Elijah Cummings, one of the most influential Democrats in Congress and a key figure in the impeachment investigation into Donald Trump, has died. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says she and her colleagues are devastated.
Elijah Cummings, a Democratic representative from Baltimore and a key figure in the impeachment investigation into US President Donald Trump, has died. His office announced that he had died of "complications concerning long-standing health challenges." Cummings, 68, had missed recent meetings of the US House of Representatives, citing heart and knee problems.
"Today we have lost a giant," said House Majority Whip James Clyburn, a Democrat from the state of South Carolina and a fellow member of the Congressional Black Caucus.
Born to poor farmers who tended leased land, Cummings worked as a trial lawyer before winning his seat in 1996. He chaired the Congressional Black Caucus from 2003 to 2005 and worked across party lines to establish the Caucus on Drug Policy. Cummings stood for civil rights and against police violence against communities of color, joining protesters in the streets after the young black man Freddie Gray was killed in custody in Baltimore in 2015.
'I go and fight'
Cummings became chair of the Committee on Oversight and Reform when the Democrats took control of the House in January. He rigorously investigated Trump's finances and whether he had improved them in office, as well as irregularities at federal agencies under his administration — and even issued subpoenas to the president's daughter Ivanka and her husband, Jared Kushner.
The representative criticized immigration policies that split families and have led to the deaths of six children in detention facilities. "What does that mean, when a child is sitting in their own feces, can't take a shower?" Cummings asked Kevin McAleen, Trump's acting homeland security secretary at the time, at a House hearing on conditions at the camps. "Come on man, what's that about?
Attempting to deflect attention from conditions at his border camps for children, Trump called Cummings a "brutal bully" and his district "disgusting, rat and rodent-infested" on Twitter. That earned the president a rebuke from the journalist David Simon, the creator of The Wire, a critically acclaimed five-season warts-and-all love letter to the troubled city of Baltimore that aired on HBO from 2002 to 2008: The screenwriter called Trump a "race-baiting fraud" who would "wet himself" if he were to visit the largely minority district and meet the people of color who live there.
Cummings offered his own powerful response: "Mr. President, I go home to my district daily. Each morning, I wake up, and I go and fight for my neighbors. It is my constitutional duty to conduct oversight of the Executive Branch. But, it is my moral duty to fight for my constituents."
The Committee on Oversight became one of three congressional panels to lead the impeachment proceedings launched on September 24, after a whistleblower revealed that Trump had asked his Ukrainian counterpart to investigate the son of former Vice President Joe Biden, a potential opponent in the 2020 election. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi will announce a replacement for Cummings as chair in the coming days.
In a statement released on Thursday, Pelosi called Cummings a leader of "towering character and integrity, whose stirring voice and steadfast values pushed the Congress and country to rise always to a higher purpose." She said he had chaired the committee in order to restore "honesty and honor to government." Pelosi, a native of the Baltimore district that Cummings had represented, added that "we will miss our champion."
mkg/msh (Reuters, AP)