August 2, 2019
After a week during which President Donald Trump was labeled a “racist” and a “white supremacist” for his affronts to “The Squad” of women of color in the House, the activist Reverend Al Sharpton, CNN anchor Don Lemon, Democratic Representative Elijah Cummings of Maryland—and the latter’s home district, Baltimore, which Trump described as “rat-infested and a “living hell”— the POTUS was asked by the media to explain his strategy.
However, most political pundits believe that he did have two underlying reasons for the attacks. First, he believes that his denigration of Puerto Ricans, immigrants, blacks, and others of color builds the loyalty of his largely white base nationwide.
Second, according to a report by The Wall Street Journal, Trump was “set off by last week’s decision by the House Oversight Committee,” which Cummings chairs, to subpoena top White House aides, including Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, for its probe into official emails and texts sent from personal accounts.
The news outlet also pointed to Cummings’ remarks at a news conference last week, at which he suggested further action against the administration was imminent. “There comes a point when silence becomes betrayal,” Cummings said, quoting Martin Luther King, Jr.
Cummings responded on Twitter: “I will continue to do every day what I am duty-bounded to do—help my constituents to live their best lives and serve as a check on the Executive Branch.”
While Trump’s supporters have not come out in defense of the president’s remarks, they also have not criticized him to any great degree. Indeed, the Journal reports, Trump campaign officials do not view the gibes against Cummings as damaging to the president’s odds of re-election. The campaign sees the president’s polling numbers as most vulnerable when voters perceive the White House to be in chaos, when Mr. Trump’s base of supporters dislike legislation he signs, and when the president is perceived as “punching down,” one adviser told the news outlet.
In direct opposition to what he, himself, has said publicly, the president repeatedly has bragged about his record on behalf of African-Americans. On Tuesday, he said African-Americans had “been calling the White House” and were “happy as hell.”
Research contact: Rebecca.Ballhaus@wsj.com