Steve Herman contributed to this report.
President Donald Trump defended again Tuesday what critics are characterizing as racist rhetoric, 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.
Speaking to reporters outside the White House, Trump defended his recent inflammatory remarks, saying "I think I'm helping myself because I'm pointing out the tremendous corruption that's taken place in Baltimore and other Democratic-run cities."
Trump said "Those people are living in hell in Baltimore" and that "largely African American" city residents have let him know "they really appreciated what I'm doing." He also said he is the "least racist person in the world"
Trump doubled down on his criticism of Cummings, claiming "all that money that's been spent (in Baltimore) over 20 years has been stolen and wasted by people like Elijah Cummings."
On Monday, Trump falsely stated Baltimore has nation's worst crime statistics under 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
A critical series of tweets targeting Cummings began Saturday and has continued, with Trump referring to the congressman's district as "a disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess.”
Government statistics show, however, that Cummings's district, which includes impoverished parts of Baltimore and well-off suburban enclaves adjoining the city, has higher per capita income and higher median home values than the national average.
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 has defended himself.
"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’s 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 emails 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.”