Baltimore congressman Elijah Cummings passionately defended his home town of Baltimore following days of attacks from President Donald Trump, saying he didn’t “have time for people who want to trash our city.”
In his first public comments since Trump’s tweet slamming the city as a “disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess,” the Maryland Democrat said Saturday he would welcome the president’s help but not his verbal potshots.
“Don’t just come and criticize. Do what these other folks have done,” Cummings said, referring to institutional partners such as Johns Hopkins University, the Chesapeake Bay Trust and the University of Maryland.
“They’ve come into our community and they did not say something is wrong with you,” he said during the dedication of a “nature play space” in the Druid Heights neighborhood of his district. “They said how can I help? How can I make a difference for generations yet unborn.”
In a series of tweets and remarks over the last week, the president has lashed out at Baltimore and Cummings, who chairs the House Committee on Oversight and Reform probing Trump’s finances.
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One tweet he posted Tuesday insinuated that “Billions of dollars have been pumped in over the years, but to no avail,” and that people should ask Cummings why the money was “stolen or wasted.”
Baltimore has a shrinking population and a stubborn homicide rate. In 2015, riots broke out there following the death of Freddie Gray, a black man who died from injuries sustained in policy custody.
And a series of scandals have rocked City Hall, forcing two mayors to resign in less than a decade.
Without mentioning Trump by name, Cummings said the recent criticism has been particularly painful because of the message it’s sending to residents.
“I say to our children don’t let anybody take away your hope,” he said. “I don’t care who they are. And let no one define you. No one.”
City officials and longtime residents have largely dismissed the president’s tweets as another effort to divide Americans along racial lines heading into the 2020 election.
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At the park dedication Saturday, Cummings pushed back on Trump’s criticism.
“We are a great city,” he said. “I do not have time for people who want to trash our city, but I do have time for our kids. Don’t trample on the pain of our people.”
After speaking at the dedication ceremony, Cummings said he would “love to see” the president come to Baltimore and discuss ways the federal government can help.
Cummings was less eager to talk about a tweet Friday from Trump which seemed to mock a recent attempted burglary at Cummings’ Baltimore home.
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Asked to respond, Cummings demurred.
“I’m too busy doing the work of my people,” he said.
Contributing: Ryan Miller and John Fritze