US & Canada

Trump’s ‘rat-infested’ attack on lawmaker was racist, says Pelosi

Elijah Cummings, a Democratic congressman for Maryland Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Donald Trump called Elijah Cummings' Baltimore district a "rodent-infested mess"

Democratic House speaker Nancy Pelosi has accused US President Donald Trump of "racist attacks" in his tweets about an African-American lawmaker.

Mr Trump attacked Democratic Rep Elijah Cummings and his Maryland district on Twitter.

The president described Mr Cummings' majority-black district in Baltimore as a "rodent-infested mess".

Mr Cummings was a "bully", Mr Trump wrote, for criticising the treatment of migrants at the US-Mexico border.

As chairman of the House Oversight Committee, Mr Cummings has instigated a series of investigations into the Trump administration's policies, including its handling of migrants at detention centres.

Ms Pelosi led Democratic legislators in defending Mr Cummings and condemning Trump's tweets.

The tweets, Ms Pelosi wrote, were "racist attacks" on Mr Cummings, whose district's population is more than 50% black according to US census data.

President Trump's remarks come just weeks after he was criticised for another tweet telling "'progressive' Democrat congresswomen" to "go back" to the "crime infested" places they came from.

The message was aimed at four lawmakers of colour - Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, Ayanna Pressley, and Ilhan Omar - all of whom are US citizens.

What sparked Mr Trump's latest tweets?

Last week, Mr Cummings lashed out at acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan and conditions at migrant detention centres at a congressional hearing.

In a heated exchange with Mr McAleenan, Mr Cummings demanded "improvement" at border facilities.

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionElijah Cummings blasted the acting Department of Homeland Security chief over detained migrant children

Mr Cummings, who represents Maryland's 7th congressional district, suggested the Trump administration had "an empathy deficit" in its handling of migrants.

Posting to Twitter on Saturday, Mr Trump appeared outraged at Mr Cumming's comments.

The tweets also come days after a Democratic-led congressional committee voted to subpoena the private communications of senior White House officials.

Mr Cummings accused the Trump administration of not keeping communications records in compliance with federal law.

The committee's investigation is one of several being pursued by House Democrats into the president and his administration.

What further reaction has there been to Mr Trump's tweets?

A prolific critic of Mr Trump, Mr Cummings has responded in kind, tweeting: "It is my constitutional duty to conduct oversight of the Executive Branch. But, it is my moral duty to fight for my constituents."

In another tweet, Baltimore's mayor, Bernard "Jack" Young, called Mr Trump "a disappointment to the people" of his city, and to "our country, and to the world".

The response from Republican Party representatives has been muted so far.

But many other Democrats have derided Mr Trump's latest remarks.

Joe Biden, the frontrunner to challenge Trump in 2020's presidential election, scorned the president's tweets as an example of why he is "unfit to hold the office".

In a video shared by The Hill, Elizabeth Warren - another presidential candidate - added that President Trump's "racist" remarks were "insulting both to the congressman and to the people he represents".

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionA "dog whistle" is a political message only some of the electorate are meant to understand

More on race in the US

The hashtag #WeAreBaltimore has also been trending on Twitter, with thousands of social media users expressing their solidarity with the city.

Among them was David Simon, a journalist and writer of The Wire, a critically-acclaimed American crime drama series set in Baltimore.

Since his initial comments, Mr Trump has attacked Mr Cummings in several other tweets.

"Cummings has done nothing but milk Baltimore dry, but the public is getting wise to the bad job that he is doing!," read one.

The president has also retweeted a video shared by actor Terrence Williams which allegedly shows a large mound of rubbish dumped outside a house in West Baltimore.

Mr Trump urged his followers to "take a look" at the "badly run district", signing off the tweet with the hashtag #BlacksForTrump2020.

Related Topics

More on this story