He 'worked until his last breath': Here are 4 important facts about the late Rep. Elijah Cummings

He 'worked until his last breath': Here are 4 important facts about the late Rep. Elijah Cummings
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Democrats on Capitol Hill woke up to some sad news on Thursday morning, October 17: Maryland Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, chairman of the House Oversight Committee, had died at the age of 68. Although Cummings had been battling health problems, his death came as a shock: the Maryland Democrat had maintained a busy schedule during the final weeks of his life, and his widow, Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, asserted that her husband “worked until his last breath.”


Cummings was a fixture in Maryland politics. After serving in the Maryland House of Delegates from 1983-January 1996, he entered the U.S. House of Representatives via the Baltimore area in April 1996 (after Democrat Kweisi Mfume resigned from Congress to become national president of the NAACP) and was reelected 11 times — mostly recently, in the 2018 midterms.

Here are some important facts about the late House Oversight Committee chairman.

1. Cummings led multiple investigations of President Trump

When Democrats recaptured the U.S. House of Representatives with a net gain of 40 seats in the 2018 midterms, it wasn’t hard to predict that Democrat-led committees would be conducting multiple investigations of President Donald Trump — or that Cummings would play a key role in those investigations. Sure enough, Cummings was chosen as chairman of the House Oversight Committee and led multiple investigations of the president’s activities, from hush money payments during the 2016 presidential election to probes of Trump’s family members serving in the White House.

2. Cummings played a key role in Michael Cohen’s February 2019 testimony before Congress  

In February of this year, Michael Cohen (Trump’s former personal attorney and fixer and once an important figure in the Trump Organization) was questioned extensively by Cummings when he testified publicly before the House Oversight Committee. Cummings was instrumental in getting Cohen to testify, and the attorney spoke candidly about the role he played in hush money payments to two women Trump allegedly had extramarital affairs with: adult film star Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal. Cohen is now serving a three-year sentence in federal prison after pleading guilty to everything from campaign finance violations to tax and bank crimes.

3. Trump’s tirade against the city of Baltimore underscored his animosity for Cummings

Trump went on a tirade against Baltimore in July, describing Maryland’s largest city as a “very dangerous and filthy place” and a “rat- and rodent-infested mess.” And it wasn’t hard to figure out why Trump had such animosity for the predominantly African-American city: Baltimore was Cummings’ home town, and Cummings’ district included parts of West Baltimore as well as some of Baltimore’s suburbs. When Trump railed against Baltimore, it was obvious that Cummings’ work on the House Oversight Committee was really getting to him. But Cummings was hardly gloating when he conducted multiple investigations of Trump; he seemed genuinely sad that the president of the United States made such investigations necessary.

4. Cummings was a key figure in House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry against Trump

After Cohen’s testimony before the House Oversight Committee in February, Cummings asserted, “We are better than this. We really are. As a country, we are so much better than this.” That was a recurring theme with Cummings, who obviously took no pleasure in investigating the president — he wished that such investigations weren’t necessary. And the decision to come out in favor of an impeachment inquiry against Trump wasn’t one he arrived at lightly. During the final weeks of Cummings’ life, House Oversight was among the committees that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was working with closely on an impeachment inquiry — and when White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, on October 8, wrote an angry letter slamming the inquiry, he addressed it to four prominent Democrats: Pelosi, Cummings, Rep. Adam Schiff (chairman of the House Intelligence Committee) and Rep. Elliot L. Engel (chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee).

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