Trump, Rep. Elijah Cummings spar over meeting that never happened

'We called, called, called, called,' Trump said of effort to set up meeting with Elijah Cummings.

President Donald Trump said during a freewheeling press conference on Thursday that Rep. Elijah E. Cummings begged off a long-anticipated meeting at the White House, suggesting the Baltimore Democrat was advised such a meeting was bad politics.

Cummings, the top-Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee responding by arguing that Trump's characterization was "made up" and that he hopes the meeting -- focused on the price of prescription drugs -- will still happen.

The accusation came as Trump was asked at a press conference Thursday whether he would seek input from the Congressional Black Caucus on his agenda to address crime, education and other issues in cities. 

Trump said that he was disappointed that a meeting with Cummings, a member of the caucus and a former chairman, never materialized. 

Cummings "was all excited and then he said,  'Oh, I can't move, it might be bad for me politically. I can't have that meeting,'" Trump said.

"I was all set to have that meeting. We called him and called him. Very nice guy," Trump said of Cummings.

"He wanted it, but we called, called, called, called. They can't make a meeting with him. Every day I walk in I say, 'I would like to meet with him, because I do want to solve the problem.' But he probably was told by [Sen. Chuck] Schumer [of New York] or somebody like that -- some other lightweight -- he was probably told, 'Don't meet with Trump. It's bad politics.' And that’s part of the problem with this country."

Cummings disputed that characterization.

"I have no idea why President Trump would make up a story about me like he did today," Cummings said in a statement, denying that Schumer had advised him against the meeting. 

"I was actually looking forward to meeting with the president about the skyrocketing price of prescription drugs," he said. "I also sincerely have no idea why the president made this claim in response to an unrelated question about the Congressional Black Caucus.  I am sure members of the CBC can answer these questions for themselves."

Cummings said that he was waiting to finalize legislation that would allow the Department of Health and Human Services to negotiate lower drug prices so that he could "present it to the president."

Cummings told The Baltimore Sun something similar last week, that he was hoping to finalize the legislation before the meeting. He also told The Sun on Feb. 7 that he hoped the meeting with Trump would take place as soon as this week. 

"The skyrocketing price of prescription drugs is an issue that affects every American family — not just people of color — and I hope the president will make good on his promise to finally allow HHS to negotiate lower drug prices on behalf of American families," Cumming said. "I look forward to meeting with him on this issue and others."

Cummings had been set to meet with Trump regarding the price of prescription drugs, an issue the Democrat has repeatedly said he believes he can work with Trump on. Trump has previously indicated that the government should be able to negotiate drug prices, breaking with Republican orthodoxy on that point.

Copyright © 2019, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad
37°