President Donald J. Trump denies accounts made by senators who attended a meeting with him on Thursday, during which he was reported to have made derogatory comments about several nations. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), one of the “Gang of Six” senators who authored a new proposal for immigration reform that would give DACA recipients a pathway to citizenship, was at the meeting as they presented the proposal to Trump.
During the Oval Office meeting, President Trump reportedly became frustrated by the offer set in front of him, and referred to Haiti, El Salvador and several African nations as “sh–hole countries.”
Graham did not clarify what he thought the president said, but instead posted a statement on Twitter Friday afternoon:
“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,” Graham wrote, adding, “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.”
Graham said he appreciated statements from Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), who reported that he heard Trump make the crude remarks. Durbin praised Graham for speaking up and rebuking the president at the time.
“My colleague [Graham] spoke up and made a direct comment on what the president said,” Durbin said Friday, according to MSNBC. “For him to confront the president as he did, literally sitting next to him, took extraordinary political courage and I respect him for it.”
Two of Graham’s Republican colleagues, Sens. Tom Cotton (Ark.) and David Perdue (Ga.) both said they did not recall Trump explicitly making the derogatory comments as reported, in statements they made on Friday.
Also on Friday morning, Trump denied using the specific comments attributed to him, writing on Twitter, “The language used by me at the DACA meeting was tough, but this was not the language used.”
— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) January 12, 2018