‘Investigate this corrupt mess immediately’: 10 times Rep. Elijah Cummings fought with President Donald Trump

U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings, who died Thursday, frequently clashed with President Donald Trump. Cummings chaired the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, which has been investigating the president and his business dealings.

U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings, who died Thursday morning, tangled repeatedly with President Donald Trump over the past few years.

The two men clashed from the start, and the conflicts intensified after Democrats took control of the U.S. House of Representatives in 2018, putting Cummings in the chairman’s seat of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, which is investigating the president’s actions.


Here are some of the memorable exchanges between the Democratic congressman from Baltimore and the Republican developer who became president.

1. January 2017: From inauguration to fighting back

It did not take long for the confrontational Cummings-Trump dynamic to develop.


Cummings was one of a few prominent Democrats who attended Trump’s inauguration, as many spurned their invites. But not long after, Cummings said he would “use whatever time I have here on this earth to fight back” against threats to democracy.

At that point, Cummings was mainly concerned with Trump’s call for an investigation of the 2016 election and assertion that millions of people voted illegally. He said he also was concerned about White House memos that aimed to prevent federal workers from communicating with members of Congress.

Early on in Trump’s presidency, Cummings blasted the president for instituting a hiring freeze for non-military federal workers. With that action, Trump “showed just what kind of a boss he intends to be,” the congressman said.

“On his first day he targeted middle-class people who work for the American public, making their lives harder and more stressful,” Cummings said. “Working families in Maryland beware: This is a signal to bosses everywhere to do the same.”

Still, Cummings was trying to find common ground with the president.

“I have a duty to work with this president,” Cummings told reporters. “He is going to be my president and your president for the next four years at least.”

2. February-March 2017: A meeting planned or cancelled?

Not long into Trump’s tenure, Cummings said he wanted to meet with the president to discuss prescription drug prices — one area where the two men might find shared purpose.

Before the meeting took place, Trump said Cummings canceled for political reasons.


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

Trump said that Cummings canceled because he said “it might be bad for me politically.”

“I have no idea why President Trump would make up a story about me like he did today,” Cummings said that day in February.

The congressman also said that he was working to draft a bill about drug prices, so he would have a proposal to share with the president at the meeting, which ended up taking place on March 8.

3. March 2017: Cummings presses POTUS on ‘hurtful’ comments

When Cummings and Trump finally had a sit-down meeting at the White House in March 2017 to talk about prescription drug prices, Cummings used part of his time to criticize Trump for comments about African-American communities that the congressman called “hurtful” and “insulting.”

Cummings said he was responding to speeches in which Trump referred to “carnage” in the “inner cities.”


"I said to him, 'Mr. President, most respectfully, when you're talking about the African-American community, I want you to realize that all African-American communities are not places of depression, where people are being harmed,' " Cummings said in an interview. "I think it would be good for him to acknowledge that most African-American people are doing very, very well."

A White House summary of the meeting did not include Cummings’ comments.

4. April 2017: A ‘great’ president, or not?

A few weeks after that meeting in the White House, Trump claimed that Cummings said: “You will go down as one of the great presidents in the history of our country.”

Not so fast, Cummings responded.

“During my meeting with the president and on several occasions since then, I have said repeatedly that he could be a great president if — if — he takes steps to truly represent all Americans rather than continuing on the divisive and harmful path he is currently on,” Cummings said in a statement.

5. May 2018: Cummings runs out of patience with Trump official

During a hearing about a proposed Census question about citizenship, Cummings appeared exasperated with a Trump administration official who would not answer his questions.


Cummings asked John M. Gore, an acting assistant attorney general, whether then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions had a hand in writing the citizenship question.

When Gore said he could not answer, Cummings shouted: “I asked you did you talk to your boss! You mean you’re going to tell me that you can’t answer a question as to whether you talked to your boss who we pay?”

U.S. Rep. Paul Mitchell, Michigan Republican, suggested Gore had been treated harshly at the hearing.

“Unfortunately sometimes it degenerates here,” he said.

