Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney on Sunday defended President Donald Trump’s attacks on the city of Baltimore and Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., saying that some people will be offended by anything the president says.
One day earlier, Trump had tweeted that Cummings’s district is a “rodent-infested mess” where “no human being would want to live.”
“Do you understand that that is offensive to the Americans who do live there?” host Margaret Brennan asked on CBS News’s “Face the Nation.”
“I understand that everything that Donald Trump says is offensive to some people,” Mulvaney replied.
Brennan continued to press him, repeating Trump’s statement that “no people would want to live there.”
“This is being perceived as racist. Do you understand why?” she asked.
“I understand why, but that doesn’t mean that it’s racist,” Mulvaney responded. “The president is pushing back against what he sees as wrong. It’s how he’s done it in the past, and he’ll continue to do it in the future.”
Mulvaney added that Trump’s point was that congressional Democrats are “focusing on scandal in Washington, D.C.” instead of helping residents of their districts.
On “Fox News Sunday,” Mulvaney argued that it was “fair to have that conversation” about the conditions in Cummings’s district.
“Have you seen some of the pictures on the Internet, just this morning, of the conditions in Baltimore, Maryland? . . . The richest state in the nation has abject poverty like that – a state, by the way, dominated for generations by Democrats,” Mulvaney said.
Before entering the Trump administration in 2017, Mulvaney represented South Carolina’s 5th District in Congress. The district had a median income of $44,685 in 2018 – lower than the $56,350 median income of Maryland’s 7th District, which Cummings represents.
In a tweet after returning to the White House from his Virginia golf club late Sunday afternoon, Trump said there was “nothing racist” about “stating plainly what most people already know.”
Cummings, he added, “has done a terrible job for the people of his district, and of Baltimore itself. Dems always play the race card when they are unable to win with facts. Shame!”
He later tweeted that Cummings is “racist” and that “his radical ‘oversight’ is a joke!”
As chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, Cummings has initiated most of the investigations into the Trump administration’s operations and policies, including over reports of inhumane treatment at migrant detention centers.
Cummings responded to Trump’s initial attacks on Saturday, defending his dedication to his constituents.
“Mr. President, I go home to my district daily. Each morning, I wake up, and I go and fight for my neighbors,” he tweeted. “It is my constitutional duty to conduct oversight of the Executive Branch. But, it is my moral duty to fight for my constituents.”
The episode marks the second time in two weeks that Trump’s statements about a minority lawmaker have sparked outrage. Earlier this month, he tweeted that four minority congresswomen should “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.” Days later, after Trump criticized one of the women, Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., a crowd at a rally in North Carolina responded by chanting, “Send her back! Send her back!”
All four of the congresswomen are U.S. citizens. Three of the four were born in the United States; Omar was born in Somalia and became a U.S. citizen as a teenager.
(c) 2019, The Washington Post · Felicia Sonmez