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As D.C. mourns Cummings, not everyone is signing off on ‘his last official act’ in office

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Members of both parties in Washington, D.C. mourned the sudden passing of Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., after it was announced early Thursday that the civil rights icon passed away at the age of 68.

Just as his long career in Congress was sometimes marked with controversy, so too was his death, as there are questions being raised about signatures on subpoenas.

Partisan politics were set aside to recognize Cummings’ service as a long-standing member of Congress, while CNN reported that the chairman of the House Oversight Committee was still working just hours before his death.

Cummings died of longstanding health problems early Thursday morning, and while there was little mention of his health in the media, the Democrat had been seen using a wheelchair in recent years and was often seen on oxygen. Cummings had an aortic valve replacement surgery in 2017.

In what was described as “one of his last official acts,” CNN said that hours before his passing, Cummings signed two subpoenas and the signatures sparked a controversy of its own.

The subpoenas, related to a temporary end to a policy change allowing some non-citizens with severe health issues to remain in the country, were reportedly driven to Baltimore by committee staffers.

“Chairman Cummings felt so strongly about the children, that he was going to fight until the end,” an aide told CNN.

The signature on the subpoenas can be seen in the screenshot below:

Yet, a signature on a linked document tweeted by Yashar Ali, a contributing writer for New York Magazine and The Daily Beast, is entirely different. The document is dated September 30, 2019.

While it’s entirely understandable that the signature of a person who is very ill may not match up entirely to the individual’s signatures when healthy, noted differences are visible.

Adding to the mystery is another question on Cummings’ signature, coming from well known social media user “Carpe Donktum,” who highlighted Thursday what appears to be mismatched signatures from Cummings.

The signature in question is juxtaposed with the second signature (seen above) and is very different from the signature on the subpoena signed this week.

Before getting too worked up over mismatched signatures, even though a subpoena is a legal document, forging the signatures of members of Congress is apparently a very common thing in Washington, according to a 2014 piece by The Atlantic.

Titled, “The Forgers of Capitol Hill,” the article said “mimicking the boss’s signature has become a rite of passage” for staffers, adding lawmakers would “be hard-pressed to affix their John Hancocks to every document that hits their desks.”

“[N]obody on Capitol Hill bats an eye at staffers signing for their bosses; it’s part of the daily routine, and, according to the House and Senate Ethics committees, there are no rules prohibiting it,” wrote Matt Vasilogambros.

The piece goes on to focus on the “art” of being able to accurately mimic a lawmaker’s signature, noting that the cost of an autopen — a machine used by the Oval Office that mimics a signature —  is too steep for many congressional offices. A price of $10,000 was cited.

One thing is certain — other than the media steering clear of the story — and that is that social media users are highly skeptical.

Here’s a sampling of responses from Twitter:

Tom Tillison


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