6. October 2018: Trump pushes back against conflict of interest claim

When the FBI abandoned its search for a new headquarters last year — dashing the hopes of Maryland officials who tried to lure the project here — Cummings alleged Trump made the decision for his own personal gain.

Cummings and other top Democrats wrote that Trump had a “clear conflict of interest on this matter” because he didn’t want the existing FBI headquarters in Washington to be redeveloped, possibly competing with his own Trump International Hotel nearby.


A White House spokesman said the claim was “simply false” and that “House Democrats have it all wrong.”

7. April 2019: Trump sues Cummings

The Cummings-Trump battles even resulted in a lawsuit.

In April, Trump and his business organization sued Cummings to challenge a subpoena that the congressman’s committee issued to the president’s accountant.

The subpoena sought years of records, communications and notes related to Trump’s finances.

“The Democrat Party, with its newfound control of the U.S. House of Representatives, has declared all-out political war against President Donald J. Trump," the lawsuit alleged. “Subpoenas are their weapon of choice.”

Cummings responded in a statement saying that Trump “has a long history of trying to use baseless lawsuits to attack his adversaries, but there is simply no valid legal basis to interfere with this duly authorized subpoena from Congress.”


8. July 2019: ‘No doubt about it,’ Trump is a racist

During a television interview in July — just before Trump went on a days-long, anti-Baltimore tirade — Cummings was asked directly if he thought the president is a racist.

Cummings’ answer: “Yes, no doubt about it.”

At the time, Trump had been bashing the so-called “squad” of freshmen Democratic congresswomen of color, and Cummings had been doing interviews describing how it reminded him of the racism he experienced in Baltimore as a youth.

Trump’s remarks, Cummings said, “brings up the same feelings I had over 50-some years ago and it’s very, very painful.”

A Trump spokeswoman who appeared after Cummings defended the president, saying: “He is not a racist. He is a compassionate man whose policies have focused on the minority community.”

9. July 2019: Trump says Cummings’ district is ‘a rat and rodent infested mess’

The most infamous battle between Trump and Cummings is also one of the most recent: A days-long blasting of the congressman and Baltimore by the president.


Trump tweeted on July 27 that Cummings’ Baltimore-area district is a “disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess.”

“If he spent more time in Baltimore, maybe he could help clean up this very dangerous & filthy place,” the president’s tweet continued.

Trump also tweeted: “Why is so much money sent to the Elijah Cummings district when it is considered the worst run and most dangerous anywhere in the United States. No human being would want to live there. Where is all this money going? How much is stolen? Investigate this corrupt mess immediately!”

Trump continued his criticism in tweets, speeches and remarks to reporters in the subsequent days, alleging without proof that billions in federal money was wasted in Baltimore.

Many jumped to the defense of Baltimore and the congressman. Cummings himself was measured. He addressed the president’s remarks with a few tweets of his own.

“Mr. President, I go home to my district daily. Each morning, I wake up, and I go and fight for my neighbors. It is my constitutional duty to conduct oversight of the Executive Branch. But, it is my moral duty to fight for my constituents,” Cummings wrote on Twitter.


Cummings also tweeted about prescription drug costs: “Mr. President, we can address this together. Two years ago, I went to the White House to ask you to endorse my bill to let the government negotiate directly for lower drug prices.”

10. August 2019: Burglary attempt was 'too bad!"

Maryland Policy & Politics

Maryland Policy & Politics


Keep up to date with Maryland politics, elections and important decisions made by federal, state and local government officials.

This summer, a man attempted to burglarize the Cummings home in West Baltimore.

The congressman told police and reporters that he yelled at the intruder and scared him off.

The attempted burglary happened hours before Trump launched his Twitter tirade against Cummings and Baltimore, though it didn’t become public until days later.

While some expressed sympathy for the congressman and his wife, Trump’s reaction on Twitter had a different tone.

“Really bad news!” the president tweeted. “The Baltimore house of Elijah Cummings was robbed. Too bad!”


Addendum: October 2019

Trump cordially extended condolences on Twitter to Cummings’ family and friends.

“I got to see first hand the strength, passion and wisdom of this highly respected political leader,” the president tweeted. “His work and voice on so many fronts will be very hard, if not impossible, to replace!”