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Baltimore ravin': Trump ignites new racism row

House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) on

House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) on Friday. Credit: Getty Images / Chip Somodevilla

Trump's invested in 'infested'

Tweeting or talking about inner cities or other places where people of color live invariably brings out the inner Donald Trump. Such was the case in a toxic all-weekend tweetstorm by the president attacking Rep. Elijah Cummings, chairman of the House Oversight Committee, to retaliate for the Baltimore Democrat's blistering criticism of conditions at border detention facilities along with his role in pursuing investigations of the president.

Cummings' district "is a disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess," Trump said. In the same spirit in which Trump told four brown and black freshman congresswomen to "go back" to "the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came," he said that if the 13-term congressman "spent more time in Baltimore, maybe he could help clean up this very dangerous & filthy place."

Trump's tweet echoed an attack in 2017 when he said another venerable black congressman, Rep. John Lewis of Atlanta, should “spend more time on fixing and helping his district, which is in horrible shape and falling apart (not to mention crime infested)."

Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said in Sunday talk show appearances that the tweets on Cummings had “absolutely zero to do with race." When CBS' "Face the Nation" host Margaret Brennan asked, "This is being perceived as racist, do you understand why?" he replied, "I understand why, but that doesn't mean that it's racist."

Did Mulvaney understand why it was offensive to people who live there? "I understand that everything that Donald Trump says is offensive to some people," Mulvaney said.

On "Fox News Sunday," host Chris Wallace pressed Mulvaney: “Infested. It sounds like vermin, it sounds subhuman. And these are all six members of Congress who are people of color." Mulvaney said Wallace was "reading between the lines." Wallace responded, “I'm not reading between the lines, I'm reading the lines.”

The concept of pride by residents of black-majority communities has long seemed alien to Trump. He rarely visited such places in 2016, when his pitch for black voters (delivered to overwhelmingly white rally audiences) was: "You're living in poverty, your schools are no good, you have no jobs … what the hell do you have to lose?" For more, see Newsday's story by Laura Figueroa Hernandez.

Trump digs the hole again

Cummings stood up for himself in a tweet Saturday: "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."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi denounced the "racist attacks" on Cummings. Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer tweeted a link to a Baltimore Sun editorial ripping Trump that was headlined, "Better to have a few rats than to be one."

Trump kept it up Sunday. Without explanation, he called Cummings a "racist." He also retweeted a far-right British commentator, Katie Hopkins, notorious for racist comments such as calling migrants "cockroaches."

The Hopkins tweet Trump shared called Baltimore a “proper [expletive]” — the word Trump himself reportedly used about Haiti and African countries to oppose admitting immigrants from there.

Trump is gambling that inflaming division will bring 2020 benefits. Newsday's Figueroa reports that recent national polls showed Trump’s attacks on the four freshman congresswomen cost him support among such groups as suburban women but solidified his backing among Republicans.

The crying and lying game

The jeering and taunting from the Oval Office didn't stop with the weekend. Early Monday the president wailed repeatedly on Twitter about Cummings, the Rev. Al Sharpton, Bernie Sanders and even included a plug for a book by George Papadopoulos, the convicted campaign aide Trump claimed he didn't know.

Janison: A bigger snooze button

Back before he became a pen pal and sent Trump "beautiful letters," North Korea's Kim Jong Un and the president regularly traded apocalyptic threats. "Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his," said a Trump tweet on Jan. 2, 2018.

But Trump could barely muster a shrug last week at two North Korean missile launches that shook up Japan and South Korea. Newsday's Dan Janison writes that the tests made a new mockery of the end to nuclear danger that Trump has alternatively said he accomplished and still hopes to accomplish.

“They haven’t done nuclear testing, they really haven’t tested missiles other than, you know, smaller ones, which is something that lots [of countries] test,” Trump said.

Nadler: Trump deserves impeachment

House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler on Sunday said Trump “richly deserves impeachment,” but that's not enough to go ahead with it.

“He [Trump] has done many impeachable offenses. He's violated the law six ways from Sunday. But that's not the question. The question is, can we develop enough evidence to put before the American people?” Nadler said on CNN's "State of the Union."

Nadler said former special counsel Robert Mueller's testimony on his findings last week “showed quite clearly that the report did not exonerate the president." See Figueroa's story for Newsday.

Garner case shadows de Blasio

Bill de Blasio has been hoping his appeal to black voters in New York City mayoral elections will carry over nationally and lift his long shot bid for the presidency.

But some African American leaders in the city said his demurral on calls for NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo to be fired in the death of Eric Garner is at odds with his messaging.

Willie B. Owens, an Orangeburg County, South Carolina, councilman who is one of a small handful of elected officials who have endorsed de Blasio, told Newsday he still stands with the mayor but urged him to reconsider firing Pantaleo. See Newsday's story by Emily Ngo.

Get Rudy a tinfoil hat

Perhaps it's a natural progression for Rudy Giuliani, who last year proclaimed "truth isn't truth" in defense of Trump. At 1:52 a.m. Saturday, he tweeted a link to a blogger's website that posted the following conspiracy theory:

Mueller was a "dupe" for his deputy Andrew Weissman, who was "acting on orders" from former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who was "acting on orders" from fired FBI Director James Comey, who was "most likely acting on orders" from former President Barack Obama or Valerie Jarrett, who was Obama's senior adviser.

And that's not all. Because it was all an attempt to "overthrow" Trump, and therefore "treason," which is punishable by death, there's a connection with Attorney General William Barr's decision last week to end a 16-year hiatus in federal executions. "Do you think it’s a coincidence that AG Barr reinstated the death penalty for Federal Crimes??? Think about it," the blog post said.

Giuliani's comment: "Excellent article."

What else is happening:

  • Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner’s family real estate firm owns thousands of rental apartments in Baltimore County, which also is part of Cummings’ district. Residents at Kushner properties have complained of mouse infestations, mold problems and maggots.
  • Trump tweeted that he will nominate Rep. John Ratcliffe of Texas, who sharply questioned Mueller at last week's hearings, to replace Dan Coats as director of national intelligence. Coats has irritated Trump with skeptical views about the prospects for North Korean nuclear disarmament and of the president's chumminess with Vladimir Putin.
  • Obama, who rarely comments on current politics, tweeted a link to an op-ed written by 149 African Americans who served in his administration vowing to stand up against the “racism, sexism, homophobia and xenophobia … wielded by the president and any elected official complicit in the poisoning of our democracy.”
  • Brooklyn federal prosecutors are looking at foreign influence over Trump's 2016 campaign, his transition and the early stages of his administration, The New York Times reported. Among their questions is whether Trump confidant Thomas Barrack tried to sway policy on behalf of the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.
  • Newsday's Martin C. Evans reports on the uncertain future of an Indian immigrant in Hicksville who was recruited by the U.S. Army for his language skills under a program that would have fast-tracked his citizenship application. The program has since been suspended, and the Trump administration may end protections for some noncitizen soldiers.
  • Bernie Sanders joined a group of U.S. citizens crossing the border from Detroit into Windsor, Ontario, Canada, to buy cheaper insulin Sunday. He called it “an embarrassment” that the drug for diabetics can be as much as 10 times more expensive in the United States.

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