The Baltimore Sun compared President Trump to “vermin” and called him “the most dishonest man to ever occupy the Oval Office” in a scathing editorial defending Rep. Elijah Cummings. Mr. Trump spent the weekend lashing out on Twitter at the Maryland Democrat and his district, with a new wave of attacks dropping Sunday morning.

“It’s not hard to see what’s going on here,” The Sun wrote in the editorial published in Sunday’s edition under the headline, “Better to have a few rats than to be one.”

The paper, one of the oldest in the country, said Cummings “has been a thorn in this president’s side, and Mr. Trump sees attacking African American members of Congress as good politics, as it both warms the cockles of the white supremacists who love him and causes so many of the thoughtful people who don’t to scream.”

Mr. Trump has tweeted about Cummings more than a dozen times times since Saturday, claiming that Cummings’ majority-black district in Maryland, which includes parts of downtown Baltimore and extends to the suburbs, is “rat and rodent infested” and considered “the Worst in the USA.” The Sun editorial pointed out that the district is home to Johns Hopkins Hospital, the U.S. Social Security Administration headquarters and Baltimore’s popular Inner Harbor, with a median income that’s above the national average.

“[W]e would above all remind Mr. Trump that the 7th District, Baltimore included, is part of the United States that he is supposedly governing,” the piece read. “The White House has far more power to effect change in this city, for good or ill, than any single member of Congress including Mr. Cummings. If there are problems here, rodents included, they are as much his responsibility as anyone’s, perhaps more because he holds the most powerful office in the land.”

Peter Jensen, the editorial writer for The Sun who wrote the piece, said Mr. Trump “hasn’t shown one iota of interest in helping those people” in the district he disparaged.

“At some point you just have to address the stupidity of it, the folly of it and the racism of it,” Jensen told CBS News about Mr. Trump’s tweets.

“He just wanted to cause pain and embarrassment to the congressman, and in so doing, he was willing to throw about 700,000 people to the wolves,” Jensen added. He said he’d been receiving “surprisingly impassioned thank yous” from readers. 

The editorial said Mr. Trump “was returning to an old standby of attacking an African American lawmaker from a majority black district on the most emotional and bigoted of arguments.”

“Better to have some vermin living in your neighborhood than to be one,” it said.

Cummings has been one of the most outspoken Trump critics in Congress as chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, which has led several investigations into Mr. Trump, his administration and his business dealings. He also recently blasted the squalid conditions of migrant detention centers, which was seemingly the provocation for Mr. Trump’s attacks.

This is the second time this month that the president unleashed Twitter tirades on members of Congress who are minorities. He used similar language in racist tweets attacking “the Squad,” telling four lawmakers of colors to “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.” All four of the “Squad” members are U.S. citizens, and three were born in the U.S.

Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney defended Mr. Trump’s tweets on “Face The Nation” Sunday, saying the response is how the president reacts when “he feels like he’s attacked.”

“Face The Nation” moderate Margaret Brennan asked Mulvaney if he understood that Mr. Trump’s tweets about Cummings were being perceived as racist.

“I understand why, but that doesn’t mean that it’s racist,” Mulvaney said. “The president is pushing back against what he sees as wrong. It’s how he’s done in the past and he’ll continue to do in the future.”


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