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

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamCongress punts fight over Dreamers to March Pence tours Rio Grande between US and Mexico GOP looks for Plan B after failure of immigration measures MORE (R-S.C.) said Friday that he said his piece directly to President TrumpDonald John TrumpAccuser says Trump should be afraid of the truth Woman behind pro-Trump Facebook page denies being influenced by Russians Shulkin says he has White House approval to root out 'subversion' at VA 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 DurbinAmerica’s waning commitment to the promise of the First Amendment Senate rejects Trump immigration plan What to watch for in the Senate immigration votes 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 CottonGOP looks for Plan B after failure of immigration measures Senate rejects Trump immigration plan Our intelligence chiefs just want to tell the truth about national security MORE (Ark.) and David Perdue (Ga.), issued a statement Friday saying they did not recall Trump explicitly making the "shithole" comments as reported.