White House chief of staff Mick MulvaneyJohn (Mick) Michael MulvaneyWashington gives up on spending cuts Democrats seize on Mueller hearings in election security push House panel approves subpoena for official White House communications MORE defended President TrumpDonald John TrumpDemocrats denounce Trump’s attack on Cummings: ‘These are not the words of a patriot’ ‘Maximum Pressure’ on Iran has failed — here’s what should come next France urges Trump to ‘not mix’ digital taxes with tariffs on wine MORE‘s remarks calling a black congressman’s district a “disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess,” stating during an interview with Fox News’s Chris WallaceChristopher (Chris) WallaceWas Mueller a fumbling fool or stoic hero? Depends on who you watched Mueller will be remembered for his weak testimony, not his shocking report Maddow: Trump White House ‘did not have a great day’ with Mueller testimony MORE that there was nothing racist about the president’s comments.

Mulvaney, the acting chief of staff who has also served as Trump’s budget director, told Wallace that Trump was right to raise the issue and “I think it has absolutely zero to do with race.”

Under pointed questioning from Wallace on “Fox News Sunday,” Mulvaney said Trump had criticized Rep. Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsDemocrats denounce Trump’s attack on Cummings: ‘These are not the words of a patriot’ Trump slams Cummings as a ‘brutal bully,’ claims Baltimore district ‘far worse’ than southern border Overnight Health Care: Oversight chair plans to call drug executives to testify on costs | Biden airs anti-‘Medicare for All’ video | House panel claims Juul deliberately targeted kids MORE (D-Md.) because Cummings had criticized the border, and said he would have done the same thing if the criticism had come from Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffDemocrats seize on Mueller hearings in election security push GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz: Mueller testimony ‘sucking the life out of the impeachment movement’ Schiff: Pro-impeachment Democrats feel ‘stronger’ after Mueller hearing MORE (D-Calif.), a white congressman who is also Jewish.

Mulvaney also doubled down on Trump’s remarks, saying that as a former congressman himself, “if I had poverty in my district like they have in Baltimore, if I had crime in my district like they have in Chicago, if I had homelessness in my district like they have in San Francisco, and I spent all of my time in Washington, D.C., chasing down this Mueller investigation, this bizarre impeachment crusade, I’d get fired.” 

“And I think the president is right to raise this and I think it has absolutely zero to do with race,” he concluded.

Wallace said there was a “clear pattern here,” stating that before Trump’s inauguration, he had said that another black congressman, Rep. John LewisJohn LewisThe truth about the BDS movement Pressley defends breaking with ‘squad’ on BDS vote Israel vote will expose Democratic divisions MORE (R-Ga.), should spend time in his “crime-infested district.”

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He then noted the president’s recent criticisms of four Democratic congresswomen, who are all members of minority groups. Trump also used the word “infested” in criticizing those four lawmakers, stating that they should “go back to the crime-infested countries” they came from.

Three of the women were born in the United States.

“Infested. It sounds like vermin, it sounds sub-human. And theses are all six members of Congress who are people of color,” Wallace said. 

Mulvaney responded by saying he thought Wallace was spending way too much time “reading between the lines.”

“I’m not reading between the lines, I’m reading the lines,” Wallace interjected. 

Mulvaney responded that if Schiff said the same thing as Cummings, Trump would be talking the same way about him.

When Wallace expressed doubt that Trump, in such a situation, would talk about Schiff’s “crime-infested, rodent-infested district,” Mulvaney said “he very well could” and it would have zero to do with Schiff being Jewish.

Pressed on whether he was comfortable with Trump’s rhetoric, Mulvaney asked Wallace if he’d seem pictures posted on the Internet of Cummings’ district. 

The two a short time later shifted subjects to this week’s testimony by special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerTrump calls for probe of Obama book deal Democrats express private disappointment with Mueller testimony Kellyanne Conway: ‘I’d like to know’ if Mueller read his own report MORE.

The president launched the new controversy with Cummings on Saturday by tweeting about the lawmaker, who as chairman of the House Oversight Committee has led investigations into the administration. 

“Cummings has been a brutal bully, shouting and screaming at the great men & women of Border Patrol about conditions at the Southern Border, when actually his Baltimore district is FAR WORSE and more dangerous,” Trump wrote in the tweet.

“His district is considered the Worst in the USA as proven last week during a Congressional tour, the Border is clean, efficient & well run, just very crowded. Cummings’ 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.” 

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