President Trump's visit to Baltimore called off, Rep. Cummings office says. (Kevin Richardson / Baltimore Sun video)
WASHINGTON — What was once planned as a Baltimore-based event for President Donald Trump to discuss urban revitalization has turned into a White House meeting on Wednesday with two confirmed Marylanders — neither of them elected officials.
Mayor Catherine Pugh, Gov. Larry Hogan and U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings said through spokespersons that they won't be attending.
The White House says it plans to use the session to highlight its agenda "to expand the economic boom to all Americans, especially those in distressed communities — both rural and urban."
Both Cummings, a Baltimore Democrat with a high profile in the city, and Pugh, also a Democrat, cited scheduling conflicts.
The Rev. Donte Hickman said White House officials told him Monday that changes underway due to the recently announced departure of Chief of Staff John Kelly meant the visit would no longer be possible.
Hickman, whose Southern Baptist Church takes on community revitalization projects in East Baltimore, had hoped a presidential visit would shine a light on the need for investment and the success of recent public-private and faith-based projects.
Hickman plans to attend the rescheduled event at the White House. So does the Rev. Harry R. Jackson Jr., senior pastor of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville.
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Jackson, who could not immediately be reached for comment, has previously expressed support for "opportunity zones" — poor neighborhoods singled out for special tax breaks under Republicans’ rewrite of the federal tax code last year.
"The president, despite his complicated relationship with our nation's minority communities, has in fact achieved great success in advancing issues important to them," Jackson wrote recently in the Christian Post.
There are more than 8,000 opportunity zone designations across the country, including in Maryland. The White House event is expected to focus not only on Maryland, but on other states, as well.
It would have been Trump's first visit as president to Baltimore, a heavily Democratic city in which the Republican president is unpopular. Trump's administration has clashed with the city over immigration and other issues, and Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh is suing the president for allegedly violating the U.S. Constitution by accepting payments from foreign and state governments through a downtown Washington hotel.
When Trump was inaugurated in January 2017, some Maryland Democrats struggled with whether to attend the ceremony. More than 60 Democrats-- including Maryland Reps. Anthony Brown and Jamie Raskin — skipped the event.