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Top Oversight Dem Tells Trump in Meeting Not to Judge Black Community by 'Weakest Link'

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) speaks after meeting with President Trump at the White House on March 8, 2017, in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Olivier Douliery/Abaca/Sipa via AP Images)

WASHINGTON — The top Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee said he told President Trump during a sit-down meeting at the White House on Wednesday that he was painting the African-American community and inner cities with too negative a brush.

The White House said it arranged the meeting with Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) after a January phone call in which the congressman told the president they “had more in common than differences.”

Cummings told CNN he was “encouraged” by the meeting and thought Trump “was enthusiastic about everything that we talked about.”

“I said it in a very respectful way, and I said, Mr. President, maybe no one has said this to you, so I’m going to tell you today, that it seems that when you talk about the African-American community, you seem to want to judge our community by our weakest link,” Cummings said. “I said, there are vibrant, and many, many vibrant African-American communities throughout this country. People are doing extremely well. And I said, I’ve lived in the same house for 35 years in the inner city of Baltimore, I don’t feel threatened. I feel very good about it.”

“And I said, do me a favor. When you’re talking about the African-American community, don’t make it sound like we’re in foxholes and we’re afraid to walk down the street. And he shook his head and said, ‘You got a point there. I’m going to change that language. You’re absolutely right.'”

Cummings also brought up Vice President Mike Pence’s investigation on voter fraud.

“And I said, Mr. President, come on, now. Come on, Mr. President. There is no voter fraud, I said, but there is voter suppression. I said, in North Carolina, a three-judge panel has already said that the North Carolina legislature, with precision, did everything in their power to stop African-American people from voting, and people who would normally vote for Democrats,” he said. “And I said, you cannot have a legitimate voter survey or evaluation of the United States without addressing the issue of voter suppression. He agreed with me.”

The congressman said he didn’t think Trump “took anything in a negative way” and he “thought it was a sincere meeting — so, but now we have to wait and see.”

“I also told him that I was not there for a photo op. I was there to make a difference,” he added. “And I reminded him that, you know, he being 70 and I being 66, one of the most important things we can do is present a platform for our young people… and I walked out of the meeting feeling that we were on the road to getting something done.”

The White House readout of the meeting said Trump and Cummings focused on prescription drug prices, and the president “expressed his desire to work with Congressman Cummings in a bipartisan fashion to ensure prescription drug prices are more affordable for all Americans, especially those who need lifesaving prescription medications.”

“Reforming the Food and Drug Administration and reducing the regulatory burdens on drug manufacturers so as to enhance competition will help accomplish those goals,” the White House added.

Cummings confirmed they “spent most of the time” discussing drug prices, emphasizing that “right now we’ve got Medicare paying sometimes 70 percent more than VA or Medicaid.”

“That’s ridiculous. And so the president made a commitment today, as a matter of fact, he’s very enthusiastic about it, that he would work with us on a piece of legislation that we plan to file in two weeks. I warned him that he would not get very much cooperation from his Republican friends in the Congress, but he said that didn’t matter to him,” Cummings said. “He said he wanted to make sure that he did something not only for the citizens of Baltimore but the citizens in the rust belt, those in Ohio. He wanted to make, clearly, he wanted to make a difference for them.”