'Following Comments by the President, I Said My Piece Directly to Him Yesterday'
Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is the first Republican in the Oval Office at the time who is effectively affirming that President Trump called Haiti and African nations "shithole countries." And while he didn't specifically say Trump made the racist comments, he didn't deny Trump made them, saying instead he told the president what he thought of the remarks.
“Following comments by the President, I said my piece directly to him yesterday. The President and all those attending the meeting know what I said and how I feel. I’ve always believed that America is an idea, not defined by its people but by its ideals,” Graham said in the statement, as Talking Points Memo reports. “The American ideal is embraced by people all over the globe. It was best said a long time ago, E Pluribus Unum – Out of Many, One. Diversity has always been our strength, not our weakness. In reforming immigration we cannot lose these American Ideals.”
Democratic Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois was also in the Oval Office Thursday, and, in speaking with reporters Friday morning, made clear the reports on Trump's racist remarks, including that he wants less people from Haiti and more form Norway, are accurate.
But two Republican Senators who were also in the Oval Office Thursday issued a carefully-worded joint statement designed to throw water on the news reports while making it seem like the outrage is a Democratic attack rather than national and in terminational outrage. They don't say Trump didn't say "shithole countries" and make other racist and vulgar remarks. They say they didn't hear them.
"In regards to Senator Durbin’s accusation, we do not recall the President saying these comments specifically but what he did call out was the imbalance in our current immigration system, which does not protect American workers and our national interest," Senators Tom Cotton (R-AR) and David Perdue (R-GA) said in a statement, as The Hill reports. The allegation that the current immigration system is not "our national interest" is true only if they mean DACA should become federal law and undocumented immigrants should have a path to citizenship. It's unlikely that is their intent.
To repeat, Senators Cotton and Perdue said they "do not recall the President saying these comments specifically." That's about as close to a confirmation that Trump did make the remarks as you can get.
"President Trump brought everyone to the table this week and listened to both sides," the Cotton-Perdue statement also reads. "But regrettably, it seems that not everyone is committed to negotiating in good faith," they added, again, in a clearly partisan assault.
Organizing For America's Jesse Lehrich makes an astute observation:
Cotton & Perdue wrote the Trump-backed bill to cut legal immigration in HALF.— Jesse Lehrich (@JesseLehrich) January 12, 2018
they don't have amnesia – they just share Trump's sentiments. https://t.co/R6oWfiysK2
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