Last update: July 29, 4:51 p.m.
Ken Bredemeier and Chris Hannas contributed to this report.
U.S. President Donald Trump is continuing to engage in what some of his critics are characterizing as race-baiting, focused on the majority African-American city of Baltimore and one of its prominent representatives in Congress, Elijah Cummings, whose powerful committee is trying to obtain communications of White House officials, including the president’s family members.
Baptist minister Al Sharpton, a civil rights activist known as an anti-Trump commentator on cable television, was also targeted by Trump in early Monday tweets.
“He’s [Trump's] like a child. Somebody says something and he reacts. “He’s thin-skinned and not really matured that well,” said Sharpton in Baltimore. “But he has a particular venom for blacks and people of color. He doesn’t refer to any of his other opponents or critics as ‘infested.’ He does not attack their districts.”
Trump, on Monday afternoon, met with about 20 "inner city pastors," as he described them on Twitter.
During the two-hour meeting, the president "did more listening than talking," according to Bill Owens, leader of the Coalition of African-American Pastors.
Asked by a reporter if he considers Trump a racist, Owens replied, "I find that hard to believe."
Evangelist Alveda King, a niece of Nobel Peace Prize recipient Martin Luther King Jr., said following the meeting that "we have a president who is listening, and I'm glad to pray with him today."
The participants said the meeting had been scheduled before Trump launched his attacks on Cummings and his Maryland congressional district.
Such attacks, according to the Axios political newsletter, quoting those close to Trump, is central to the president’s re-election strategy.
“Trump’s associates predict more, not less, of the race-baiting madness,” according to an Axios article written earlier this month.
Trump has also tried to appeal to black voters since he began his successful 2016 run for president, arguing they should abandon the Democratic Party because decades of leadership in the inner cities has done nothing to improve their plight.
Trump, on Twitter, has called Cummings, who is black and now in his 13th term in the House of Representatives, a “brutal bully,” claiming his congressional district “is a disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess.”
The critical series of tweets began Saturday and continued through Monday, with Trump referring to Maryland’s largest city as the having the worst crime statistics in the nation, blaming Cummings’ “leadership.”
While Baltimore has a high crime rate, several other cities — including St. Louis, Detroit and Memphis — are ranked more dangerous, according to recent crime statistics.
The focus on the Baltimore area and its congressman comes amid Trump battling over the past week on social media with others he has singled out for criticism, including two friendly nations: France and Sweden.
Trump also recently has been assailing four first-term Democratic lawmakers, all women of color, saying they should “go back” to their home countries, even though all four are American citizens, three of them by birth and the fourth, a Somali refugee, through naturalization.
As Trump unleashed his attacks, Cummings, a 13-term congressman, defended himself, saying, "Mr. President, I go home to my district daily. Each morning, I wake up, and I go and fight for my neighbors. It is my constitutional duty to conduct oversight of the Executive Branch. But, it is my moral duty to fight for my constituents."
In recent congressional hearings, Cummings, as chairman of the House Oversight Committee, berated Kevin McAleenan, the acting Homeland Security chief for the condition of the country's detention facilities at the border and the government's lax records on tracking the whereabouts of migrant parents it had separated from children at the border.
Cummings’ committee is also investigating Trump’s presidency, but he is not among the more than 100 Democrats calling for impeachment proceedings.
The committee, voting along party lines last Thursday, authorized subpoenas for personal e-mails and texts used for official business by top White House aides, including Ivanka Trump, and her husband, Jared Kushner.
Cummings said lawmakers had obtained “direct evidence” that the president’s daughter, Kushner and others were using personal accounts for government business in violation of federal law and White House policy.
Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney rejects the notion that Trump's attacks on Cummings are racially motivated.
“The president is attacking Cummings for saying things that are not true,” Mulvaney told the Fox News Sunday interview show. “It has absolutely zero to do with race.”