Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings Responds To Trump's Criticism Of Baltimore

Aug 7, 2019
Originally published on August 7, 2019 6:30 pm
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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

The president set off a political firestorm a week and a half ago, singling out Congressman Elijah Cummings and the city of Baltimore. Baltimore, the president tweeted is, quote, "a very dangerous and filthy place." Today, Cummings invited the president for a ride-along in his city.

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ELIJAH CUMMINGS: God, I want him to come so bad.

CORNISH: NPR's Tim Mak has more from the congressman's remarks to the National Press Club this afternoon.

TIM MAK, BYLINE: As the chair of the House oversight committee, Cummings has been a frequent thorn in the Trump administration's side. His comments about the conditions for migrants at the border drew the ire of the president, who lashed out and said Cummings' district is the, quote, "worst in the USA."

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I think that Representative Cummings should take his oversight committee and start doing oversight on Baltimore. He'd find out some real things.

MAK: The 13-term congressman said the president should come by and see what Baltimore is really like.

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CUMMINGS: There are thousands of people in Baltimore who are working hard every day. They're doing everything in their power to allow our children to reach their destinies.

MAK: The chairman's invite comes as a number of Democrats, such as presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke, said they didn't want the president to visit their hometowns after the mass shootings that occurred over the weekend. Cummings has an opposite view.

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CUMMINGS: I want him to come and look at my entire city. I'll ride with him for hours if he has to. And then I want him to see all the wonderful things that are happening.

MAK: Cummings also returned to the topic that sparked the president's angry tweets - conditions at the border. He passionately relayed a conversation he had with his niece, who expressed fear over the rhetoric employed by the president.

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CUMMINGS: Are they not going to put us in cages? That's coming from a 10-year-old. We're better than that.

MAK: Expanding on his views about the president's rhetoric, he said it has to end.

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CUMMINGS: We must also stop the hateful, incendiary comments. We've got to do it. Those in highest levels of government must stop invoking fear, using racist language and encouraging reprehensible behavior.

MAK: Cummings also sounded skeptical about the president saying he supports background check legislation for firearms purchases. The congressman said actions not words are the true tests, and Congress should immediately return from its summer recess to vote on gun legislation.

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CUMMINGS: People are dying. You hear what I say? People are afraid. We have a responsibility to do what is ever necessary to save lives. I'm prepared to go.

MAK: Cummings' speech is emblematic of his longtime strategy, one that is critical of the president but also measured. He has publicly criticized Trump and is actively investigating the administration. But the chairman has kept the door open to working with the White House. And despite Trump's personal attacks, he's still resisting progressive calls for impeachment.

Tim Mak, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.