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Trump allies defend attacks on Cummings amid Democratic denunciations

President TrumpDonald John TrumpPolice say man dangling off Trump Tower Chicago demanding to speak with Trump Fauci says he was 'absolutely not' surprised Trump got coronavirus after Rose Garden event Biden: Trump 'continues to lie to us' about coronavirus MORE's critics on Sunday called his attacks on House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsWomen of color flex political might Black GOP candidate accuses Behar of wearing black face in heated interview Overnight Health Care: US won't join global coronavirus vaccine initiative | Federal panel lays out initial priorities for COVID-19 vaccine distribution | NIH panel: 'Insufficient data' to show treatment touted by Trump works MORE (D-Md.) racist while the president's allies defended him and Trump himself doubled down on his remarks.

It was the second Sunday in a row to be dominated by a debate over an attack by the president on a lawmaker of color and his record on racial issues.

Acting White House chief of staff Mick MulvaneyMick MulvaneyTrump says he may lower corporate tax rate to 20 percent if reelected Is Social Security safe from the courts? On The Money: House panel pulls Powell into partisan battles | New York considers hiking taxes on the rich | Treasury: Trump's payroll tax deferral won't hurt Social Security MORE said the tweets, in which Trump called Cummings' majority-black district a “disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess” where “no human being would want to live,” had “absolutely zero to do with race.”

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When Fox News's Chris Wallace pressed Mulvaney on "Fox News Sunday," Mulvaney insisted Trump’s tweets were simply his response to Cummings's forceful questioning of acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan over conditions in migrant detention facilities and that the president would say the same about a white lawmaker in a similar situation.

"If I had poverty in my district like they have in Baltimore, if I had crime in my district like they have in Chicago, if I had homelessness in my district like they have in San Francisco, and I spent all of my time in Washington, D.C., chasing down this Mueller investigation, this bizarre impeachment crusade, I'd get fired,” Mulvaney, a former congressman, added. Mulvaney’s former South Carolina district has a median income of about $9,000 less than Cummings’s district, according to census data.

Wallace continued to grill Mulvaney, noting that in 2017, Trump made similar comments about Rep. John LewisJohn LewisWashington flooded with Women's March protesters ahead of Barrett confirmation vote HBCU in Alabama renames hall named after KKK leader Cedric Richmond's next move: 'Sky's the limit' if Biden wins MORE (D-Ga.), who is also black, as well as his attacks on four progressive minority congresswomen, which began with him telling them to “go back” to the “totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.”

Mulvaney countered that Wallace was “spending way too much time reading between the lines."

Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) was not as forceful in defending the tweet but responded to questioning by NBC’s Chuck ToddCharles (Chuck) David ToddHHS secretary: Avoiding large gatherings 'a difficult message for all Western democracies' Trump bashes NBC ahead of town hall, adds it's 'a free hour on television' Chuck Todd indirectly refers to former colleague Olbermann as 'somebody from the very far left' of the media world MORE by criticizing Cummings’s handling of border issues.

“It’s not lost on me that you’re harsher on Elijah Cummings than on the president and what he has done,” Todd responded.

Rep. Will HurdWilliam Ballard HurdChanging suburbs threaten GOP hold on Texas Bottom line Trump throws curveball on Afghan troop levels MORE (R-Texas), the only African American Republican in the House, simply said he “wouldn’t be tweeting this way” but told ABC’s George StephanopoulosGeorge Robert StephanopoulosPelosi: White House made 'unacceptable changes' to testing language during negotiations on coronavirus stimulus Infectious disease expert calls White House advisers herd immunity claims 'pseudoscience' Pelosi gives White House 48-hour deadline for coronavirus stimulus deal MORE he viewed the tweets about Cummings as distinct from Trump’s “go back” tweets. Hurd was one of only four Republicans to vote for a resolution condemning the earlier tweets.

Trump himself doubled down on his statements, saying late Saturday that it's "sad" the longtime congressman has done "so little" for the city he represents.

"So sad that Elijah Cummings has been able to do so little for the people of Baltimore," Trump said in a tweet, before claiming that "statistically, Baltimore ranks last in almost every major category. Cummings has done nothing but milk Baltimore dry, but the public is getting wise to the bad job that he is doing!"

He followed up early Sunday by saying there is "nothing wrong" with pointing out that Cummings has done a "very poor job."

"The Democrats always play the Race Card, when in fact they have done so little for our Nation’s great African American people. ... Elijah Cummings has failed badly," Trump said. 

Democrats appearing on the Sunday shows uniformly condemned the tweets, with House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerMarijuana stocks see boost after Harris debate comments Jewish lawmakers targeted by anti-Semitic tweets ahead of election: ADL Democrats shoot down talk of expanding Supreme Court MORE (D-N.Y.) also blasting Trump for implying money intended for Cummings’s district was being stolen.

"The president is, as he usually is or often is, disgusting and racist. He makes these charges with no base at all,” Nadler said on ABC’s “This Week,” saying a second resolution condemning the tweets “wouldn’t be a bad idea.”

Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersPush to expand Supreme Court faces Democratic buzzsaw Senate Democrats seek to alleviate public concern about some results not being available on election night Georgia senator mocks Harris's name before Trump rally: 'Kamala-mala-mala, I don't know' MORE (I-Vt.), appearing on CNN’s “State of the Union,” called Cummings one of the most “decent” members of Congress and added, “It's unbelievable that we have a president of the United States who attacks American cities, who attacks Americans, who attacks somebody who is a friend of mine.”

Rep. Rashida TlaibRashida Harbi TlaibOcasio-Cortez, progressives call on Senate not to confirm lobbyists or executives to future administration posts Pocan won't seek another term as Progressive Caucus co-chair Kamala Harris's facial expressions during debate go viral MORE (D-Mich,) one of the first two Muslim women in Congress and one of the targets of Trump’s earlier tweets, also defended Cummings on Sunday.

"He continues to say things about American cities all across this country. Our president has a hate agenda. He doesn’t have a policy agenda," Tlaib said Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union.”

Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, a 2020 presidential candidate, said the attacks represented Trump’s strategy of “racial priming” to attempt to shore up his base.

“That’s how he thinks he won in 2016, and that’s how he thinks he’s going to win in 2020,” Castro added, repeating an earlier characterization of Trump as “the biggest identity politician we have seen in the last 50 years.”