President Donald Trump on Tuesday defended Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell over criticism the Kentucky Republican has drawn for blocking election security legislation and for the fourth day in a row attacked one of the chairman conducting White House oversight, Oversight and Reform Chairman Elijah E. Cummings.
“Mitch McConnell is a man that knows less about Russia — and Russian influence — than even Donald Trump,” the president said. “And I know nothing.”
Those comments came in response to a question about Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank calling McConnell a “Russian agent” in a Friday column. The president dubbed that contention “a disgrace.” (MSNBC host and former GOP Rep. Joe Scarborough has repeatedly referred to the GOP leader as “Moscow Mitch.”)
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McConnell, in a rare response to criticism, took to the Senate floor Monday to blast Milbank’s column and criticism from Democrats about his consistent blocking of election security proposals and potential threats from Russia.
“I was accused of aiding and abetting the very man I’ve singled out as an adversary and opposed for nearly 20 years, Vladimir Putin,” McConnell said in a fiery — for him — floor speech Monday.
And though Trump said McConnell has zero knowledge about Russia, the senator on Monday read from a 1994 Wall Street Journal report about his plan “to attach stiff political conditions” to a Russia aid bill favored by the Clinton White House that targeted Moscow’s “meddling in its neighbors’ affairs.’”
‘A corrupt city′
The president also continued his feud with Cummings, saying the Maryland Democrat should investigate federal funds sent to Baltimore less than a week after House Democrats zeroed in on the president’s daughter and son-in-law.
“Baltimore has been very badly mishandled for many years,” Trump told reporters on the White House’s South Lawn as he departed for an event in Williamsburg, Va. “It’s a corrupt city, there’s no question about it.”
Without citing any data, the president said “billions and billions of dollars” in federal funds have been sent to Maryland’s largest city — but to “absolutely no avail.”
Trump allies, like North Carolina GOP Rep. Mark Meadows — a good friend of Cummings — have called on Trump to visit the city and learn more about what his administration could do to help. “At the right time, I’ll visit,” Trump said.
“As you know, Cummings has been in charge,” the president said, neglecting to mention the mayors, governors and city officials that have come and gone during Cummings’ 23 years representing Maryland’s 7th Congressional District.
The president was asked about the political ramifications of going after Cummings and the charges he is race-baiting.
“They are so happy … in Baltimore and other Democrat cities. … The African-American community is calling me and saying, ‘Finally, someone is telling the truth,’” Trump said.
Trump met on Monday with a group he described on Twitter as “inner-city pastors,” one of whom, Alveda King, an activist and niece of Martin Luther King, Jr., spoke after Monday’s confab.
“The Historically Black Colleges and Universities under this president are being blessed. The babies in the womb, the sick and poor and elderly are being blessed,” King said outside the West Wing. “We have an opportunity to continue to be blessed, and we have a president’s who’s listening. And I was glad to pray with him today. Now that’s it.”
Jared and Ivanka
Trump’s latest comments about Cummings came five days after the Oversight and Reform Committee voted along party lines, 23-16 to issue subpoenas for all work-related emails and texts sent by White House officials using personal accounts. Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump and son-in-law Jared Kushner — both senior West Wing aides — have admitted to using non-government accounts for official business.
Cummings and Democrats on his panel are looking into whether Trump White House staffers have violated federal records laws.
Since that committee vote, Trump has waged a Twitter campaign against Cummings and Baltimore echoing a Saturday “Fox & Friends” segment that portrayed the city in an unflattering light.
Cummings has mostly avoided responding to Trump’s tweets about him and Baltimore.
“Mr. President, I go home to my district daily. Each morning, I wake up, and I go and fight for my neighbors,” the chairman tweeted on Saturday. “It is my constitutional duty to conduct oversight of the Executive Branch. But, it is my moral duty to fight for my constituents.”
Meanwhile, the Fed
The president also kept up his drumbeat that the Federal Reserve should cut interest rates. “I would like to see a large cut, and I’d like to see, immediately, the quantitative tightening stop,” he said, claiming the economy would be better if it did as he said.
Griffin Connolly contributed to this report.