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Why Trump’s verbal assault on Cummings and Baltimore sounds familiar

President Trump is verbally assaulting the city of Baltimore. On Monday, civil rights activist Al Sharpton and Maryland Republicans Gov. Larry Hogan and former Lt. Gov. Michael Steele all slammed Trump’s attacks on Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., and Baltimore, which he called a “disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess.” Lisa Desjardins reports on how Trump’s words are again stoking racial tensions.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    President Trump is doubling down on his assault on the city of Baltimore.

    As Lisa Desjardins reports, there are echoes of previous attacks of his on urban areas of the United States and their leaders.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    In Baltimore today, condemnation of President Trump's words about the city, seen there as stoking racial divide, from the left, civil rights activist Reverend Al Sharpton:

  • Al Sharpton:

    He has a particular venom for blacks and people of color.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    And the right, former Republican Party Chairman and former Maryland Lieutenant Governor Michael Steele.

  • Michael Steele:

    Mr. President, your reprehensible comments are like water off a duck's back when it comes to this community. It just washes over them.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    This after the president fired off over a dozen weekend tweets criticizing Maryland Congressman Elijah Cummings and his Baltimore-area district.

    He called Cummings a brutal bully and said his district is considered the worst in the USA, adding that the district, which includes part of Baltimore and its suburbs, is "a disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess."

    The Baltimore Sun defended its city with an op-ed blasting the president as "returning to an old standby, using the most emotional and bigoted of arguments."

    The paper also stressed pride points, like Baltimore's Inner Harbor and Johns Hopkins Hospital. The most recent FBI crime statistics showed Baltimore with the nation's highest murder rate and second highest violent crime rate.

    But Cummings' district also has above average rates of college education and home prices and it's the second wealthiest black district in the country. This is coming up amidst a mental tensions between the president and Cummings, who gave this response last week:

  • Question:

    Do you believe the president is a racist?

  • Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md.:

    I believe that he is, yes, no doubt about it.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Cummings also chairs the House Oversight Committee, which is investigating the White House on several fronts. Last Thursday, he authorized subpoenas for White House advisers, including Mr. Trump's daughter and son-in-law, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner.

    And earlier this month, Cummings slammed the administration's previous zero tolerance policy that led to thousands of separated families at the border.

    This is not the first time the president has responded to criticism from a black lawmaker this way.

  • Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga.:

    I don't see this president-elect as a legitimate president.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Georgia Congressman and civil rights icon John Lewis said that to NBC in 2017, commenting on Russian interference in the election.

    The next day, Mr. Trump tweeted: "Congressman John Lewis should spend more time on fixing and helping his district" and called it "crime-infested."

    More recently, the president faced bipartisan criticism for tweeting four Democratic congresswomen should go back where they came from. Three were born in the U.S. and all are citizens.

    Like that attack, Mr. Trump is showing no signs of backing down or apologizing for his latest. Instead, the president pointed to a rival's words about Baltimore.

  • Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.:

    You would think that you were in a Third World country.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    That was Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders after touring part of Baltimore in 2015. It was a tour meant to highlight a specific run-down area and income inequality.

    The White House and president insist the tweets were not about race.

    What is this about? Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney Sunday said that Cummings' attacks are about his criticism of the president's border policy.

  • Mick Mulvaney:

    What this is about, though, is the president fighting back against what he saw as being illegitimate attacks about the border in the hearing this week.

    When the president hears lies like that, he is going to fight back, and that's what you saw in his tweets.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Cummings and the House of Representatives are out of Washington on recess until September.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Lisa Desjardins.

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