WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings called Wednesday for an end to "racist language“ by the nation’s leaders and said President Donald Trump should visit his district to see a different sort of Baltimore than the one Trump has described in tweets sharply critical of the city.
“Those in the highest levels of the government must stop invoking fear, using racist language and encouraging reprehensible behavior," the Baltimore Democrat said in a National Press Club speech in which he renewed his call — in stronger terms — for the Republican president to come see the “thousands of people in Baltimore who are working hard every day.”
“We all want decency and respect,” Cummings said at the club in downtown Washington. “I want President Trump to come to my district — oh, God, I want him to come." He said he had not been able to reach Trump to invite him.
Cummings said that included an invitation to visit the parts of his district in Baltimore and Howard counties “where the richest of the rich are.”
White House officials did not respond to a request for comment.
Cummings’ remarks came in his first major speech since Trump began on July 27 a dayslong string of tweets and comments attacking the congressman, his hometown of Baltimore and the district, which Trump called “rat and rodent infested.”
Cummings, chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, didn’t mention Trump by name in his call for civility. Rather than attack Trump in his speech, Cummings seemed to be beseeching him to change his tone.
“What we need to do is be about the business of uniting our great country,” Cummings said.
He said the national dialogue has become so foul that his 10-year-old niece asked him recently if they were going to be put in cages.
“That’s coming from a 10-year-old. We are better than that,” Cummings said.
Cummings’ speech, delivered before several hundred press club members, supporters and the general public, was planned before Trump’s critical tweets.
The congressman touched on a number of topics, including the recent mass shootings in Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas. Cummings urged Congress to return early from its August recess and convene a session on gun violence.
“When you’ve got people dying, c’mon,” the congressman said.
He said he is not impressed by talk from Republicans about possible new gun safety measures.
“You have a lot of talk. But in the end, nothing happens. They will make these glorious statements,” he said.
Cummings also called on the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate to vote on a House-passed bill mandating universal background checks for gun buyers.
“Gun violence seems to know no bounds. None,” Cummings said. “The American people are begging us for more than thoughts and prayers.”
Trump last week also addressed Baltimore’s homicide rate at a rally.
"The homicide rate in Baltimore is significantly higher than El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala,” Trump told supporters.
Last weekend, Cummings spoke to reporters about Trump at a ribbon-cutting for a community park several blocks from his Druid Heights home.
“I’d love for him to sit down and talk to the doctors at Johns Hopkins and University of Maryland and see the beautiful neighborhoods of our city, and I’d be happy to have him,” Cummings said.
On Wednesday, the congressman expanded on his invitation and said the city needs help.
“We need funds with regard to drug addiction. We need funds to build up our communities,” he said. “There are thousands of people in Baltimore who are working hard every day. Some of them, they’re not operating on a shoestring because they don’t have a string. But they are coaching the basketball team, they are tutoring children after school. They’re doing everything in their power to allow our children to reach their destinies.”
Cummings has recently drawn the president’s ire for his criticisms of how federal immigration authorities treat detainees, particularly children.
Also, Cummings’ committee recently subpoenaed private communications records from White House officials, including Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner. The committee said it is investigating whether emails and texts about “official business" violated federal law by being sent to or from White House officials on personal accounts.
The committee is also in a court fight with the administration over subpoenas — challenged by the president — of Trump’s personal and financial records.
Like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Cummings is not calling for an impeachment inquiry. The speaker has said she wants various investigations of the president to play out.
“I have said over and over again that the time for impeachment may come,” Cummings said Wednesday. He added that he would favor impeachment if the president violates a court order — not just a House subpoena — to produce witnesses and documents.
At the lunch, Cummings’ wife, Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, and daughter, Jennifer Cummings, sat at the head table with the congressman. Rockeymoore Cummings is the head of the Maryland Democratic Party.
Cummings braced himself during his speech by holding onto a walker. In 2017, he underwent a minimally invasive heart procedure, which led to an infection that kept him in the hospital longer than expected. He was later hospitalized for a knee infection, but has said his health is fine.