Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, D-Md., says President Donald Trump is making things up when he said he backed out of a meeting with the president.
Trump, answering a question at his Thursday press conference about whether he would include the Congressional Black Caucus in his agenda for inner cities, went off on a tangent about how he was supposed to meet with Cummings but that the Maryland Democrat decided against it because of politics.
“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,” Trump said. “You know we called him and called him and he was all set. I spoke to him on the phone, very nice guy.”
The reporter, April Ryan, then said she heard Cummings wanted to have that meeting, too.
“He wanted it,” Trump responded. “But we called, called, called. They can’t make a meeting with him. Every day I walk in, I said, ‘I would like to make a meeting with him because I do want to solve the problem.’ But he probably was told by Schumer or somebody like that — some other lightweight — he was probably told … ‘Don’t meet with Trump. It’s bad politics.’ And that’s part of the problem in this country.”
Cummings says that simply didn’t happen. After the presser concluded, he pushed back and said Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer did not instruct Cummings to do any such thing.
“I have no idea why President Trump would make up a story about me like he did today,” Cummings said in a statement.
“I’ve never even had a conversation with Chuck Schumer about the president – ever, ever - so I don’t even know what he’s talking about” Cummings told reporters later outside the House chamber. “I’m 66 years old and I make my own decisions.”
Cummings said he was actually looking forward to meeting with Trump to talk about the price of prescription drugs, which he had been collaborating with Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., on and he noted Trump had supported their efforts.'
Cummings was mild-mannered in addressing Trump's comments.
"Somebody asked me, 'Did I take offense?'," Cummings said smiling. "Not at all, I mean, the president mentions your name? That's a good thing."
Before his statement about Cummings, Trump did respond positively to the idea of discussing issues in inner cities with the CBC, and asked Ryan, who is African-American, if she would set the meeting up.
“Well, I would,” the president said. “I’ll tell you what. Do you want to set up the meeting? … Are they friends of yours?”
Ryan said that she knows some of the CBC members but that she would not set up the meeting.
“I would love to meet with the black caucus,” Trump added. “I think it’s great.”
The Congressional Black Caucus’ Twitter feed also tweeted a letter it sent to Trump the day before he was inaugurated but added he never wrote back. The tweeted ended the same way many of Trump’s tweets end, by saying “Sad!”
When asked if he would want to meet Trump personally, House Assistant Minority Leader James E. Clyburn, D-S.C., a veteran CBC member, said “want to meet him?” Then he gave a long grimace to reporters.
In response to a question about if the president was trying to send a message by calling out the group at a press conference, Clyburn made no attempt to explain the outburst.
“This guy is very irrational," Clyburn said of Trump. "So I’m not going to attempt to offer any rational thought about irrational behavior. I’m just not going to do it."
When asked if the CBC ought to set up a meeting with the president, Clyburn said that would be up to the groups chairman, Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-La., who was recorded as not being present for Thursday's only vote series of the day.
-- Rema Rahman, Lindsey McPherson and Simone Pathe contributed to this report.