Prez de­nies com­ments

Trump says harsh re­marks about African coun­tries made up by Democrats

The Standard (St. Catharines) - - WORLD NEWS - ALAN FRAM and JONATHAN LEMIRE

WASH­ING­TON — U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump on Fri­day de­nied us­ing cer­tain “lan­guage” as fury spread over his com­ments about im­mi­gra­tion dur­ing a pri­vate meet­ing with law­mak­ers. But nei­ther he nor the White House de­nied the most con­tro­ver­sial of his com­ments: us­ing the word “shit­hole” to de­scribe coun­tries in Africa and say­ing he would pre­fer im­mi­grants from coun­tries like Nor­way in­stead.

Dur­ing an Oval Of­fice meet­ing on Thurs­day, Trump ques­tioned why the U.S. would ac­cept more im­mi­grants from Haiti and “shit­hole coun­tries” in Africa as he re­jected a bi­par­ti­san im­mi­gra­tion deal, ac­cord­ing to peo­ple briefed on the ex­traor­di­nary Oval Of­fice con­ver­sa­tion.

“The lan­guage used by me at the DACA meet­ing was tough, but this was not the lan­guage used,” Trump in­sisted in a se­ries of Fri­day morn­ing tweets. “What was re­ally tough was the out­landish pro­posal made — a big set­back for DACA.”

But Sen. Dick Durbin, the only Demo­crat in the room, dis­puted the pres­i­dent’s ac­count.

“He said th­ese hate-filled things and he said them re­peat­edly,” Durbin said,

Durbin added, “When the ques­tion was asked about Haitians ... he said, ‘Haitians? Do we need more Haitians?’ ”

Trump took par­tic­u­lar is­sue with the char­ac­ter­i­za­tion of his com­ments on Haiti.

“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,” Trump wrote. “I have a won­der­ful re­la­tion­ship with Haitians. Prob­a­bly should record fu­ture meet­ings — un­for­tu­nately, no trust!”

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion an­nounced late last year that it would end a tem­po­rary res­i­dency per­mit pro­gram that al­lowed nearly 60,000 cit­i­zens from Haiti to live and work in the U.S. fol­low­ing a dev­as­tat­ing 2010 earth­quake. The Wash­ing­ton Post said that dur­ing the meet­ing he said im­mi­grants from Haiti should be left out of any new agree­ment.

Trump’s con­temp­tu­ous blan­ket de­scrip­tion of African coun­tries star­tled law­mak­ers in the meet­ing and im­me­di­ately re­vived charges that the pres­i­dent is racist. The White House on Thurs­day did not deny his re­mark but is­sued a state­ment say­ing Trump sup­ports im­mi­gra­tion poli­cies that wel­come “those who can con­trib­ute to our so­ci­ety.”

Trump’s com­ments came as two sen­a­tors pre­sented de­tails of a bi­par­ti­san com­pro­mise that would ex­tend pro­tec­tions against de­por­ta­tion for hun­dreds of thou­sands of young im­mi­grants — and also strengthen bor­der pro­tec­tions, as Trump has in­sisted.

The law­mak­ers had hoped Trump would back their ac­cord, an agree­ment among six sen­a­tors evenly split among Repub­li­cans and Democrats, end­ing a month­s­long, bit­ter dis­pute over pro­tect­ing the “dream­ers.” But the White House later re­jected it, plung­ing the is­sue back into un­cer­tainty just eight days be­fore a dead­line that threat­ens a govern­ment shut­down.

As for im­mi­grants from Africa, the pres­i­dent sug­gested that in­stead, the U.S. should al­low more en­trants from coun­tries like Nor­way. Trump met this week with Nor­we­gian Prime Min­is­ter Erna Sol­berg.

Trump has called him­self the “least racist per­son that you’ve ever met.”

RON SACHS/GETTY IM­AGES

U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, above, de­nies de­scrib­ing African coun­tries as “shit­holes” on Thurs­day dur­ing a meet­ing on im­mi­gra­tion, but that is dis­puted by Demo­cratic Se­na­tor Dick Durbin, who was at the meet­ing.

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