NATIONWIDE — U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings, the head of a committee overseeing the impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump, has died at 68, according to a statement from his office.

  • Cummings led committee overseeing House impeachment inquiry
  • He clashed publicly this year when Trump called Baltimore "rat-infested"
  • He became attorney, rose to become 1st black House speaker pro tem
  • SEE BELOW: President, political leaders send their condolences

A Democratic giant in the political world since becoming a congressman for Maryland in 1996, the Baltimore native died from "complications" to "longstanding health challenges," at Johns Hopkins Hospital at 2:45 a.m. Thursday, the statement said.

No further details were released about the exact nature of how he died, but he had an aortic valve replacement in 2017, news reports say. He was away from Washington for a medical procedure when he died.

Cummings had a long political career and in the past few months had been in the political spotlight. Until his death, he was the chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, which is one of a few committees overseeing the U.S. House impeachment inquiry of Trump.

Earlier this month, the White House sent a letter to Congressional Democrats, calling the impeachment probe "illegitimate" and that it would not take part in the House's inquiry.

Over the summer, Cummings and Trump went back and forth when the president said that Baltimore was a "rat and rodent infested mess" and complained how Cummings and Democratic leaders have failed American cities.

Cummings invited the president to visit, saying Baltimore is "a great community."

"Come to Baltimore. Do not just criticize us, but come to Baltimore and I promise you, you will be welcomed," he said in August.

Cummings was born on January 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."

It steeled Cummings to prove that counselor wrong. He became not only a lawyer but one of the most powerful orators in the statehouse, where he entered office in 1983.

He rose to become the first black House speaker pro tem. He would begin his comments slowly, developing his theme and raising the emotional heat until it became like a sermon from the pulpit.

He is survived by Maya Rockeymoore and their three children.

A few political colleagues have shared their condolences.

"Elijah Cummings had unmatched integrity, wisdom. You couldn't spend five minutes with Elijah Cummings without feeling impacted deeply by his his guidance, by his values," Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Florida) said.


The Associated Press contributed to this story.