Elijah Cummings, Democrats’ impeachment inquiry and a fierce critic of President Donald Trump, has died. Cummings, 68, passed away Thursday at Johns Hopkins Hospital due to complications concerning long-standing health challenges, according to a statement from his office.
The Maryland congressman was chairman of one of the three panels that have been leading the House impeachment investigation focusing on Trump’s Ukraine activities. Representative Carolyn Maloney of New York, the second-most senior Democrat on the Oversight panel. He will become acting committee chair under House rules until the Democratic caucus elects a successor, according to a leadership aide. The other senior Democratic members of the panel include William Lacy Clay of Missouri, Jim Cooper of Tennessee, and Gerald Connolly of Virginia.
Even before the focus on Ukraine, Cummings’s committee was looking into a wide range of other matters, including the administration’s failed effort to add a citizenship question to the 2020 U.S. Census, as well as the use by Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner and others of private texts and emails for official business.
During an August speech at the National Press Club, Elijah Cummings called for “those in the highest level” of government to stop using “racist language” that divides Americans. He at the time was
, referring to Trump’s rhetorical attacks on his hometown of Baltimore without naming the president.
“Unbalanced criticism can be self-reinforcing, causing us to doubt our ability to improve,” Cummings said. “Time is precious, and I will not waste it on anything trying to distract me from my purpose and my mission.”
Trump had earlier trained his ire on Cummings after Fox News showed the Maryland Democrat criticizing the administration’s immigration policy. Cummings in that news flash referred to the treatment of migrants seeking asylum at the southern border. Trump began tweeting on July 27 and continued for several days, describing Baltimore, part of which is in Cummings’s district, as a “disgusting, rat and rodent-infested mess.”
On Thursday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi ordered flags at the Capitol lowered to half-staff, and Trump joined lawmakers on both sides of the aisle in lauding Cummings with tributes. “I got to see first hand the strength, passion, and wisdom of this highly respected political leader. His work and voice on so many fronts will be tough, if not impossible, to replace!”