We’ve seen this movie before.
Last week, President Trump hosted Rep. Elijah Cummings (MD), the top-ranking Democrat on the House oversight committee, in a meeting in the Oval Office to discuss health care.
An oval office meeting for a rank-and-file House member from the minority party is an extraordinary gesture of good faith. But Cummings used the spotlight the meeting afforded him to repeatedly rip Trump to shreds in the media.
Cummings has a history as a kind of partisan con artist. Numerous prominent Republicans have publicly touted their positive “working relationships” with Cummings, only to see him later savage them in the media.
The best exhibit is the current Oversight Committee chairman, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT).
Chaffetz began bragging about his “friendship” with Cummings even when he was just running for the chairmanship spot. First, Chaffetz went to Baltimore with Cummings to see his inner-city district, then Cummings came to Arizona where the two visited the Canyonlands National Park together.
“Republican and Democratic Congressmen Bond Amid Canyons and Grouse,” read the headline in Time. In other accounts, the word “bromance” was used.
Hows that working out for Chaffetz? In the time since he became chairman, Cummings has been just as relentless as ever creating headaches for Chaffetz as he was for the previous chairman, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA).
Cummings worked day and night to thwart any investigation into then-President Obama. Now he spends his time lobbing bombs at the Trump administration. (Last month, he was on the warpath demanding an investigation into Kellyanne Conway over some innocuous comments she made on cable news show. Congressman, here’s a tip: ethics violations typically aren’t committed on live television.)
Cummings frequently questions Chaffetz’s integrity. Obviously, the media eats this stuff up, and it drowns out everything Chaffetz wants to do.
Chaffetz became the “ranking member” on the oversight panel because Democrats wanted an attack dog there. At the time, Issa had been disrupting the work of the Democratic chairman much like Cummings has been doing for the last several years. Then Republicans won control of the House, and suddenly the GOP had subpoena power to look into President Obama.
Democrats were terrified of Issa, so they brought in Cummings. He has been absolutely relentless, ruthless, and successful in stymieing GOP investigators.
Somehow, Cummings is able to lure Republicans into a false sense of trust. Issa, said in an exit interview his relationship with Cummings was “actually quite good.” In one of his final hearings, he took the time to tell Cummings he had “made me a better person.”
It’s honestly baffling.
In the time since his Oval office sit down with the leader of the free world, here is how Cummings has responded:
– In the wake of the oval office meeting, Cummings spent the next 24 hours in the media working to sow discord between Republicans in the midst of trying to repeal Obamacare, claiming Trump had backed left-wing policies that conservatives oppose.
– He managed to turn coverage of the meeting, purportedly about health care, back to Russia investigation, by telling reporters about a letter he had reminded White House officials he had sent on the issue.
– On the Sunday shows, he accused Trump of “firing” U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara to head off a pending investigation. Like other presidents, Trump had asked all of the U.S. Attorneys to resign so he could appoint his own team. Bharara, a liberal media darling, managed to make this all about him and claimed he was fired. Cummings then poured gasoline on the fire with completely unsubstantiated allegations there was some impropriety.
It’s not like this wasn’t apparent leading up to the meeting. Here are some example tweets from Cummings:
– “#POTUS denied any contacts between #Trump advisers and #Russians but the list keeps growing. What in the world is going on?”
– “I strongly condemn President Trump’s cruel #massdeportation plan.”
– “The American people should not be fooled #Trump’s 2nd attempt at a #MuslimBan: it still cruelly blocks refugees & it is still unAmerican.”
Perhaps there are valuable Democratic partners to be had on health care reform. Cummings is not it.