Durbin says Trump made ‘hateful’ remarks

Sen. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinGrassley to administration: You must consult Congress on refugee cap Overnight Health Care: Senators target surprise medical bills | Group looks to allow Medicaid funds for substance abuse programs | FDA launches anti-vaping campaign for teens Bipartisan group wants to lift Medicaid restriction on substance abuse treatment MORE (D-Ill.) on Friday confirmed media reports that President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump rallies in Nevada amid Supreme Court flurry: 'We're gonna get Brett' Trump: 'Good news' that Obama is campaigning again Trump boosts Heller, hammers 'Wacky Jacky' opponent in Nevada MORE disparaged several nations as “shithole countries” in a private meeting with lawmakers about immigration reform.

At a press conference, Durbin, who was the only Democrat at a Thursday meeting at the White House, said that Trump used “hate-filled, vile and racist” language to describe immigrants from poor countries.

“I cannot believe in this history of the White House, in that Oval Office, any president has ever spoken the words that I personally heard our president speak yesterday,” Durbin said.

ADVERTISEMENT

A second senator, Arizona Republican Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakePoll: More voters oppose Kavanaugh’s nomination than support it Ford opens door to testifying next week Police arrest nearly two dozen Kavanaugh protesters MORE, who has frequently tangled with Trump, tweeted that other senators meeting with Trump had relayed Trump’s remarks to him.

“The words used by the President, as related to me directly following the meeting by those in attendance, were not ‘tough,’ they were abhorrent and repulsive,” Flake tweeted.

None of the other Republican lawmakers who were present in the meeting responded to requests for comment, however, and GOP leadership has so far not weighed in.

Sens. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamKim, Moon toss ball to Trump in ‘last, best chance’ for Korean peace GOP senator: Kavanaugh accuser 'moving the goalposts' Collins: Kavanaugh accuser should 'reconsider,' testify on Monday MORE (R-S.C.) and Tom CottonThomas (Tom) Bryant CottonSprint/T-Mobile deal must not allow China to threaten US security GOP senators condemn 'vulgar' messages directed at Collins over Kavanaugh GOP turns its fire on Google MORE (R-Ark.) and Rep. Bob GoodlatteRobert (Bob) William GoodlatteGoodlatte: Administration undercut law, Congress by setting refugee cap Virginia reps urge Trump to declare federal emergency ahead of Hurricane Florence Republicans mull new punishments for dissident lawmakers MORE (R-Va.) were the other lawmakers in the meeting.

Durbin said he personally heard Trump use the disparaging comments and that Graham “spoke up” and rebuked the president at the time.

“My colleague [Graham] spoke up and made a direct comment on what the president said,” Durbin said, 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 initially declined to dispute a story, first published in The Washington Post, that Trump had complained about restoring protected status for immigrants from “shithole countries” like Haiti, El Salvador and some in Africa.

Trump also reportedly said that Haitians should be removed from any immigration deal offering protected status to countries that lawmakers have targeted for special treatment.

But after anchors on Fox News Channel’s “Fox & Friends” — a show Trump is known to watch early in the morning — said that the president should “clarify” his comments, Trump issued a denial over Twitter.

“The language used by me at the DACA meeting was tough, but this was not the language used,” Trump tweeted, referring to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. “What was really tough was the outlandish proposal made — a big setback for DACA!”

“Never said anything derogatory about Haitians other than Haiti is, obviously, a very poor and troubled country,” he added. “Never said ‘take them out.’ Made up by Dems. I have a wonderful relationship with Haitians. Probably should record future meetings — unfortunately, no trust!”

But Durbin directly contradicted Trump.

“You’ve seen the comments in the press,” Durbin said. “I’ve not seen one of them that’s inaccurate. To no surprise, 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.”

Flake has little to lose by firing on Trump; the Arizona Republican announced he was not running for reelection as Trump signaled support for his possible primary challengers.

The other GOP lawmakers tearing into Trump over his remarks were generally either frequent opponents of Trump who, like Flake, are retiring from office. Others are Republicans running in districts where ties to Trump could be a problem in the 2018 midterm elections.

Reps. Barbara ComstockBarbara Jean ComstockMillionaires group endorses Dem House candidates opposed to GOP tax law Election Countdown: Trump confident about midterms in Hill.TV interview | Kavanaugh controversy tests candidates | Sanders, Warren ponder if both can run | Super PACs spending big | Two states open general election voting Friday | Latest Senate polls Overnight Energy: Watchdog to investigate EPA over Hurricane Harvey | Panel asks GAO to expand probe into sexual harassment in science | States sue over methane rules rollback MORE (R-Va.), Mia LoveLudmya (Mia) LoveUtah group complains Mia Love should face criminal penalties for improper fundraising Pregnant and imprisoned: The crisis thousands of women are facing Election Countdown: What to watch in final primaries | Dems launch M ad buy for Senate races | Senate seats most likely to flip | Trump slump worries GOP | Koch network's new super PAC MORE (R-Utah), Carlos Curbello (R-Fla.) and Erik PaulsenErik Philip PaulsenElection Countdown: What to watch in final primaries | Dems launch M ad buy for Senate races | Senate seats most likely to flip | Trump slump worries GOP | Koch network's new super PAC Dem leads GOP incumbent in Minnesota congressional race: poll Brutal summer for Republicans MORE (R-Minn.) — each a target for Democrats — all denounced the president.

Love’s remarks were particularly stinging, as the Utah Republican’s parents came to the United States from Haiti.

“The President must apologize to both the American people and the nations he so wantonly maligned,” Love said.

While GOP leaders have yet to weigh in on the controversy, Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanGOP super PAC drops .5 million on Nevada ad campaign Blue wave poses governing risks for Dems Dems seek to rebuild blue wall in Rust Belt contests MORE (R-Wis.) is likely to get asked about it at a press conference with a political reporter in Milwaukee scheduled for midday Friday.

The White House did not respond to multiple requests for a comment from The Hill and seemed to be hunkering down in hopes that the controversy blows over.

On Friday, the White House released a statement lauding China for curbing trade with North Korea and officials were preparing to release the president’s decision on whether he would re-certify Iran's compliance with the Obama-era nuclear deal.

Trump appeared at a ceremony just before noon to commemorate Monday’s holiday honoring Martin Luther King Jr. As Trump exited the ceremony, reporters peppered him with questions, with one member of the press asking twice if he was “a racist.”

Blowback from Democrats over the remarks has been unequivocal, with lawmakers denouncing the president.

“We now know that we have in the White House someone who could lead the Ku Klux Klan in the United States of America,” Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-Ill.) said on MSNBC.