Updated 1:08 p.m. | Senate Minority Whip Richard J. Durbin told reporters Friday that he heard President Donald Trump make the vulgar remarks about immigrants that have been widely reported in the press and dismissed by the White House.
The Illinois Democrat said Trump’s comments during a Thursday meeting “were hate-filled, vile and racist.”
“I cannot believe that in the history of the White House, in that Oval Office, any president has ever spoken words that I personally heard our president speak yesterday,” he said.
“You’ve seen the comments in the press,” Durbin said. “I’ve not read 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.”
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Durbin was one of several lawmakers to attend the Oval Office meeting, which was intended to make strides toward a deal on the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, along with several other immigration issues.
The president used the term “shitholes” more than once about the home nations of immigrants during a conversation about Africa and Haiti, Durbin said.
Trump tweeted Friday that he “never said anything derogatory about Haitians other than Haiti is, obviously, a very poor and troubled country.”
He also denied telling lawmakers and aides in reference to Haitian immigrants that he wants to “take them out” of the United States.
He said allegations he called Haiti and African nations “shithole countries” were “made up by Dems,” and claimed a “wonderful relationship with Haitians.”
And in a tweet that harks back to Trump’s false claim to have audio recordings of private conversations with former FBI Director James B. Comey, the president said he “probably should record future meetings — unfortunately, no trust!”
“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,” they wrote in a statement responding to Durbin.
As for the pressing need for legislation to address the status of the deferred action recipients, also known as Dreamers, Durbin said his group planned to introduce its proposal next week, with hopes fading that Trump and those taking a harder line will sign on to anything.
“My thought that we might get a bipartisan agreement approved by the White House died yesterday,” Durbin said.
“I’m not going to quit. I have a singular mission, and the mission is this: to give these Dreamers and as many members of their families as possible a chance to be part of America’s future in a legal status,” Durbin said.
“If the Republican leadership has a better alternative, bring it forward,” Durbin said. “If they don’t, for goodness sakes, give us a vote.”
John T. Bennett contributed to this report.