Washington, DC (CBS, AP, WLTX) - A senator present at a White House immigration meeting says President Donald Trump used vulgar language to describe African countries, saying he "said these hate filled things and he said them repeatedly."
But Sen. Dick Durbin also said that South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham challenged those comments, which Durbin called an act of courage. Meanwhile, Graham himself has now issued a statement on the meeting.
Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, on Friday told reporters that Trump questioned why the U.S. would accept more immigrants from Haiti and that he referenced "shithole countries" in Africa.
"As Senator [Lindsey] Graham [of South Carolina] made his presentation, the president interrupted him several times with questions and in the course of his comments said things which were hate-filled, vile and racist. I use those words advisedly, I understand how powerful they are. But I cannot believe in the history of the White House in that office, any president has ever spoken the words that I personally heard our president speak yesterday.
"You've seen the comments in the press. 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 hateful things and he said them repeatedly."
"When we started to describe the immigration from Africa that was being protected in this bi-partisan major, that's when he used his vile and vulgar comments, calling the nations they come from "shitholes." The exact word used by the present. Not more -- not just once, but repeatedly.
"When it came to the issue of quote, chain migration, I said to the president, "Do you realize how painful that term is to so many people? African Americans believe that they migrated to America in chains, and when you speak about chain migration, it hurts them personally. He said, 'Oh, that's a good line.' And then when I talked to him about the impact this has on family unification, in a nation that values families with the flag as the most important symbols of our future, they scoffed at this notion. It was a heartbreaking moment."
Durbin added, "When the question was asked about Haitians ... he said, 'Haitians? Do we need more Haitians?'"
Trump said on Twitter Friday that his language during the meeting was "tough," but "this was not the language used." He did not specifically deny using the word "shithole."
Durbin made a point of bringing up Graham's reaction while the meeting was taking place.
'My colleague, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, spoke up and made a direct comment on what the president said. I was very proud of him. It took courage for what he did, and, I made my own comments in response to it. But for him to confront the president as he did -- literally sitting next to him -- took extraordinary political courage and I respect him for it."
Graham later issued the following statement:
“Yesterday Senator Durbin and I met with President Trump at the White House to discuss our bipartisan proposal on border security and immigration.
“Following comments by the President, I said my piece directly to him yesterday. The President and all those attending the meeting know what I said and how I feel. I’ve always believed that America is an idea, not defined by its people but by its ideals.
“The American ideal is embraced by people all over the globe. It was best said a long time ago, E Pluribus Unum – Out of Many, One. Diversity has always been our strength, not our weakness. In reforming immigration we cannot lose these American Ideals.
“The American people will ultimately judge us on the outcome we achieve, not the process which led to it.
“I know the bipartisan proposal discussed at the White House can get a lot of support from both sides. As always, I look forward to considering additional ideas that could make the proposal even better.
“I appreciate Senator Durbin’s statements and have enjoyed working with him and many others on this important issue. I believe it is vitally important to come to a bipartisan solution to the immigration and border challenges we face today. I am committed to working with Republicans and Democrats to find common ground so we can move forward.”
The group of senators had come to the White House to discuss a potential compromise on immigration. The president reportedly rejected their idea for the time being.
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