of scathing Trump attacks on minority members of Congress — from Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and her allies in recent weeks to Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) in the early days of his presidency. Trump’s weekend tweets particularly echoed his attacks on Lewis in January 2017: “Congressman John Lewis should spend more time on fixing and helping his district, which is in horrible shape and falling apart.”
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“Our president has a hate agenda,” responded Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), an ally of Omar’s and another of his recent targets, on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “He doesn’t have a policy agenda.“
Speaking on “Fox News Sunday,” acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney said the president was merely defending himself against “lies” Cummings had made about the situation at the Mexican border, as well as calling attention to improper efforts by House Democrats to investigate him.
He also told host Chris Wallace that the president’s tweets are a necessary way of keeping the record straight, not as Wallace suggested “the worst kind of racial stereotyping.”
“It has absolutely zero to do with race,” Mulvaney said.
Mulvaney took the same tact on the tweets with host Margaret Brennan on CBS‘ “Face the Nation”: “Does the president speak hyperbolically? Absolutely. Have we seen this type of reaction for him before? Yes, and you will again because he pushes back. He fights back when he feels like he’s attacked and what — what Mr. Cummings said this week was wrong.“
Sen. Rick Scott said Trump’s attacks on Cummings were warranted because of his criticism of Border Patrol agents. “Congressman Cummings has sat there and attacked our Border Patrol agents, all right? This reminds me of what happened to soldiers coming back from Vietnam,” the Florida Republican said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
Other rallied to the defense of Cummings, Baltimore and Maryland’s 7th Congressional District.
Praising his former House colleague on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders said: “It’s unbelievable that we have a President of the United States who attacks American cities, who attacks Americans.“
Former Rep. Mia Love, also speaking on CNN, said the president needs to stop using such divisive rhetoric. “Anything less than an apology is unacceptable to me,” said the Utah Republican.
She added: “The president of the United States is supposed to represent all Americans.” (Love, who is African-American, was mocked by Trump when she lost reelection in November 2018: “Mia Love gave me no love. And she lost. Too bad. Sorry about that, Mia.”)
Speaking on ABC’s “This Week,” Texas Republican Rep. Will Hurd said: “I wouldn’t be tweeting this way.”
Hurd added: “Chairman Cummings is someone I worked with closely on all kinds of legislation. He is someone that cares passionately about his community and has been working tirelessly his entire adult life on behalf of his country and his community.“ Hurd was one of the few elected Republicans to condemn Trump’s recent “go back” attacks on Omar, Tlaib, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.).
Calling him “disgusting and racist,” Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) said Trump was attempting to draw attention from other matters.
“He’s just trying to change the subject, which is what he usually does,” said Nadler, a frequent Trump critic.
Cummings, who was first elected in 1996, is the chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform. His majority-black district is based in the city of Baltimore — a city with both wealthy areas and pockets of poverty — but also includes suburban and rural areas, including much of Howard County.
Critics of Trump noted that his tweets about Cummings’ district did not give a full and accurate picture of life there. His district, for instance, has a higher per capita income and higher median home values than the national average.
“Mr. President, I go home to my district daily. Each morning, I wake up, and I go and fight for my neighbors. It is my constitutional duty to conduct oversight of the Executive Branch. But, it is my moral duty to fight for my constituents,” Cummings defended himself Saturday via Twitter.
Mr. President, I go home to my district daily. Each morning, I wake up, and I go and fight for my neighbors.It is my constitutional duty to conduct oversight of the Executive Branch. But, it is my moral duty to fight for my constituents.— Elijah E. Cummings (@RepCummings) July 27, 2019
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also defended him Saturday, tweeting that he was “a champion in the Congress and the country for civil rights and economic justice, a beloved leader in Baltimore, and deeply valued colleague.“ The California Democrat added: “We all reject racist attacks against him and support his steadfast leadership.“
Trump followed his attacks Sunday on Cummings with some vitriol aimed at Pelosi:
“Speaking of failing badly, has anyone seen what is happening to Nancy Pelosi’s district in San Francisco,” he tweeted Sunday. “It is not even recognizeable lately. Something must be done before it is too late. The Dems should stop wasting time on the Witch Hunt Hoax and start focusing on our Country!“
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