According to Sens. David Perdue (R-GA) and Tom Cotton (R-AR), Democrats who participated in discussions on immigration with President Donald Trump and fellow lawmakers at the White House on Thursday are not acting in “good faith." They also referred to a rumor reported by The Washington Post and widely circulated that President Donald Trump referred to Haiti and other nations as "sh-ithole countries" during discussions at the White House over immigration and border security. Trump has denied and repudiated the report.
In a statement released on Friday, the two GOP senators declared:
- "President Trump brought everyone to the table this week and listened to both sides. But regrettably, it seems that not everyone is committed to negotiating in good faith. 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. We, along with the President, are committed to solving an issue many in Congress have failed to deliver on for decades."
Both Perdue and Cotton have been intimately involved in negotiations over immigration, and were present at the White House meeting.
The two Republicans disputed Sen. Dick Durbin’s (D-IL) recollection of a remarks supposedly made by President Trump, who he accused of asking why the United States should accept immigrants from “shithole” countries such as El Salvador, Haiti, and those in Africa instead of places such as Norway. “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,” they said in a statement.
The Washington Post first reported the “shithole” remarks on Thursday, attributing the unnamed source it described as “several people briefed on the meeting” and “people familiar with the meeting.”
Durbin claimed on Friday that Trump had said those things:
- “In the course of [Trump’s] comments, he said things that were hate-filled, vile and racist,” he told reporters in Illinois, according to USA Today. “l use those words advisingly, I understand how powerful they are. I cannot believe that in the history of the White House and that Oval Office any president has ever spoken the words that I personally heard our president speak yesterday.”
The president has denied Durbin’s accusation, tweeting on Friday that there is “unfortunately, no trust!” Trump wrote on Twitter, “Never said anything derogatory about Haitians other than Haiti is, obviously, a very poor and troubled country. Never said ‘take them out.’ Made up by Dems. I have a wonderful relationship with Haitians. Probably should record future meetings - unfortunately, no trust!”
CNN, MSNBC, and other media played up the alleged remarks, which reverberated around the world. CNN, for instance, ran banners displaying the alleged “shithole” remark all day on Friday.
Also attending the Thursday meeting with Trump about immigration was Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC). On Friday, Graham released a statement stating that he had “said my piece directly to (Trump). The president and all those attending the meeting know what I said and how I feel.” Graham continued, “I’ve always believed that America is an idea, not defined by its people but by its ideals.” Sen. Durbin described Graham’s exchange with Trump, saying on Friday, “(Graham) spoke up and made a direct comment on what the president said. “ Durbin told reporters, “For him to confront the president as he did, literally sitting next to him, took extraordinary political courage and I respect him for it.”
- "Yesterday Senator Durbin and I met with President Trump at the White House to discuss our bipartisan proposal on border security and immigration. 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 believe that America is an idea, not defined by its people but by its ideals.
- 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.
- The American people will ultimately judge us on the outcome we achieve, and the process which led to it. I know the bipartisan proposal discussed at the white House can get a lot of support from both sides. As always, I look forward to considering additional ideas that could make the proposal even better. I appreciate Senator Durbin's statements and have enjoyed working with him and many others on this important issue. I believe it is vitally important to come to a bipartisan solution to the immigration and border challenges we face today. I am committed to working with Republicans and Democrats to find common ground so we can move forward."
President Trump rejected the deal offered by Sens. Durbin and Graham. Following the White House meeting, Sen. Cotton released a statement reiterating that no deal had been reached.
- "There has been no deal reached yet on the future of DACA in the Senate. Some of our colleagues have floated a potential plan that, simply put, isn't serious. It is disingenuous to discuss providing status to, potentially, millions of individuals without taking credible steps to truly protect our borders and secure the interior.
- "It simply isn't credible to consider any ‘deals' that don't make it easier to apprehend, detain and deport dangerous criminal aliens. We owe the American people better. Any deal that does not address the four pillars we have reiterated- ending chain migration, eliminating the outdated visa lottery, increasing border security, and solving the DACA situation - is no deal at all.
- "Further, it's important to establish that there is no deadline on January 19. Anyone who says otherwise creates an artificial deadline that only impedes our ability to create a quality legislative product that serves the interest of the American people and DACA recipients. If our colleagues insist on shutting down the federal government, then they will have to explain to our men and women in uniform, veterans and pensioners why they won't be receiving their benefits."