U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings, the Democratic defender of the Obama administration who became one of Washington’s most ardent critics of President Donald Trump, died early Thursday, The Associated Press reported.
He was 68.
The Maryland representative had been in poor health recently, according to the AP, using a motorized cart or a walker around the Capitol. He was in a Baltimore-area hospice at the time of his death, Fox News reported.
But as chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, he was a powerful lawmaker who tangled frequently with the White House.
The biggest flare-up came in July, when Trump and Cummings clashed over Cummings’ treatment of Trump administration officials during congressional hearings.
At one hearing, Cummings lashed into then-acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan over conditions for illegal immigrants being held in detention centers near the southern border.
McAleenan said DHS personnel were “doing our level best” to deal with the situation when Cummings exploded on him.
“What does that mean? What does that mean when a child is sitting in their own feces, can’t take a shower? Come on, man. What’s that about? None of us would have our children in that position. They are human beings,” Cummings said.
That prompted Trump to accuse Cummings of playing politics. He also made a public issue of living conditions in Cummings’ home district in Baltimore, which the president accused Cummings of neglecting.
….As proven last week during a Congressional tour, the Border is clean, efficient & well run, just very crowded. Cumming District is a disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess. If he spent more time in Baltimore, maybe he could help clean up this very dangerous & filthy place
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 27, 2019
That, in turn, led to a high-profile dispute that got national attention, including the revelation that Cummings had spoken harshly of parts of the city in his own words in the late 1990s.
However, Trump set aside the political differences Thursday with a Twitter post offering condolences to Cummings’ loved ones.
My warmest condolences to the family and many friends of Congressman Elijah Cummings. 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!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 17, 2019
During the Obama years, Cummings was the ranking Democrat on the Oversight Committee where he defended the administration constantly.
He had such a reputation for backing Obama that when the House Select Committee on Benghazi was formed to investigate the 2012 terrorist attack on the American diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya, Politico profiled him as the “Democrats’ Benghazi Warrior.”
Cummings’ advocacy for Obama “earned Cummings adoration within his conference and the respect of many Republicans — while others dismiss him as a crusader openly ignoring facts in his quest to defend the White House,” Politico noted.
As head of the Oversight Committee, Cummings was behind numerous investigations of the Trump White House.
However, due to his health, Cummings had not been in the recent Democratic impeachment efforts against Trump, according to Fox.
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