Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) skipped a tour of the Baltimore Housing and Urban Development (HUD) that took place on July 31.
The tour featured the agency’s Secretary Ben Carson and other staffers.
According to the Daily Caller, Cummings was invited to join the tour but rejected the invitation.
Carson was asked about Cummings not being present at a press conference and said he didn’t know why Cummings skipped the tour but said it may have been due to a scheduling conflict.
Carson’s surprise visit took place amid a nationwide focus on the murder-riddled city following remarks by President Donald Trump.
Trump over the weekend targeted Cummings, the chair of the House Oversight Committee, alleging he’d ignored his district for years as it fell into disrepair and filth.
Contrasting the state of the southern border with the portion of Cummings district that sits in Baltimore, Trump wrote on Twitter: “As proven last week during a Congressional tour, the Border is clean, efficient & well run, just very crowded. Cumming District is a disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess. If he spent more time in Baltimore, maybe he could help clean up this very dangerous & filthy place.”
Trump also wondered why so much money was being sent to the district when it was run so badly. “Where is all this money going? How much is stolen? Investigate this corrupt mess immediately!” he wrote.
Lynne Patton, regional administrator for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, said that $16 billion in grants was given to Cummings’s district alone in 2018 and Trump added late July 29 that the funds had either been “stolen or wasted.”
“Baltimore’s numbers are the worst in the United States on Crime and the Economy. Billions of dollars have been pumped in over the years, but to no avail. The money was stolen or wasted,” he said in another missive.
While critics of Trump’s remarks have called them racist, they’ve been unable to counter his claims of corruption in Baltimore, which has the highest murder rate in the nation and major issues with abandoned buildings, rats, and bed bugs. Cummings has largely remained silent amid the attacks.
Trump told reporters on Tuesday that the city “has been very badly mishandled for many years” by officials including Cummings.
“The government has been pumping billions of dollars to no avail. Baltimore is an example of what corrupt government leads to. … I feel so sorry for the people of Baltimore, if they ask me we will get involved,” Trump added.
A number of residents have called into the White House to thank the president for bringing up Baltimore’s decay, Trump said. There have been more phone calls than the administration has received on “any other subject,” he said.
Homicides and Shootings in Baltimore
According to the Baltimore Police Department, there have been 165 homicides in the city and 374 non-fatal shootings this year as of July 6. There have also been 2,353 robberies and 7,734 larcenies.
The city saw a record-high number of murders of 342 murders in 2017, the Federal Bureau of Investigation said in its annual Crime in the United States report, which was released in September 2018.
With roughly 615,000 inhabitants in Baltimore, the murder rate was 56 per 100,000 people, the highest in the nation among major cities. The next highest was Detroit, which recorded a homicide rate of 40 per 100,000 people, followed by Memphis, Tennessee, with 28 homicides per 100,000 people, and Chicago, with a rate of 24 per 100,000.
Nationwide, there were 5.3 murders per 100,000 people, a decline of 1.4 percent from 2016 but an increase of 17.3 percent from 2013.
David Kennedy, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City, told the Associated Press last year that officials have not been able to formulate an effective plan in dealing with the violence in Baltimore, regardless of the root cause.
“The underlying conditions that produce violence always matter. But on the other side, what matters is whether a city is able to frame up and implement a response to the violence. And one of the fundamental facts about Baltimore is that it’s really never been able to do that,” Kennedy said. “There’s been persistent political and law enforcement dysfunction in Baltimore going back pretty much as far as anybody can look.”