Durbin says Trump made ‘hateful’ remarks

Sen. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinTrump AG pick: I won't be 'bullied' by anyone, including the president Live coverage: Trump AG pick grilled on Mueller probe at confirmation hearing Senate Dems set to take aim at new Trump attorney general pick MORE (D-Ill.) on Friday confirmed media reports that President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump directed Cohen to lie to Congress about plans to build Trump Tower in Moscow during 2016 campaign: report DC train system losing 0k per day during government shutdown Senate Republicans eye rules change to speed Trump nominees 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 FlakeSchumer recruiting top-notch candidate for McCain Senate seat The Hill's Morning Report — Trump eyes wall money options as shutdown hits 21 days Poll: Sanders most popular senator, Flake least 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 GrahamOvernight Defense: Trump unveils new missile defense plan | Dems express alarm | Shutdown hits Day 27 | Trump cancels Pelosi foreign trip | Senators offer bill to prevent NATO withdrawal McConnell blocks bill to reopen most of government On The Money: Shutdown Day 27 | Trump fires back at Pelosi by canceling her foreign travel | Dems blast 'petty' move | Trump also cancels delegation to Davos | House votes to disapprove of Trump lifting Russia sanction MORE (R-S.C.) and Tom CottonThomas (Tom) Bryant CottonOn The Money: Shutdown Day 26 | Pelosi calls on Trump to delay State of the Union | Cites 'security concerns' | DHS chief says they can handle security | Waters lays out agenda | Senate rejects effort to block Trump on Russia sanctions Senate rejects effort to block Trump on Russia sanctions Overnight Defense: Trump faces blowback over report he discussed leaving NATO | Pentagon extends mission on border | Senate advances measure bucking Trump on Russia sanctions MORE (R-Ark.) and Rep. Bob GoodlatteRobert (Bob) William GoodlatteHouse GOP probe into FBI, DOJ comes to an end Murkowski to reintroduce bill to help abused Native American women FBI hits GOP chairman over push to clear sensitive transcripts by Christmas Eve 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 ComstockDems win Virginia state Senate special election Dem rep asks for asks for pay to be withheld during shutdown New Dem lawmaker hangs trans flag outside office on Capitol Hill MORE (R-Va.), Mia LoveLudmya (Mia) LoveWomen’s equality not just ‘firsts’ CBS News in talks to hire Flake: report Former reps Mia Love, Luis Gutiérrez join CNN as commentators MORE (R-Utah), Carlos Curbello (R-Fla.) and Erik PaulsenErik Philip PaulsenThe 8 House Republicans who voted against Trump’s border wall Minnesota New Members 2019 Defeated Republicans mocked by Trump fire back at president 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 can't excommunicate King and ignore Trump playing to white supremacy and racism House vote fails to quell storm surrounding Steve King House passes resolution condemning white nationalism 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.