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World & Nation

Elijah Cummings urges Trump to ‘come to Baltimore’

Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland and President Trump
Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland and President Trump
(Associated Press)

Rep. Elijah E. Cummings took the high road Saturday, inviting President Trump and other Americans to visit Baltimore but declining to respond in kind to the barrage of presidential tweets and comments disparaging him and the majority-black city he has long represented.

“We are a great community,” Cummings, the chairman of the powerful House Oversight Committee, said in his first public remarks about the controversy as he participated in the midday opening of a small neighborhood park near his home.

Community leaders and residents gathered to cut the ribbon on a pocket of greenery and flowers, built from what had been a vacant lot often used as a dumping ground for trash.

“Come to Baltimore. Do not just criticize us, but come to Baltimore and I promise you, you will be welcomed,” he said.

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Cummings said he doesn’t have time for those who criticize the city where he grew up but wants to hear from people willing to help make the community better. He noted the outpouring of support he has received, thousands of emails, and the presence at the event of leaders from the University of Maryland Medical Center, foundations and businesses. He wore a hat and polo shirt of Under Armour, the popular apparel maker headquartered in Baltimore.

President Trump, a New Yorker, is attacking American cities and their Democratic, often minority elected officials in an effort to animate a base of rural, mostly white supporters while depressing African-American turnout in 2020.

Asked by reporters afterward whether there would be a meeting with Trump, the congressman said he’d love to see him visit.

“The president is welcome to our district,” he said.

In a weeklong series of attacks, Trump called the Baltimore district a “rat and rodent infested mess” and complained about Cummings, whose committee is investigating the administration.

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The president widened his criticism of other cities he did not name but complained that are run by Democrats. His comments were widely seen as a race-centered attack on big cities with minority populations.

Cummings’ comments Saturday came at another pivotal juncture for the administration, as half of House Democrats now say they favor launching an impeachment inquiry against Trump. It’s a threshold that pushes renewed focus on the issue, even though House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) has declined to move ahead with proceedings unless there is a greater groundswell, including in public opinion.

Cummings, whose committee is one of the six House committees investigating the Trump administration, said Saturday he was not yet ready to support impeachment.

“There may well come a time when impeachment is appropriate,” he told reporters. But for now, he said, he agrees with Pelosi’s approach and said that his committee would continue its investigations. “I’m trying to be fair to him,” he said. “That’s why we need to do our research.”

Under sunny skies, with a light breeze, the neighborhood situated in a historic part of West Baltimore offered another view of a city that struggled long before Trump’s disparaging tweets, a once-thriving American seaport now beset by urban problems.

Leaders from the community spoke of the region’s history of segregation in housing and how that legacy impacted neighborhoods.

Cummings recounted some of the city’s famous residents, including the late Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall and Ta-Nehisi Coates, a noted black scholar who testified recently before Congress on reparations for slavery. The congressman also gave a nod to his own family’s history, his parents arriving from a Southern state, to build a better life for their children, and his ascent to law school and two decades in the halls of Congress.

To residents, especially young people, he said, “Let no one define you.”

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Residents said they were heartened by the attention being paid to Baltimore, and they too urged the White House to consider the way the president’s comments may land in a community.

Jackie Cornish, a founder of the Druid Heights community development corporation more than 40 years ago, said she hoped Trump and Cummings could put their collective power together and work for the good of the city. Though she thinks the president has “disrespected our congressman as well as disrespected our city,” she added, “We still respect our president. As long as he’s president, we’re trying to lift him up.”

Amos Gaskins, who lives across the street from the park and stepped out to greet Cummings, said the congressman has been through “a lot” and added, “He’s doing a great job, a beautiful job.”

“We’re not what you call a dirty city and a dirty people,” Gaskins said. “Donald Trump shouldn’t have said that. That’s uncalled for.”


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