President Donald Trump began Monday, following a weekend of controversy over his attacks on Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., and his Baltimore-area district, by blasting Rev. Al Sharpton as someone who "hates whites and cops."
"I have known Al for 25 years. Went to fights with him & Don King, always got along well. He 'loved Trump!'" Trump tweeted in response to Sharpton posting a photo of him en route to Baltimore. "He would ask me for favors often. Al is a con man, a troublemaker, always looking for a score. Just doing his thing. Must have intimidated Comcast/NBC. Hates Whites & Cops!"
Sharpton is the host of "PoliticsNation" on MSNBC. He responded to Trump with a photo of the the president speaking to the Rev. Jesse Jackson, musician James Brown and Sharpton at his 2006 National Action Network conference and said Trump told him at the time he "respects my work."
"Different tune now," Sharpton added.
Trump then sent another tweet about Sharpton, calling him a "conman" who "would always ask me to go to his events."
"Seldom, but sometimes, I would go," Trump said. "It was fine."
Sharpton fired back, saying the president makes "trouble for bigots" and if Trump "really thought I was a con man he would want me in his cabinet."
The tweets came amid a burgeoning controversy involving Trump calling Cummings' district, Maryland's 7th Congressional District, "a disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess" and said that "no human being would want to live there." He later called Cummings, who is black, a "racist."
His reference to "the Squad," a group of four freshmen lawmakers, recalls his recent wave of attacks on them, including tweeting that the four women of color should "go back" to where they came from instead of criticizing his administration. All four of them women Reps. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., are U.S. citizens and only Omar was born outside the U.S. In response, Cummings told ABC's "This Week" earlier in the month he had "no doubt" that Trump is a racist.
Top Democrats as well as prominent Baltimore residents swiftly rebuked Trump's comments as "racist," "disgraceful" and "dangerous." Trump on Sunday responded to the criticism by accusing Democrats of playing the "race card" and said there was "nothing racist" about his remarks.
Cummings himself responded to the president's barbs on Saturday, tweeting that he is in his district every day.
"Each morning, I wake up, and I go and fight for my neighbors," Cummings said. "It is my constitutional duty to conduct oversight of the Executive Branch. But, it is my moral duty to fight for my constituents."
Some Republicans were critical of the president's tweets too. Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a longtime Trump ally, said during an appearance on ABC's "This Week" he thought Trump's tweets were "a bad idea." Rep. Will Hurd, R-Texas, told the show: "I wouldn't be tweeting this way."
The altercation comes days after Cummings' committee voted to subpoena personal emails and texts of top White House aides, including Trump's daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner, who are both prominent White House staffers. It also followed a press conference after former special counsel Robert Mueller's congressional testimony in which Cummings said he is "begging the American people to pay attention to what is going on" regarding the president and his associates.