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Look deeper at Trump's clash with Cummings

The president, in a tweet, called Cummings' majority

The president, in a tweet, called Cummings' majority black district a "disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess." Photo Credit: AFP / Getty Images / Andrew Caballero-Reynolds

President Donald Trump’s efforts to denigrate Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings and Baltimore are a national embarrassment.

Once again, Trump has reached for the racist dog whistle as if it’s his favorite instrument.

The previous installment of the Trump show was telling minority congresswomen to “go back” to their own countries. This week, it was Cummings, who is black, and Baltimore, a majority black city that Trump called “rodent infested.”

His Twitter rant included a special guest star, the Rev. Al Sharpton, who came to Cummings’ support and who has his own history in American racial controversies. As if it weren’t clear what resentments Trump was stirring, he ended one Sharpton tweet with “Hates Whites & Cops!”

Cummings, a Democrat, is one of the most prominent and respected members of the House. He has received bipartisan backup since the president’s Twitter deluge. Here are some very concerning possibilities about why Trump kept going:

He thinks his path to re-election lies in promoting racial division.

He is not trying to be strategic and just spews haphazardly.

Or, he is maligning an individual who could pose a real threat to his presidency and family.

Remember that Cummings chairs the House Committee on Oversight and Reform. Recently, the panel approved subpoenas for messages sent from the personal accounts of high-level White House officials — reportedly Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump. And the committee is probing Trump pal and inaugural committee chairman Thomas Barrack Jr.’s coziness with Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern interests, activity that reportedly has attracted the attention of federal prosecutors. A committee report released Monday said Barrack shared drafts of a major campaign speech on energy “to coordinate pro-Gulf language.”

None of those explanations for the Cummings focus are reassuring.

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