President Donald Trump suggested Friday in a morning tweetstorm that he did not say that Haiti, El Salvador, and African nations were “shithole countries.” It was widely reported Thursday that he did say those things in an Oval Office meeting on immigration with lawmakers of both parties, and it sparked outrage across the world.
But after Trump’s tweetstorm, Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin, who was in the Thursday meeting with the president, went on MSNBC to say Trump was not telling the truth. Trump “said things which were hate filled, vile and racist. He used those words,” Sen. Durbin said. “The president started tweeting this morning, denying that he used those words. It is not true. He said these hate-filled things. And he said them repeatedly.”
Durbin added that Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina confronted the president for his coarse language in the meeting. "For him to confront the president as he did, literally sitting next to him, took extraordinary political courage, and I respect him for it," Durbin said.
Trump’s denial comes after more than 12 hours of fevered coverage and condemnation from Democrats and some Republicans in Congress. Last night, a White House spokesman did not deny that Trump said “shithole countries” when asked. CNN’s Kaitlan Collins reported that Trump spent Thursday night on the phone asking associates about how the comment was received.
This morning, CNBC correspondent Eamon Javers asked a White House aide if the administration was officially denying that Trump made the remarks. The aide couldn’t say.
The Trump administration and Congress are in the midst of tense negotiations over whether to grant citizenship to the approximately 700,000 DACA recipients in the U.S., people who were brought to the country illegally as children. In September, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the end of the federal protection last September and gave Congress six months to contemplate a legislative fix.
Many Republicans in Congress are insisting they will only agree to granting citizenship to DACA recipients if Democrats make concessions on border security, Trump’s proposed border wall, the diversity visa lottery program, and limiting family members sponsoring each other for citizenship.
Trump and many Republicans have taken to calling the family-based sponsoring “chain migration.” Durbin said he chastised the president for using that term: "I said to the president, 'Do you realize how painful that term is to so many people? African-Americans believe that they migrated to America in chains. When you speak about [it], it hurts them personally.’
Trump’s response, according to Durbin, was “Oh, that's a good line.” It was not clear what he meant.
Democrats are saying such terms are unacceptable and are threatening to vote against funding the government next week unless DACA protections are included. That would lead to a government shutdown.
And we may be headed there.
As one Democrat in Congress told reporters this week: “I think if you’re in the minority, then shut it down. Why would we go small with DACA?”