Graham: I said my piece to Trump directly
© Greg Nash

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamQuestions mount over Trump-Putin discussions The Hill's Morning Report — Trump and Congress at odds over Russia Overnight Defense: Trump inviting Putin to DC | Senate to vote Monday on VA pick | Graham open to US-Russia military coordination in Syria MORE (R-S.C.) said Friday that he said his piece directly to President TrumpDonald John TrumpWSJ: Trump ignored advice to confront Putin over indictments Trump hotel charging Sean Spicer ,000 as book party venue Bernie Sanders: Trump 'so tough' on child separations but not on Putin MORE at a White House meeting on immigration reform the previous day where Trump reportedly disparaged several nations as "shithole countries."

Graham was present at the bipartisan meeting in the Oval Office where Trump reportedly referred to Haiti, El Salvador and several African nations as "shithole countries" after lawmakers suggested that immigrants from the countries be provided protections.

"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 a statement on Friday.

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Graham neither confirmed nor denied the controversial remarks attributed to Trump, but the GOP senator said he appreciated statements from Sen. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinSenate approves resolution warning Trump not to hand over US officials Deal to fix family separations hits snag in the Senate Senate Democrats block resolution supporting ICE MORE (D-Ill.).

Durbin, the only Democrat at the meeting Thursday, said he heard Trump make the crude remarks and praised Graham for speaking up and rebuking the president at the time. 

“My colleague [Graham] spoke up and made a direct comment on what the president said,” Durbin said Friday, according to MSNBC. “For him to confront the president as he did, literally sitting next to him, took extraordinary political courage and I respect him for it."

The White House on Thursday did not deny that Trump made the remarks, but the president took to Twitter on Friday morning, writing, "The language used by me at the DACA meeting was tough, but this was not the language used."

"I appreciate Senator Durbin's statements and have enjoyed working with him and many others on this important issue," Graham said in his statement.

"Diversity has always been our strength, not our weakness. In reforming immigration we cannot lose these American ideals."

Graham, who has taken a more moderate stance on immigration than Trump, previously called another bipartisan immigration meeting this week with Trump the "most fascinating meeting" of his political career.

Two of Graham's Republican colleagues, Sens. Tom CottonThomas (Tom) Bryant CottonBipartisan group introduces retirement savings legislation in Senate Overnight Defense: Fallout from tense NATO summit | Senators push to block ZTE deal in defense bill | Blackwater founder makes new pitch for mercenaries to run Afghan war Hillicon Valley: DOJ appeals AT&T-Time Warner ruling | FBI agent testifies in heated hearing | Uproar after FCC changes rules on consumer complaints | Broadcom makes bid for another US company | Facebook under fire over conspiracy sites MORE (Ark.) and David Perdue (Ga.), issued a statement Friday saying they did not recall Trump explicitly making the "shithole" comments as reported.