Trump, condemned for 'shithole' countries remark, denies comment but acknowledges 'tough' language
January 12 at 7:32 PM As President Trump denied calling Haiti and African countries 'shithole countries,' Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) confirmed and condemned his language. (Jenny Starrs/The Washington Post)
President Trumpâs comments about African countries and Haiti drew condemnation from around the world Friday, putting the White House and Republicans on the defensive while casting doubt on hopes of resolving disputes in the coming weeks over immigration legislation.
In a tweet Friday, Trump seemed to deny using the term âshitholeâ to refer to some countries during a private White House meeting Thursday, but acknowledged he used âtoughâ language during the negotiations. Among Republicans, there were differing responses to the comments, but few of them outright condemned his remarks.
The lone Democrat present for the Oval Office encounter said that Trumpâs denial was false and the president âsaid things that were hate-filled, vile and racist.â
âI cannot believe that in the history of the White House, in that Oval Office, any president has ever spoken the words that I personally heard our president speak yesterday,â Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) told reporters.
In a sign that the outcry over Trumpâs remarks is unlikely to abate quickly, senior House Democrats said that they planned next week to introduce a resolution censuring the president for his comments.
A day after the White House did not deny that Trump used the vulgarity, first reported by The Washington Post, Trump dove into the controversy and blasted out his own version of the meeting early Friday morning on Twitter.
âThe language used by me at the DACA meeting was tough, but this was not the language used. What was really tough was the outlandish proposal made â" a big setback for D ACA!â Trump wrote, referring to negotiations over the Obama administrationâs Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that allowed children brought to the country illegally, known as âdreamers,â to avoid deportation.
But Trumpâs attempt at a denial did little to quell the international outrage at his reported comments that the United States should seek immigrants from countries such as Norway instead of African and Latin American nations.
âThere is no other word one can use but âracist,âââ United Nations human rights spokesman Rupert Colville said at a briefing in Geneva. âYou cannot dismiss entire countries and continents as âshitholes,â whose entire populations, who are not white, are therefore not welcome.â
Ebba Kalondo, spokeswoman for the African Union, said the comments were alarming.
âConsidering the historical reality of how many Africans arrived in the U.S. during the Atlantic slave trade, this flies in the fac e of all accepted behavior and practice,â she said.
[âHere is what my #shithole looks likeâ: African countries and Haiti react to Trumpâs remark]
The controversy began Thursday when the president grew frustrated with lawmakers during an Oval Office meeting as they discussed protecting immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador and African countries as part of a bipartisan deal over the dreamers, according to several people briefed on the meeting.
âWhy are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?â Trump said, according to these people, referring to countries mentioned by the lawmakers.
Trump then suggested that the United States should instead bring more people from countries such as Norway, whose prime minister he met with Wednesday.
A White House official said Trump also suggested that he would be open to more immigrants from Asian countries because he felt that they help the United States economically.
In addit ion, the president singled out Haiti, telling lawmakers that immigrants from that country must be left out of any deal, these people said.
âWhy do we need more Haitians?â Trump said, according to people familiar with the meeting. âTake them out.â
In November, the Trump administration rescinded deportation protection granted to nearly 60,000 Haitians after the 2010 earthquake and told them to return home by July 2019. This week, the administration announced that similar protections for roughly 200,000 Salvadorans will end in September 2019 â" unless Congress enacts legislation providing them permanent legal status.
In another tweet Friday, Trump focused on remarks attributed to him about Haiti, saying: âNever said anything derogatory about Haitians other than Haiti is, obviously, a very poor and troubled country. Never said âtake them out.â Made up by Dems. I have a wonderful relationship with Haitians. Probably should record future meetings â" u nfortunately, no trust!â
Reaction to Trumpâs remarks across the political spectrum and around the globe mirrored what has happened in the past â" hastily arranged meetings among diplomats, outrage and sharp criticism from Democrats, and measured comments by Republicans.
At an appearance in Milwaukee, House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) called Trumpâs words âvery unfortunate, unhelpful,â pointing to his own Irish ancestorsâ migration to America.
âIt is a beautiful story of America, and that is a great story and that is the story we have today and that is a story we had yesterday and that is what makes this country so exceptional and unique in the first place,â he said. âSo I see this as a thing to celebrate, and I think itâs a big part of our strength.â
Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), who has been negotiating the immigration policy deal with Durbin and Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), said in an interview with The Post that he was not at the meeting, but heard about Trumpâs comments âbefore it went public. And what Iâve heard reported is consistent about what I heard about the meeting.â
Flake said that Thursdayâs comments reflect what Trump has reportedly said in the past about Haiti and Nigeria. âIâm not surprised at the sentiment expressed â" itâs consistent with what heâs said â" but that he would do that knowing the fury it would cause.â
In a statement Friday afternoon, Graham, who was at the meeting, did not specifically address what Trump said.
âFollowing comments by the President, I said my piece directly to him yesterday,â he said. âThe President and all those attending the meeting know what I said and how I feel. Iâve always believed that America is an idea, not defined by its people but by its ideals.â
On Friday, Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) told a South Carolina newspaper that Graham told him that the reported comments are âbasically accurate.â
âIf that comment is accurate, the comment is incredibly disappointing,â Scott told the Post & Courier newspaper.
In a joint statement, Sens. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and David Perdue (R-Ga.) â" two of Trumpâs biggest allies on Capitol Hill who attended Thursdayâs meeting â" said, âWe 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.â
Trump, the senators said, âbrought 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.â
Cotton and Perdue are co-sponsors of legislation that would enact severe restrictions on legal immigration â" a bill Trump has said he supports, but that senior GOP leaders have said could not pass Congress.
Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.), who also attended the meet ing, did not address the comments in a statement issued by his office Friday.
âThere are almost 800,000 young DACA beneficiaries who are facing imminent deportation in March if we donât reach a deal,â he said. âIâm not going to be diverted from all possible efforts to continue to negotiate to reach a deal. So statements at the eleventh hour are not going to distract me.â
[President Trump made Congressâs life impossible this week (again)]
An immigration hard-liner in Congress, Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), tweeted support for Trumpâs remarks Friday: âIf those countries arenât as you described, Democrats should be happy to deport criminal aliens back to them. &End #AnchorBabies, too.â
In the wake of news reports about his comments, Trump initially was not particularly upset by the outcry and spent a portion of Thursday night calling friends and confidants to assess the potential fallout â" part of his routine attempts to take the te mperature of longtime contacts, according to a White House official familiar with the situation who spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak frankly about the presidentâs response.
While Trump does not generally enjoy widespread negative media coverage of his more controversial statements, the official added he is cognizant that the situation will probably be perceived differently in Washington and on television news compared with his political base across the country.
Hillary Clinton, Trumpâs 2016 Democratic rival, weighed in, tweeting that Fridayâs eighth anniversary of a major earthquake in Haiti âis a day to remember the tragedy, honor the resilient people of Haiti, & affirm Americaâs commitment to helping our neighbors. Instead, weâre subjected to Trumpâs ignorant, racist views of anyone who doesnât look like him.â
Left unanswered is how much damage Trumpâs comments have done to the ability of Congress to soon reach a deal on DA CA.
Durbin said in a written statement Friday that he and others in his bipartisan group will continue pressing for an agreement. It âcontinues to build support for the only deal in town,â he said.
Graham voiced a similar sentiment in his statement.
âI believe it is vitally important to come to a bipartisan solution to the immigration and border challenges we face today,â he said. âI am committed to working with Republicans and Democrats to find common ground so we can move forward.â
Ashley Parker, Mike DeBonis, Erica Werner and Josh Dawsey contributed to this report.Source: Google News