Prez denies comments
Trump says harsh remarks about African countries made up by Democrats
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.”
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.