President Donald Trump on Sunday denigrated a majority-black district represented by a congressional nemesis as a “disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess,” broadening a campaign against prominent critics of his administration that has exacerbated racial tensions.
Trump lashed out in tweets against Republican Elijah Cummings, the powerful House Oversight Committee chairman, claiming his Baltimore-area district is “considered the worst run and most dangerous anywhere in the United States.”
It was the president’s latest assault on a prominent lawmaker, and the people he represents, two weeks after he sparked nationwide controversy with racist tweets directed at four congresswomen of colour.
His comments against Cummings, who leads multiple investigations of the president’s governmental dealings, drew swift condemnation from Democrats, including would-be presidential rivals.
Statements from a spokesman for the state’s Republican governor and from the lieutenant governor defended Cumm-ings’ district and its people.
Trump called Cummi-ngs a “brutal bully” after his public tongue-lashing of top Homeland Secu-rity officials over conditions for migrants detained along the southern border.
“As proven last week during a Congressional tour, the Border is clean, efficient & well run, just very crowded,” Trump tweeted. “Cumming District is a disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess.”
Cummings replied directly to Trump on Twitter, saying, “Mr. President, I go home to my district daily. Each morning, I wake up, and I go and fight for my neighbours. It is my constitutional duty to conduct oversight of the Executive Branch. But, it is my moral duty to fight for my constituents.”
Cummings has also drawn the president’s ire for investigations touching on his family members serving in the White House. On Thursday his committee voted along party lines to authorize subpoenas for personal emails and texts used for official business by top White House aides, including Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner.
The latest comments come as Trump has placed racial animus at the centre of his reelection campaign.