Eli­jah Cummings

US con­gress­man who over­saw Trump in­quiries

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - - Deaths And Obituaries -

ELI­JAH Cummings, who has died aged 68 fol­low­ing long-term health prob­lems, was a Demo­cratic con­gress­man who as chair­man of the US House Over­sight and Re­form Com­mit­tee over­saw the im­peach­ment in­quiries into Pres­i­dent Trump.

As well as fight­ing doggedly through­out his ca­reer on be­half of his home town, Bal­ti­more, in re­cent months he had be­come a thorn in Trump’s side. As well as the in­ves­ti­ga­tions into the pres­i­dent’s deal­ings with Ukraine, Cummings’s com­mit­tee had also de­manded doc­u­ments re­lated to the pres­i­dent’s per­sonal fi­nances and po­ten­tial abuses in fed­eral agen­cies.

In the months be­fore his death he had en­gaged in Twit­ter ex­changes with the pres­i­dent af­ter Trump had de­scribed Bal­ti­more as “rat and ro­dent in­fested”.

Eli­jah Eu­gene Cummings was born on Jan­uary 18, 1951 in Bal­ti­more, the third of seven chil­dren of Bap­tist share­crop­pers Robert and Ruth (nee

Cochran). He had an early ground­ing in Civil Rights, on one oc­ca­sion hav­ing rocks and bot­tles thrown at him as he helped to open up a swim­ming pool to black cus­tomers.

He was in­spired to en­ter law by watch­ing Perry Ma­son on tele­vi­sion: “Many young men in my neigh­bour­hood were go­ing to re­form school,” he re­called. “I thought that th­ese young men prob­a­bly needed lawyers.”

He at­tended Howard Univer­sity in Wash­ing­ton DC, grad­u­at­ing in po­lit­i­cal sci­ence in 1973. Three years later he grad­u­ated from the Univer­sity of Mary­land School of

Law, and prac­tised as a trial lawyer for nearly two decades; in 1983 he was elected to the Mary­land House of Del­e­gates, where he made a name for him­self as chair­man of the state’s Leg­isla­tive Black Cau­cus, and be­came the first African-Amer­i­can in the state to be elected act­ing Speaker.

He gave up prac­tis­ing law in 1996, when he was elected to the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives; he went on to serve as chair­man of the Con­gres­sional Black Cau­cus and to sit on a va­ri­ety of com­mit­tees, draw­ing praise in 2008 for his han­dling of the in­quiry into the use of steroids in base­ball.

In 2019, dur­ing a hear­ing about the de­ten­tion of mi­grants, he clashed with Kevin McAleenan, ask­ing the act­ing Home­land Se­cu­rity Sec­re­tary if he and his col­leagues had an “em­pa­thy deficit”.

Cummings had taken over as chair­man of the Over­sight Com­mit­tee in Novem­ber 2018, when the Democrats won con­trol of Congress. He was a forth­right critic of the gov­ern­ment’s plans to add a cit­i­zen­ship ques­tion to the 2020 cen­sus, and of the im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy that left chil­dren sep­a­rated from their par­ents.

He led in­ves­ti­ga­tions into se­cu­rity clear­ances is­sued by the White House, and into pay­ments made dur­ing the 2016 pres­i­den­tial cam­paign to si­lence women claim­ing to have had af­fairs with Trump.

Cummings mar­ried, first, Joyce Matthews. They sep­a­rated, and later di­vorced, and in 2008 he mar­ried Maya Rock­ey­moore, a fel­low Mary­land Demo­crat, who sur­vives him.

CHAM­PION: Eli­jah Cummings

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