Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said Friday that he heard President Donald Trump make “hate-filled, vile and racist” comments to lawmakers that the president is now denying.
Durbin, who was at the White House meeting on Thursday to discuss immigration, is the first to go on the record confirming reports that Trump referred to African nations as “shithole countries,” and that the U.S. should “take … out” Haitians currently living in the U.S. Trump reportedly also commented that the U.S. should accept more immigrants from Norway.
Trump on Friday claimed on Twitter that he didn’t use the language attributed to him about Haitians, but neither he nor the White House has directly denied his comments on African countries.
Durbin, speaking to reporters on Friday, contradicted Trump’s claim.
“I 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,” Durbin said. “You’ve seen the comments in the press. I’ve not read one of them that’s inaccurate.”
Durbin added: “He said these hate-filled things and he said them repeatedly.”
Trump made the comments during an immigration meeting with Durbin and six Republican lawmakers: Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), David Perdue (R-Ga.), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.); House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), and Reps. Bob Goodlatte, (R-Va.) and Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.), according to MSNBC.
Durbin and Graham pitched Trump on the outlines of a deal they and others in a six-senator bipartisan group made to resolve the legal status of Dreamers, the young undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children.
Nearly 700,000 Dreamers are at risk of losing deportation relief and work permits ― or already have ― because Trump ended the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA.
Democrats want protections for Dreamers included in a measure on government spending, which must pass by a Jan. 19 deadline to avoid a government shutdown.
Trump has said he wants to help Dreamers, but only if he gets something in return: his border wall and other security measures, an end to the diversity visa lottery, and limits on family-based visas, which the president derisively refers to as “chain migration.”
Trump has falsely claimed that other countries use the diversity visa lottery to send their “worst people” to the U.S. A large proportion of diversity visa lottery recipients come from African nations.
Durbin, Graham and their allies drafted a plan that would eliminate the diversity visa lottery as Trump demanded, but would allow some immigrants currently in the U.S. under temporary protected status, which lets people stay in the country after natural disasters or other crises in their home nations. The Trump administration is ending those protections for people from Haiti, El Salvador and Nicaragua, and suggested it will do the same for Hondurans.