He was the top Democrat on the GOP-led Benghazi Committee, pushing back on the controversial probe that Republican lawmakers used to dog Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign. As Oversight Committee chairman, he convened one of the most explosive hearings in this Congress — bringing Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, to Capitol Hill to testify against his old boss.
Cummings also led an investigation into politicization of the U.S. Census that kept pressure on the Trump administration to ultimately withdraw plans for a citizenship question on the 2020 questionnaire.
Most recently, Cummings helped spearhead the Democratic impeachment probe, and was an active participant even when he was working the phones remotely. Pelosi on Friday congratulated Cummings for his committee’s victory in a court case meant to obtain Trump’s financial records from his accounting firm.
Cummings’ roles often put him opposite some of Congress’ toughest GOP critics, including former South Carolina Rep. Trey Gowdy, who ran the Benghazi panel, and Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, the top Republican member of the Oversight Committee.
Over the summer, Trump targeted Cummings in a string of explosive tweets and public statements condemned by congressional Democrats as racist. The president denigrated the African American lawmaker online as “a brutal bully,” and characterized his predominantly black, Baltimore-based congressional district as “a disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess” where “no human being” would want to live.
Cummings, for his part, at times seemed a reluctant warrior against Trump. He made early attempts to work with the White House on efforts to reduce the cost of prescription drugs and eschewed talk of impeachment even as colleagues began to break in favor of it in recent months — advocating the imperative of fairness in the process even as the president attacked his city.
But Cummings also did not shy away from rigorous oversight efforts scrutinizing Trump’s executive branch and top aides. He subpoenaed counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway for her alleged violations of the Hatch Act, which she ignored despite contempt threats, and pressed the White House for details on officials’ use of private email for government business, including Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump.