Republicans praise Elijah Cummings after defending Trump's attacks on him


Trump previously called Cummings a 'racist' and said he should 'investigate himself' for the issues his home district faced.

Republicans in the House and Senate rushed to pay respectful tributes to the late Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) following his death on Thursday morning.

Many of those same lawmakers were silent, however, when Donald Trump targeted Cummings in a series of racist tweets over the summer, and some at the time even jumped to Trump's defense.

Cummings' decision to do his job and conduct oversight of Trump's administration in his role as chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform frequently irked Trump.

In July, Trump spent several days tweeting attacks on Cummings, blaming him for every problem in his home city of Baltimore and accusing him of being a racist.

"If racist Elijah Cummings would focus more of his energy on helping the good people of his district, and Baltimore itself, perhaps progress could be made in fixing the mess that he has helped to create over many years of incompetent leadership," Trump claimed. "His radical 'oversight' is a joke!"

A few days later, when it was revealed that Cummings had experienced a burglary at his home, Trump even mocked the Maryland congressman with a sarcastic "Too bad."

While many of Cummings' Democratic colleagues and a handful of Republicans rushed to defend him against Trump's attacks, most Republicans in Congress stayed silent. A few even sprang to Trump's defense.

Rep. Ted Budd (R-NC) offered a full-throated endorsement of Trump's tweets in a local TV interview.  "The president is not a racist. That is not how I would say things, but at the same time he's drawing attention to decades old problems," he claimed at the time, adding that Trump was "very correct in surfacing issues that need to be dealt with."

Budd this week sent "heartfelt condolences" to Cummings' family, tweeting that he "always respected the way Chairman Cummings tenaciously fought for what he believed in."

Rep. Don Bacon (R-NE), who praised Cummings as "accessible and friendly" on Thursday, was also pressed over the summer to condemn Trump's tweets, but instead condemned Democrats for not focusing on real issues. "Democrat leaders all too often accuse others, including themselves, of racism and spend so much time making vile accusations while not providing solutions to our most pressing problems," he said in a written statement at the time.

Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) was asked in a "Meet the Press" interview this past July whether it bothered him that Trump was "spending a lot of time on Twitter trying to racially divide the country" with his remarks about Cummings. The Florida Republican first answered, "Look, I didn't do the tweets," before joining in on the attack.

"Let's look at what [Trump] said and why he did it," Scott continued. "Congressman Cummings sat there and attacked our Border Patrol agents. This reminds me of what happened to soldiers who came back from Vietnam."

Scott this week issued a statement on Twitter, following news of Cummings' death, that praised the congressman for "serv[ing] the people of Maryland and our nation well for many years."

Following Trump's comments about Cummings this summer, Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-ND) said he hadn't heard about them, adding "I don’t know whether I agree with him or not."

On Thursday, Cramer praised Cummings, saying he "was a strong, accomplished, highly-respected leader."

Rep. Mark Meadows (R-SC), one of Cummings' closest Republican friends, mourned the Maryland lawmaker's death on Thursday, but was initially silent on Trump's attacks this past July. When he finally weighed in, he said only that "neither" Trump nor Cummings "is a racist" and volunteered to travel with Trump to Baltimore "to see what they could do to remediate some of the problems they have there."

Trump himself offered condolences to Cummings' family and friends on Thursday, despite having attacked him earlier this year and suggesting Cummings should "investigate himself" for the problems in Baltimore.

"My warmest condolences to the family and many friends of Congressman Elijah Cummings," he tweeted. "I got to see first hand the strength, passion and wisdom of this highly respected political leader. His work and voice on so many fronts will be very hard, if not impossible, to replace!"

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.