Thursday 22 August 2019

Donald Trump deemed 'racist' after calling critic's district a 'disgusting, rat-infested mess'

US President Donald Trump. Photo: Leah Millis/Reuters
US President Donald Trump. Photo: Leah Millis/Reuters
Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform Committee Elijah Cummings. Photo: Reuters

Zeke Miller

US President Donald Trump has attacked a majority-black district represented by a congressional nemesis as a "disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess", broadening a campaign against prominent critics of his administration that has exacerbated racial tensions.

Mr Trump lashed out in tweets against Representative Elijah Cummings, the powerful House Oversight Committee chairman, claiming his Baltimore-area district is "considered the worst run and most dangerous anywhere in the United States".

It was the president's latest assault on a prominent politician, and the people he represents, two weeks after he sparked nationwide controversy with tweets directed at four congresswomen.

His comments against Mr Cummings, who leads multiple investigations of the president's governmental dealings, drew swift condemnation from Democrats, including would-be presidential rivals.

Statements from a spokesman for the state's Republican governor and from the lieutenant governor defended Mr Cummings's district and its people.

Mr Trump called Mr Cummings a "brutal bully" after his public tongue-lashing of top Homeland Security officials over conditions for migrants detained along the southern border.

"As proven last week during a Congressional tour, the Border is clean, efficient & well run, just very crowded," Mr Trump tweeted.

"Cumming District is a disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess."

Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform Committee Elijah Cummings. Photo: Reuters
Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform Committee Elijah Cummings. Photo: Reuters

Mr Cummings replied directly to Mr Trump on Twitter, saying, "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."

Mr Cummings has also drawn the president's ire for investigations touching on his family members serving in the White House.

On Thursday his committee voted along party lines to authorise subpoenas for personal emails and texts used for official business by top White House aides, including Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner.

After spending several hours on his private golf course in Virginia, Mr Trump repeated the attack on Mr Cummings, despite broad criticism from Democrats.

"Elijah Cummings spends all of his time trying to hurt innocent people through 'Oversight,'" Mr Trump tweeted. "He does NOTHING for his very poor, very dangerous and very badly run district!"

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi defended Mr Cummings on Saturday as "a champion in the Congress and the country for civil rights and economic justice, a beloved leader in Baltimore, and deeply valued colleague".

She added: "We all reject racist attacks against him and support his steadfast leadership."

Baltimore mayor Bernard C "Jack" Young fired back at Mr Trump after his attacks, saying he is a "disappointment to the people of Baltimore, our country, and to the world".

"It's completely unacceptable for the political leader of our country to denigrate a vibrant American City like Baltimore, and to viciously attack US Representative Elijah Cummings a patriot and a hero," Mr Young said in a statement.

A spokesman for Maryland governor Larry Hogan, a Republican, defended the area and its residents.

In an email, Michael Ricci wrote: "Baltimore City is truly the very heart of our state, and more attacks between politicians aren't going to get us anywhere."

Lieutenant Governor Boyd Rutherford, also a Republican, tweeted: "Mr. President, @realDonaldTrump, I have substantial policy differences with Congressman @RepCummings. However, I hope your criticism is not directed at the many good and hard working people who live in the district."

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