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Trump allies defend attacks on Cummings amid Democratic denunciations

President TrumpDonald TrumpHouse passes voting rights and elections reform bill DEA places agent seen outside Capitol during riot on leave Georgia Gov. Kemp says he'd 'absolutely' back Trump as 2024 nominee MORE's critics on Sunday called his attacks on House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsBottom line House Democrats reintroduce bill to reduce lobbyist influence Trump voters and progressives have a lot in common — and Biden can unite them 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 MulvaneyOMB nominee gets hearing on Feb. 9 Republicans now 'shocked, shocked' that there's a deficit Financial firms brace for Biden's consumer agency chief 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 LewisDemocrats worry Senate will be graveyard for Biden agenda Vernon Jordan: an American legend, and a good friend GOP lawyer tells Supreme Court curtailing Sunday voting lawful 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 ToddBrown vows Democrats will 'find a way' to raise minimum wage Fauci lays out timeline for vaccinating teens, children Trudeau: Canadian, US border to remain closed 'for now' 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 HurdHere are the three GOP lawmakers who voted for the Equality Act Sunday shows - COVID-19 dominates as grim milestone approaches Former Texas GOP rep: Trump should hold very little or no role in Republican Party 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 StephanopoulosKhashoggi colleague: 'Why are we making an alliance with a dictator?' Fauci on Johnson & Johnson vaccine: 'Just be really grateful' Portman on Trump's dominance of GOP: Republican Party's policies are 'even more popular' 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 NadlerHouse sets vote for George Floyd police reform bill Jim Jordan calls for House Judiciary hearing on 'cancel culture' House Judiciary split on how to address domestic extremism 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 SandersOn The Money: Democrats deals to bolster support for relief bill | Biden tries to keep Democrats together | Retailers fear a return of the mask wars Democrats cut deals to bolster support for relief bill Hillicon Valley: High alert as new QAnon date approaches Thursday | Biden signals another reversal from Trump with national security guidance | Parler files a new case 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 TlaibProgressives push White House to overturn wage ruling Six ways to visualize a divided America Jamaal Bowman's mother dies of COVID-19: 'I share her legacy with all of you' 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.”