Mr. Cummings took on both tasks with passion. He used his powerful perch on Capitol Hill to target Mr. Trump in the most public of ways. In February of this year, Mr. Cummings summoned Michael Cohen, the president’s former lawyer, to testify before his committee for an extraordinary hearing in which Mr. Cohen denounced the president as “a con man” and a “cheat.”
The most arresting moment came from the congressman’s plaintive closing statement. “We have got to get back to normal!” Mr. Cummings thundered from the dais, in a moment that quickly went viral.
Mr. Cummings was in his 13th term serving as a representative for Maryland. He had been absent from Capitol Hill in recent weeks because of his illness. But before that, he could often be found in the Speaker’s Lobby — the ornate antechamber off the House floor, decorated with portraits of past House speakers — fielding reporter’s questions or quietly reading in the motorized wheelchair he used.
Mr. Cummings prided himself on his slow, methodical manner, but he could also work himself into a fiery oration, when his brow would furrow deeply and his voice would quiver with emotion. When Mr. Trump sued him in April to keep his business records secret, Mr. Cummings urged Congress to move slowly on impeachment. But the following month, with the White House raising a full-scale blockade of Democrats’ access to documents and witnesses, Mr. Cummings sounded impatient in an interview.
“It sounds like he’s asking us to impeach him,” the congressman said then, calling the White House blockade “a constitutional crisis” that was “far worse than Watergate.”
He had a series of health challenges in recent years, and had begun making his way around the Capitol in a motorized scooter and using a walker to steady himself. In 2017, he was in the hospital for two months after complications from a heart valve replacement, convinced, he said, that he was “living on borrowed time.”
But he was spiritual in his approach to his illness, and his life. He told the story of how one day, when was in such dire pain that he thought he might faint, a hospital worker turned up at his bedside, saying the Lord had sent her to deliver a message: “I’m just trying to get your attention. I’m not done with you.”
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