BALTIMORE (WJZ) — President Donald Trump’s wide-ranging news conference Thursday took on many different issues, but by the end of it all, Rep. Elijah Cummings, who represents Maryland, was forced to defend himself when an unexpected story line surfaced.
When asked a question about the White House collaborating with members of the Congressional Black Caucus to stop crime in inner cities, the president said he’s tried to line up a face-to-face meeting with the Maryland congressman, but it never happened.
“I actually thought I had a meeting with Congressman Cummings,” Trump said. “And he was all excited. And then he said, ‘Oh, I can’t move it might be bad for me politically. I can’t have that meeting.’ I was all set to have the meeting. You know, we called him and called him, and he was all set. I spoke to him on the phone, very nice guy… but we called, called, called, called, they can’t make a meeting with him. Every day I walk in, I said ‘I would like to meet with him,’ because I do want to solve the problem.
But he was probably told by Schumer [Sen. Charles “Chuck” Schumer (D-NY)] or somebody like that, some other light weight, he was probably told, he was probably told: ‘Don’t meet with Trump, it’s bad politics.’ And that’s part of the problem in this country.”
As that announcement quickly circulated in Washington, the congressman released a statement saying Trump’s claims were false.
“I have no idea why President Trump would make up a story about me like he did today,” the statement reads. “Of course, Senator Schumer never told me to skip a meeting with the President.”
“The meeting was never set,” he later said. “We didn’t get all of these calls that he talked about. As a matter of fact, I’m still looking forward to meeting with the president.”
Cummings says he was actually working with the president on something totally different, the issue of high prescription drugs costs, not crime.
Now, after this very public disagreement, the congressman said he still wants the president’s support to reverse the effects of high prescription drug prices.
“No, I’m still excited about meeting with the president. I think basically his staff gave him some incorrect information,” Cummings said.
At the press conference, which lasted for more than 75 minutes, Trump declined to answer White House correspondent and Washington bureau chief for American Urban Radio Networks April Ryan’s question about a planned executive order aimed at Historically Black Colleges and Universities, saying he’ll let it speak for itself when it’s announced, and on the issue of inner city crime said:
“As far as the inner cities, as you know I was very strong on the inner cities during the campaign. I think it’s probably what got me a much higher percentage of the African-American vote than a lot of people thought I was gonna get. You know, we did much higher than people thought I was gonna get. And I was honored by that. Including the Hispanic vote, which was also much higher. And, by the way, if I might add, including the women’s vote, which was much higher than people thought I was gonna get.
So we are going to be working very hard on the inner cities having to do with education, having to do with crime. We’re going to try and fix as quickly as possible — you know it takes a long time, it’s taken 100 years and more for some of these places to evolve, and they evolved, many of them, very badly — but we’re going to be working very hard on health and health care. Very, very hard on education. And also, we’re going to be working in a stringent way, in a very good way, on crime. You go to some of these inner city places, and it’s so sad when you look at the crime. You have people — and I’ve seen this, and I’ve sort of witnessed it, in fact in two cases, I have actually witnessed it — they lock themselves into apartments, petrified to even leave in the middle of the day. They’re living in hell, we can’t let that happen.
So we’re going to be very, very strong. It’s a great question. And it’s a very, it’s a very difficult situation because it’s been many, many years. It’s been festering for many, many years. But we have place in this country that we have to fix. We have to help African American people that, for the most part, are stuck there. Hispanic American people. We have Hispanic American people that are in the inner cities and they’re living in hell. I mean, you look at the numbers in Chicago. There are two Chicagos as you know. There’s one Chicago that’s incredible, luxurious and safe. There’s another Chicago that’s worse than almost any of the places in the Middle East that we talk about and that you talk about every night on the newscasts.
So we’re going to do a lot of work on the inner cities. I have great people lined up to help with the inner cities.”
Before the president could take another question, Ryan pressed him further.
“When you say the inner cities, are you going to include the CBC, Mr. President, in your conversations with your urban agenda, your inner city agenda… are you going to include the Congressional Black Caucus, as well as the Hispanic Caucus?”
“Well I would, I’ll tell you what, do you want to set up the meeting? Do you want to set up the meeting” Trump asked. “Are they friends of yours? No, set up the meeting. Let’s go, set up a meeting. I would love to meet with the Black Caucus, I think it’s great, the Congressional Black Caucus, I think it’s great.”
After that statement is when he started in on his accusations about Cummings.
Cummings’s office released this statement following the press conference:
“I have no idea why President Trump would make up a story about me like he did today. Of course, Senator Schumer never told me to skip a meeting with the President.
I was actually looking forward to meeting with the President about the skyrocketing price of prescription drugs. What I have been doing for the past several weeks is working closely with my partner on these efforts, Senator Bernie Sanders. My goal was to finalize our proposal to allow HHS to negotiate lower drug prices so I could present it to the President. The President has said many times that he supports this proposal, so I wanted to have our bill ready to get his support.
I also sincerely have no idea why the President made this claim in response to an unrelated question about the Congressional Black Caucus. I am sure members of the CBC can answer these questions for themselves.
The skyrocketing price of prescription drugs is an issue that affects every American family—not just people of color—and I hope the President will make good on his promise to finally allow HHS to negotiate lower drug prices on behalf of American families. I look forward to meeting with him on this issue and others.”
The CBC also tweeted Trump.