WASHINGTON — In an extended rebuttal to President Trump’s tweets about Baltimore, which were widely condemned as both racist and inaccurate, Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., invited the president to tour the city.
“I want President Trump to come to my district,” Cummings said during a luncheon at the National Press Club. “Oh God, I want him to come.”
Asked if he had made a formal invitation, Cummings said that he had not.
“I can’t get to him,” said the 68-year-old congressman, who has represented Baltimore and some of its suburbs since 1996. “I want him to come,” Cummings continued, “and look at my entire city. I’ll ride with him for hours.” Cummings, who has investigated Trump aggressively as the chairman of the House Oversight Committee, suggested that the two men could have a productive dialogue about inequality.
“There are many things I’ll talk to him about when he comes,” Cummings said, adding that Baltimore is a “beautiful city.” The White House did not respond to a request for comment about a potential Baltimore tour.
The luncheon had been scheduled well before Cummings became the latest target of Trump’s tweets and, shortly after that, of the entire conservative media ecosystem. Cummings rarely mentioned Trump by name during his hourlong remarks, but there was hardly any need to do so. At one point, he urged the audience to read a recent op-ed by Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson, who worked as a speechwriter for George W. Bush. “Ignoring Trump’s racism betrays our country’s victims,” that column is titled.
“Make sure you read that article,” Cummings urged. “Everybody, make sure you read it. Every preacher, you need to preach from it.”
Cummings also revealed that he “rarely” goes a week without receiving a death threat. “Those in the highest levels of the government must stop invoking fear, using racist language and encouraging reprehensible behavior,” he said, without naming Trump.
The congressman also addressed the mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, which left dozens dead. “We feel your pain. We really do. We feel it,” Cummings said of the shootings’ survivors and the families of the slain. “They’re in pain, and we’re in pain.”
Cummings said that Congress should return from its August recess, as some have urged, to pass gun control measures like “red flag” laws, which some Republicans have come to support. And he had a message for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has steadfastly blocked any such legislation from advancing through the upper chamber: “Move away from the door.”
At the same time, Cummings defended his work on the House Oversight Committee, which supporters of the president have said is motivated by animus toward Trump. Cummings argued that his efforts would prove beneficial to all Americans, pointing to hearings about drug prices.
But he also did stand by efforts targeted more specifically at the administration, like the hearings on attempts by the Department of Commerce to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census. Had those attempts succeeded, they would have likely advantaged Republicans in future elections. (Trump recently announced his administration would seek citizenship data from other agencies.)
“It’s time for America to wake up and pay close attention to what this administration is trying to do,” said Cummings.
The congressman, who has also held hearings on the Trump administration’s border policy, said that over the past weekend his 10-year-old niece had asked him a question: “Uncle Elijah, are they going to put us in cages?”
After a moment of silence, he went on. “‘Are they gonna put us in cages?’” Cummings said, his indignation rising. “That’s coming from a 10-year-old. We’re better than that.”
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