Trump says Baltimore residents in ‘Hell,’ continuing attacks

Justin Sink
President Donald Trump talks with reporters before departing for an event to celebrate the 400th anniversary celebration of the first representative assembly at Jamestown Tuesday, July 30, 2019, in Washington. “I am the least racist person there is anywhere in the world,” Trump told reporters.

President Donald Trump resumed his criticism of a prominent black congressman from Baltimore, declaring on Tuesday that people in the city live in “hell” and that it’s “corrupt.”

Trump claimed without substantiation that billions of dollars had been stolen in the city and called on the lawmaker, Democratic Representative Elijah Cummings, to investigate his hometown. Cummings is chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, which has been focused on investigating Trump and his administration.

Last week, the committee authorized subpoenas for work-related e-mails and text messages sent from the personal accounts of Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, the president’s son-in-law and daughter, who are senior advisers in the White House.

Trump’s attacks on Baltimore, a city whose population is about 63 percent black, and on Cummings, one of his chief antagonists in Congress, follow his feud with four freshman Democratic congresswomen of color. His tweets about the women, in which he invited them to “go back” where they came from, were widely criticized as racist. Lawmakers in Maryland of both parties, including Governor Larry Hogan, a Republican, condemned the president’s latest broadsides.

“The comments are just outrageous and inappropriate,” Hogan said in an interview on WBAL NewsRadio.

More than half of U.S. voters believe that the president is racist, including 46 percent of white voters, Quinnipiac University found in a poll released Tuesday. Trump defended himself.

“I am the least racist person there is anywhere in the world,” Trump told reporters at the White House before departing to deliver a speech in Virginia at a celebration of the 400th anniversary of the Jamestown colony’s legislature. Black lawmakers in the state are boycotting the event in protest of Trump’s remarks.

“What I’ve done for African Americans in two-and-a-half-years, no president has been able to do anything like it,” he said. Trump often boasts of the low unemployment rate for black and Latino workers under his presidency.

But he said that Baltimore, where the mayor recently resigned in the midst of a scandal involving sales of a children’s book she had authored, is “a corrupt city, there’s no question about it.” Cummings, he said, has an “iron hand” on the city, which he called “filthy dirty” and “so horrible.”

Trump targeted yet another prominent black person on Monday, attacking activist Al Sharpton after he said on Twitter that he was traveling to Baltimore for an event to criticize the president’s remarks. “Hates Whites & Cops!” Trump said of Sharpton, a fellow New Yorker with whom he’s socialized in the past.

The president held a private meeting at the White House on Monday with people he described in a tweet as “wonderful Inner City Pastors.” Two of them, Alveda King and Bill Owens, the founder of the Coalition of African American Pastors, defended the president afterward.

Asked if Trump was racist, Owens said “I find that hard to believe.” He said the meeting had been planned since at least last week and was “not damage control.”

Cummings, 68, recently criticized Trump’s policies on the U.S.-Mexico border, calling the treatment of migrant children at detention facilities there “government-sponsored child abuse,” and clashing with Trump’s acting Homeland Security chief during a hearing.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Baltimore native, has defended Cummings as a champion “for civil rights and economic justice, a beloved leader in Baltimore, and deeply valued colleague.”

Cummings’s congressional district includes about half of Baltimore, including most of the majority-black precincts, and parts of adjacent Howard and Baltimore counties, including a mix of urban, suburban and rural areas. The district is about 36% white, 55% black and 4.9% Asian, according to Census data.

“Those people are living in hell in Baltimore,” Trump said. “They’re largely African American, they have a large African-American population.”

Baltimore’s former mayor, Catherine Pugh, resigned in May after allegations she received kickbacks from the sale of her children’s book to state institutions. She was the second mayor of the city to leave office amid allegations of corruption.

Trump criticizes many Democrats, but his comments about minority lawmakers are often particularly divisive. Representative Maxine Waters of California, the chairwoman of the Financial Services Committee, is another occasional target whom the president has repeatedly called “low IQ” on Twitter and in campaign rallies. And in 2017, Trump said Representative John Lewis’s Georgia district was “falling apart” and “crime infested.”

Democratic presidential candidates will hold their second round of debates in Detroit on Tuesday and Wednesday, another U.S. city where blacks comprise the majority of residents.