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Trump on death of US Representative Elijah Cummings: ‘I got to see first hand the strength and passion’

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BALTIMORE, Maryland - US Representative Elijah Cummings died at 2:45 a.m. at John Hopkins Hospital Thursday.

That's according to a statement from the Congressman's office.

The statement says he passed away due to complications concerning longstanding health challenges.

The Baltimore representative was 68-years-old.

According to the Associated Press, the Democratic House Oversight and Reform Committee chair had been out for several weeks for a medical procedure.

He hadn't taken part in a roll call vote since September 11.

His statement didn't detail the procedure.

He previously was treated for heart and knee issues.

Rep. Cummings leaves behind a wife and three children.

His widow is Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, the chair of Maryland's Democratic Party.

She released a statement, calling her husband "an honorable man who proudly served his district and the nation with dignity, integrity, compassion and humility."

She says Cummings "worked until his last breath because he believed our democracy was the highest and best expression of our collective humanity and that our nation's diversity was our promise, not our problem."

She says "It has been an honor to walk by his side on this incredible journey. I loved him deeply and will miss him dearly."

According to his website, he began his career of public service in the Maryland House of Delegates, where he served for 14 years and became the first African American in Maryland history to be named Speaker Pro Tem.

He's represented Maryland’s 7th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives since 1996.

As chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, Cummings led multiple investigations of the president's governmental dealings, including probes in 2019 relating to the president's family members serving in the White House.

Trump responded by criticizing the Democrat's district as a "rodent-infested mess" where "no human being would want to live." The comments came weeks after Trump drew bipartisan condemnation following his calls for Democratic congresswomen of color to get out of the U.S. "right now," and go back to their "broken and crime-infested countries."

Cummings replied that government officials must stop making "hateful, incendiary comments" that only serve to divide and distract the nation from its real problems, including mass shootings and white supremacy.

"Those in the highest levels of the government must stop invoking fear, using racist language and encouraging reprehensible behavior," Cummings said in a speech at the National Press Club.

Throughout his career, Cummings used his fiery voice to highlight the struggles and needs of inner-city residents. He was a firm believer in some much-debated approaches to help the poor and addicted, such as needle exchange programs as a way to reduce the spread of AIDS.

Cummings was born on Jan. 18, 1951. In grade school, a counselor told Cummings he was too slow to learn and spoke poorly, and he would never fulfill his dream of becoming a lawyer.

"I was devastated," Cummings told The Associated Press in 1996, shortly before he won his seat in Congress. "My whole life changed. I became very determined."

Cummings' committee, authorized to investigate virtually any part of the federal government, is one of three conducting the House impeachment probe of Trump. Cummings was among the three chairmen to sign a letter seeking documents into the formal inquiry into whether Trump pressured Ukraine to investigate the family of Democratic presidential rival Joe Biden, the former vice president. The committees have issued multiple subpoenas of witnesses in the face of the Trump administration's refusal to cooperate with the impeachment probe and have jointly been meeting behind closed doors to hear testimony.

Separately, Cummings led an effort to gain access to Trump's financial records. His committee subpoenaed records from Mazars USA, an accounting firm that has provided services to Trump. The panel demanded documents from 2011 to 2018 as it probed Trump's reporting of his finances and potential conflicts of interest. Last week, a federal appeals court ruled that the records must be turned over to the House.

Shortly after Cummings' death after 2 a.m., Thursday at Johns Hopkins Hospital, his constituents began mourning. Maryland's state Senate president, U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland and others praised Cummings' service and friendship.

President Trump tweeted his condolences.

"I got to see first hand the strength, passion and wisdom of this highly respected political leader. His work and voice on so many fronts will be very hard, if not impossible, to replace!" he wrote.

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