Donald Trump kicked off his weekend with a stinging attack on Elijah Cummings, the Democratic chair of the House oversight committee and a prominent critic of the president on immigration policy, the Mueller report and more.
With no discernible irony, Trump called Cummings “a brutal bully” for, he said, “shouting and screaming at the great men and women of Border Patrol about conditions at the southern border”.
“His Baltimore district is FAR WORSE and more dangerous,” Trump said, calling it without offering evidence “the Worst in the USA”.
Trump also said “Cumming [sic] district is a disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess” and said the representative should spend more time in his city to “help clean up this very dangerous and filthy place”.
In a familiar development, observers swifltly linked Trump’s tweet to a segment on Fox News magazine show Fox & Friends.
Characteristically, the president also advocated an investigation of a political foe.
“Why is so much money sent to the Elijah Cummings district when it is considered the worst run and most dangerous anywhere in the United States,” he said, still without offering evidence to back up his claim. “No human being would want to live there. Where is all this money going? How much is stolen? Investigate this corrupt mess immediately!”
On Friday, Trump again suggested his predecessor in the Oval Office, Barack Obama, should be investigated.
Cummings represents Maryland’s seventh congressional district, covering parts of Baltimore and neighbouring counties. It is majority African American and has been held by Democrats since 1953. According to the US Census Bureau the district, like many in the US, has problems with unemployment and poverty. It has problems with gun-related crime. The district also covers suburban areas.
Responding to the president, Cummings said that though it was his “constitutional duty to conduct oversight of the executive branch”, it was his “moral duty” to fight for his constituents.
He also drew attention to a hearing on Friday about “skyrocketing prices of prescription drugs and the financial hardships that families across the nation, and in Baltimore, are facing”. Trump should work with him on the problem, Cummings said.
In a statement, Baltimore’s mayor, Jack Young, defended Cummings as a “patriot and a hero” and called Trump “a disappointment to the people of Baltimore, our country, and to the world”.
The Fox & Friends segment Trump appeared to have watched showed Cummings questioning the US Customs and Border Protection commissioner and acting homeland security secretary, Kevin McAleenan, earlier this month. On Thursday, Cummings told reporters the Trump administration’s treatment of migrant children at the southern border was “government-sponsored child abuse”.
Cummings is part of a House leadership that has not rushed to impeach Trump, as more than 100 Democrats in the House now advocate. But after Wednesday’s testimony by former special counsel Robert Mueller, about his report on Russian election interference, links between Trump and Moscow and possible obstruction of justice, Cummings made a passionate statement.
“I’m begging the American people to pay attention to what is going on,” he said. “Because if you want to have a democracy intact for your children, and your children’s children, and generations yet unborn we’ve got to guard this moment … this is our watch.”
Trump’s vitriolic attack on a senior African American Democrat came two weeks after he told four Democratic congresswomen of colour they should “go back” to the countries they came from, triggering a storm fuelled by his racist invective. Only one of the congresswomen was not born in the US and all are American citizens.
Critics observed that Trump’s attacks on “the Squad” were meant to mobilise his base and force Democrats to defend progressives who advocate policies possibly unpopular in swing states in next year’s election.