In the months before his death, U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings wrote that he endured “pure pain” from repeated Twitter attacks by President Donald Trump — whom he once wanted to trust — but resolved not to be baited into responding in anger.
“You can imagine it and try to dismiss it, saying he’s just a blowhard and schoolyard tough guy, using his thumbs on Twitter like fists,” the Baltimore Democrat wrote in a book being released next Tuesday. “But the reality, the harsh cold onslaught, is just pure pain.”
Cummings, 68, a key figure in the Trump impeachment inquiry who died of cancer in October, fills in details in the memoir to his side of encounters with the Republican president, including an emotional White House meeting that Cummings said produced an unexpected promise from Trump.
The Baltimore Sun obtained an advance copy of the book, “We’re Better Than This: My Fight for the Future of Our Democracy.”
Cummings wrote that he had “what seemed to be a wonderful conversation” at the White House with Trump in 2017 when both were working on plans to lower prescription drug prices.
The congressman wrote that he was so emotional during the meeting that “a tear came to my eye” when describing families' struggles with the cost of needed medications.
“That’s a real tear?” the book quotes Trump as saying.
“Yeah, Mr. President, it’s real man. This ain’t bull----,” Cummings replies.
Cummings recalled telling the president that “if he could lower the cost of prescription drugs … if he could do that for everyone, he could be a truly great president.”
At the end of the conversation, the book says, the president replied “Let’s get it done” when Cummings described legislation granting the federal government authority to negotiate drug prices on behalf of Medicare.
But the book says Trump not only didn’t follow through, but “took my words and twisted them into a lie, an ugly odious lie” by telling the media that Cummings had proclaimed the Republican “would be one of the greatest presidents.”
The White House declined to comment Wednesday on the meeting and on Cummings' descriptions of being “deeply hurt” by Trump’s July 2019 tweets calling Cummings “a brutal bully” and his Baltimore-area district “a rat and rodent infested mess.”
On Sunday, Trump signed an executive order that, he said on Twitter, would give Americans “the same low price Big Pharma gives to other countries.” Other nations' prescription medications are generally cheaper than those sold in the United States.
Democrats have been pushing for prescription drug legislation approved by the House in December that has not been acted upon by the Republican-controlled Senate.
House leaders have renamed the bill the “Elijah E. Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act.” It would require the Department of Health and Human Services to negotiate prices for some drugs.
Cummings had cancer. He also contracted pneumonia, the book says, in the summer before his death and was sicker than the public realized when he delivered a National Press Club speech in August 2019.
James Dale, an author who helped Cummings with the book, wrote in the introduction that the bedridden congressman was working on it until the day he died.
His funeral was attended by former Democratic presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton. Trump sent regards to Cummings' family and friends, saying he had seen Cummings' “passion” for lowering prescription drug prices.
The National Press Club speech two months before his death was part of Cummings' response to Trump’s tweets, the book says. In it, he called for an end to “racist language” by the nation’s leaders.
His other reply to Trump, Cummings wrote, came when he tweeted — hours after Trump’s salvo — that his efforts in Congress represented his “constitutional duty to conduct oversight of the Executive Branch.”
The book says Cummings chose Twitter for that response "to show that it could be a forum for reason, not just for hate, to show the stark comparison of our two approaches to life and our duties.”
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At the time of the tweets, Cummings was chairman of the House Reform and Oversight Committee, which was engaged in a protracted court fight with the administration over subpoenas — challenged by the president — of Trump’s personal and financial records.
Cummings suggests in the book that he may have been naive in 2017 to believe he could work with Trump, who is widely distrusted by Democrats in Congress.
The congressman’s widow, Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, said in an interview that Cummings, the son of sharecroppers who also were preachers, “was taught not to judge a book by its cover. He wanted to see if he could break through and establish some kind of personal relationship.”
In 2017, she said, Cummings “came out of that meeting thinking it was a terrific meeting, thinking he had connected with the president on the level of his humanity.”
But she said he came to believe later that Trump had used the meeting “to say Elijah Cummings gave him an endorsement.”
Rockeymoore Cummings wrote the book’s final chapter, describing how her husband lived for 25 years with thymic cancer, a rare form of the disease.
He came to consider Trump enough of a threat that he wrote that the 2018 midterm elections — in which Democrats won control of the House — “may well be a turning point in history, the moment that saved our democracy. But that depends on what we do with the moment.”