Some Maryland Republicans and donors to President Trump’s campaign are keeping quiet about the president’s tweetstorm assailing Baltimore as a “dangerous & filthy” place and labeling Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings a “racist.”
The president escalated his criticisms Monday after his initial attacks on Cummings and Baltimore were derided by Democrats and others. Trump’s critics saw the tweets as the latest in a string of inflammatory and racist comments.
Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) called Trump’s remarks “outrageous and inappropriate” on a talk radio show, but other Maryland Republicans aren’t talking about it.
“I have no comment on the feud between the president and Mr. Cummings.” said U.S. Rep. Andrew P. Harris, the lone Republican in the state’s congressional delegation to Washington.
Harris publicly defended the president earlier this month after Trump was accused of racism when he wrote on Twitter that four congresswomen of color should “go back” to their “totally broken and crime infested” countries.
Maryland Senate Minority Leader J.B. Jennings had not commented on Trump’s remarks about Baltimore on his social media accounts, nor did he respond to Maryland Matter’s request for comment.
Nic Kipke, the House Republican leader in the Maryland General Assembly, also did not respond to a request for comment.
Some Republicans outside of Maryland have been noticeably quiet on Trump’s tweets, too. Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), whom Cummings has called a “good friend,” also hasn’t commented publicly on the president’s remarks. Meadows’ office did not respond to a request for comment.
Some retired Maryland Republican politicians, however, rebuked Trump for his tirade against Baltimore and Cummings.
Former Republican House representative Wayne Gilchrest, who represented the 1st District until he was defeated by Harris in the GOP primary in 2008, called Trump’s tweets racist. “It’s deeper than racism,” Gilchrest added. “It’s ignorance and arrogance, the depth of which we haven’t seen in a generation.”
He said he was “deeply saddened and disgusted” by the GOP’s response to the president’s remarks, and that Republicans who refuse to stand up to Trump have “no backbone.” Gilchrest added, “We can’t say enough or often enough how pathetically disgraceful this man Donald Trump is.”
Former Maryland lieutenant governor Michael Steele, a Republican, appeared at a news conference in Baltimore on Monday with Rev. Al Sharpton to condemn Trump’s remarks.
Steele slammed Trump’s comments as “reprehensible.” He urged Trump to visit Baltimore to tour the “vibrant and important” community. “Put the tweet down, brother, and show up,” Steele said.
Maryland’s current lieutenant governor, Boyd Rutherford, criticized Trump more subtly on Twitter on Saturday. “Mr. President @realDonaldTrump, I have substantial policy differences with Congressman @RepCummings. However, I hope your criticism is not directed at the many good and hard working people who live in the district.”
Baltimore is a deep blue city; Hillary Clinton pummeled Trump there in the 2016 presidential race. (She received about 200,000 votes compared to his roughly 25,000).
But there remain Trump supporters in the city, including some wealthy donors who buoyed his campaign in 2016 and in the 2020 cycle.
In the first three months of this year, Trump’s campaign had raised about $115,000 from Maryland, according to Federal Election Commission data. It ranked No. 18 among state donations during that time.
One of Trump’s Baltimore donors this cycle is Jeffrey Legum, a philanthropist and former president of Park Circle Motor Co. Legum donated the maximum allowed amount to Trump’s 2020 campaign, $2,800 for the primary and another $2,800 to use in the general election.
Legum has donated to a host of Democratic and Republican congressional campaigns in recent years; he also donated to Cummings’ and Harris’ campaigns in June, FEC data show.
Edward St. John, founder and chairman of the Baltimore-based real estate company, St. John Properties Inc., donated $2,700 to Trump’s 2016 campaign, records show. He had donated the same amount to Hillary Clinton’s campaign earlier that cycle. St. John also donated to Cummings’ campaign in 2015, and has donated to other Republican and Democratic lawmakers.
It’s not uncommon for businesspeople to donate to politicians in both parties, a move that’s seen as hedging their bets by ensuring that they have donated to the eventual winner.
Neither Legum nor St. John responded to requests for comment for this story.
Jim Burton, a longtime Maryland GOP political consultant, said that Trump’s criticisms of Baltimore resonate with others in the state.
“Donald Trump supporters across the country and in the state know the city of Baltimore is the beneficiary of a lot of tax dollars and there’s not much to show for it. The crime rate is out of control, schools continue to underperform and corruption is a problem,” Burton said.
And Burton doesn’t think Trump’s comments will cost him politically.
“The president’s voters are not on the East and West Coast.” He added, “The people who are upset with him over this already disliked him.”
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