US congressman who oversaw Trump inquiries
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