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US Rep. Elijah Cummings of Baltimore has died

BALTIMORE (AP) — Maryland Rep. Elijah E. Cummings died early Thursday at Johns Hopkins Hospital due to complications from longstanding health challenges, his co...
Rep. Elijah Cummings Discusses House Investigation Into The Trump Administration

BALTIMORE (AP) — Maryland Rep. Elijah E. Cummings died early Thursday at Johns Hopkins Hospital due to complications from longstanding health challenges, his congressional office said. He was 68.

A sharecropper’s son, Cummings became the powerful chairman of a U.S. House committee that investigated President Donald Trump, and was a formidable orator who passionately advocated for the poor in his black-majority district, which encompasses a large portion of Baltimore as well as more well-to-do suburbs.

Flags around the country were ordered lowered to half staff.

As chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, Cummings led multiple investigations of the president’s governmental dealings, including probes in 2019 relating to the president’s family members serving in the White House.

Trump responded by criticizing the Democrat’s district as a “rodent-infested mess” where “no human being would want to live.” The comments came weeks after Trump drew bipartisan condemnation following his calls for Democratic congresswomen of color to get out of the U.S. “right now,” and go back to their “broken and crime-infested countries.”

Cummings replied that government officials must stop making “hateful, incendiary comments” that only serve to divide and distract the nation from its real problems, including mass shootings and white supremacy.

“Those in the highest levels of the government must stop invoking fear, using racist language and encouraging reprehensible behavior,” Cummings said in a speech at the National Press Club.

Cummings’ long career spanned decades in Maryland politics. He rose through the ranks of the Maryland House of Delegates before winning his congressional seat in a special election in 1996 to replace former Rep. Kweisi Mfume, who left the seat to lead the NAACP.

Cummings continued his rise in Congress. In 2016, he was the senior Democrat on the House Benghazi Committee, which he said was “nothing more than a taxpayer-funded effort to bring harm to Hillary Clinton’s campaign” for president.

Cummings was an early supporter of Barack Obama’s presidential bid in 2008.

Throughout his career, Cummings used his fiery voice to highlight the struggles and needs of inner-city residents. He was a firm believer in some much-debated approaches to help the poor and addicted, such as needle exchange programs as a way to reduce the spread of AIDS.

Rep. John B. Larson released the following statement:

“Today is a sad day for America. Elijah Cummings was a fighter for his beloved Baltimore and for democracy. He always put his district and the American people first in his work. I am honored to be able to call him a dear friend and colleague for the past 20 years.

“I send my deepest condolences to his wife and my friend, Dr. Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, to his children, and to his constituents. He will be greatly missed.”

Congressman Joe Courtney released a statement:

“The passing of Elijah Cummings is a terrible loss for his family and community, and for our country. He was a deeply principled person who conducted himself with the highest ethics and dignity. I worked with him on Coast Guard and immigration oversight, and saw how he treated everyone he dealt with: with respect and compassion. He will be sorely missed, especially now, at this critical time in our history. The best way we can honor him is to follow his example of civility and fairness, which is exactly what this country needs today.”

Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro said:

“I am heartbroken by the passing of my colleague and dear friend Congressman Elijah Cummings. For more than three decades, he served the people of Maryland and our country with honor and dignity. Elijah knew the power of this institution and leveraged it every single day. Above all else, he knew why he came to the Congress: he had a moral responsibility to get things done and help people. His hallmark was speaking truth to power—and he always stood up for the most vulnerable in our communities. He was a true statesman, and he will be sorely missed. To paraphrase Elijah from earlier this year: when he is dancing with the angels, he will know that he never stood on the sidelines. He made a difference.”

Cummings was born on Jan. 18, 1951. In grade school, a counselor told Cummings he was too slow to learn and spoke poorly, and he would never fulfill his dream of becoming a lawyer.

“I was devastated,” Cummings told The Associated Press in 1996, shortly before he won his seat in Congress. “My whole life changed. I became very determined.”

It steeled Cummings to prove that counselor wrong. He became not only a lawyer, but one of the most powerful orators in the Maryland House of Delegates, where he entered office in 1983. He rose to become House speaker pro tem, the first black delegate to hold the position. He would begin his comments slowly, developing his theme and raising the emotional heat until it became like a sermon from the pulpit.

Cummings was quick to note the differences between Congress and the Maryland General Assembly, which has long been controlled by Democrats.

“After coming from the state where, basically, you had a lot of people working together, it’s clear that the lines are drawn here,” Cummings said about a month after entering office in Washington in 1996.

Cummings chaired the Congressional Black Caucus from 2003 to 2004, employing a hard-charging, explore-every-option style to put the group in the national spotlight.

He cruised to big victories in the overwhelmingly Democratic district, which had given Maryland its first black congressman in 1970 when Parren Mitchell was elected.