Politics

Diaz-Balart Isn’t Saying What Trump Said

South Florida Republican rep says he wants to keep his seat at the table in discussing Dreamers

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., would not comment about whether President Donald Trump used the word “shithole” in describing the countries from which some immigrants are coming to the U.S. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Florida Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart said he would not delve into whether President Donald Trump called Haiti and African countries “shithole countries.”

Diaz-Balart was in the immigration meeting with other lawmakers in which Trump is reported to have made the remarks, but told Florida TV station WPLG he would not comment on whether Trump made them.

“This is a president that said things differently than clearly I would say them,” he said Monday.

The Florida Republican said he wants to avoid criticizing the president to allow negotiations to help undocumented immigrants who arrived as children have a permanent solution.

“I’m the only person from South Florida that has a seat at this table,” he said. “I am going to use it not to criticize, not to point fingers, but to stop the imminent deportation of 800,000 young people.”

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Other Republican members were asked about Trump’s remarks over the Martin Luther King Day holiday weekend.

Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida told Miami’s CBS affiliate that the remarks were “deeply offensive if true.”

“[It] really makes it difficult to move forward on a series of important issues,” he said.

In a town hall in Boone, Iowa, Sen. Joni Ernstcriticized Trump’s comments while still defending the president.

“I don’t appreciate the rhetoric,” she said, according to the Des Moines Register.“What I can say is that I do support some of the policies that we’re working on.” 

But Ernst defended Trump from accusations he is a racist, which drew groans from the audience. 

“I think he’s brash and he says things that are on his mind, but I don’t truly believe that he’s a racist,” she said.

Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana criticized the fact there was so much back-and-forth criticism about whether Trump made the remarks or whether Sen. Dick Durbin was lying about his account of Trump’s remarks.

“It’s starting to look like a bunch of kids in the back of a minivan,” Kennedy told WDSU reporter Travers Mackel.

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