President Donald Trump said Tuesday that he has “no strategy” when it comes to racist attacks on Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) and his home district, adding that Cummings, as chairman of the House Oversight Committee, should use his political power to investigate the city of Baltimore.
The House Oversight Committee is currently conducting multiple investigations into the Trump administration and has issued subpoenas for the president’s financial accounting documents, which he has so far rejected.
Trump’s most recent comments come in the wake of multiple attacks on Cummings, who has criticized the administration’s immigration policies and inhumane conditions inside migrant detention facilities at the southwest border. In retaliation for that criticism, Trump over the weekend slammed Cummings, calling his home district in Baltimore “a disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess,” and questioning why any human would want to live there. Cummings’ West Baltimore district is majority-black, and the president’s comments were widely panned as racist.
During a rare second press appearance Tuesday afternoon, Trump was asked if he understood that Cummings was not the mayor of Baltimore and did not oversee the city’s day to day issues. Ignoring the question, Trump pointed out that Cummings was one of the “highest ranking politicians” serving Baltimore and all the mayors who had been “thrown out” in recent years were friends of his, implying that Cummings himself was corrupt.
“Now, he’s in charge of an oversight committee,” Trump said. “All I’m saying is take your Oversight Committee and go to Baltimore. You’ll learn a lot.”
Trump later invoked the Oversight Committee again. “Baltimore is an example of what corrupt government leads to,” he said. “As you know, Cummings has been in charge. Now I will say this. I think that Rep. Cummings should take his Oversight Committee and start doing oversight on Baltimore. He’d find out some real things.”
He added separately, “What Elijah Cummings should do is take his Oversight Committee, bring them down to Baltimore, and invest all of the — and really study — the billions and billions of dollars that have been stolen.”
Trump first alluded to Cummings’ imagined oversight power in Baltimore in a tweet Monday night. Subtly accusing Cummings himself of stealing money from the city, Trump suggested the Oversight Committee should investigate how money has been spent there.
“Baltimore’s numbers are the worst in the United States on Crime and the Economy,” he wrote. “Billions of dollars have been pumped in over the years, but to no avail. The money was stolen or wasted. Ask Elijah Cummings where it went. He should investigate himself with his Oversight Committee!”
Baltimore’s numbers are the worst in the United States on Crime and the Economy. Billions of dollars have been pumped in over the years, but to no avail. The money was stolen or wasted. Ask Elijah Cummings where it went. He should investigate himself with his Oversight Committee!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 30, 2019
There’s no merit to Trump’s claim that Cummings is “in charge” of anything concerning Baltimore. Cummings has never been mayor and his district only encompasses part of the city, with other parts of Baltimore represented by other members of Congress. Out of his more than two decades in Congress, Cummings has only been in the majority about five of those years, limiting his ability to effect change at the federal level that might benefit his home city.
Trump also seemed to misunderstand the purpose of the Oversight Committee, which has no jurisdiction over the municipal affairs of Baltimore. Even if it did, Trump would still be wrong to try to blame Cummings because he’s only been chair of the committee for seven months.
In that time, the Committee has been very busy doing what it’s actually tasked to do, which includes investigating officers of the United States, government accounting, and reorganizations of the executive branch. As such, the committee has been investigating Trump’s finances and the way he may be illegally profiting off his presidency, his administration’s mishandling of security clearances, and his children’s use of personal email to discuss official White House business.
As Trump has tried to fight off subpoenas from Cummings as well as other House committee chairs, his administration has argued that the House does not have the authority to investigate such concerns. Incidentally, White House court briefs have so far not suggested that it’s because the House should be investigating the city of Baltimore’s finances instead.