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Barack and Michelle Obama offer rare rebukes of Trump over attacks on Baltimore

Kadia Tubman
Reporter

Former President Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama offered rare rebukes of President Trump after he lashed out at an African-American congressman and called the lawmaker’s majority-black district “a disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess.”

Trump on Saturday morning attacked Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., saying he had failed his district, shortly after a Fox News segment showed piles of trash in Baltimore. Cummings, a vocal Trump critic who chairs the House Oversight Committee, has over the last two weeks both authorized subpoenas for senior White House staffers’ communications and ripped into acting Homeland Security chief Kevin McAleenan over the conditions of the government camps for migrants at the southern border.

Trump called Cummings “a brutal bully, shouting and screaming at the great men & women of Border Patrol about conditions at the Southern Border, when actually his Baltimore district is FAR WORSE and more dangerous.”

“Cumming [sic] District is a disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess,” he added. “If he spent more time in Baltimore, maybe he could help clean up this very dangerous & filthy place.”

According to Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight, Cummings’s Seventh District, which he has represented since 1996 and is over 50 percent African-American, has the second-highest average income of any majority-black district in the country. It covers parts of downtown Baltimore and the surrounding suburbs and includes Johns Hopkins University and the Inner Harbor, a major tourist attraction.

Former first lady Michelle Obama and former President Barack Obama at the inaugural Obama Foundation Summit in Chicago in 2017. (Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Hours after Trump’s Twitter rant against Cummings, the former president tweeted a link to a Washington Post op-ed published on July 26 and co-signed by 149 African-Americans who served in his administration. They called out Trump’s recent Twitter attacks against four Democratic congresswomen of color, which have been widely condemned as racist.

“I’ve always been proud of what this team accomplished during my administration,” Obama tweeted along with the link. “But more than what we did, I’m proud of how they’re continuing to fight for an America that’s better.”

In the op-ed, the former staffers criticized Trump telling Reps. Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib to “go back” to the “crime infested places from which they came.”

“There is truly nothing more un-American than calling on fellow citizens to leave our country — by citing their immigrant roots, or ancestry, or their unwillingness to sit in quiet obedience while democracy is being undermined,” the commentary read.

The former first lady also took to Twitter amid Trump’s attacks against Cummings and his district, but instead of directly responding to the president’s comments, she praised a dance group from Baltimore.

“On #NationalDanceDay, I’m shouting out the Lethal Ladies, a Baltimore STEP team who I saw perform back in 2017. I’m so proud of you all — and everyone who’s dancing today!” Michelle Obama wrote on Saturday afternoon. The post included a video of the step team repeating the former first lady’s infamous “motto,” which she declared at the Democratic National Convention in 2016: “When they go low, we go high.”

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