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2 GOP senators say they don't recall Trump's 'shithole' comment at White House meeting

Lisa Mascaro, Tribune Washington Bureau on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON -- Two Republican senators who hastily joined an immigration meeting at the White House this week said Friday they do not recall President Donald Trump using vulgar language to describe countries in Africa and elsewhere.

The White House has not disputed reports that Trump complained about immigrants from "shithole" countries during the meeting.

Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., said Friday that Trump definitely made the remark, and two Republican senators said they had been told about it by others in the meeting.

But Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., and Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., issued a joint statement Friday suggesting otherwise.

"We do not recall the president saying these comments specifically," Cotton and Perdue said. "But what he did call out was the imbalance in our current immigration system, which does not protect American workers and our national interest."

Cotton and Perdue were among a group of Republicans not initially invited to the White House meeting on Thursday. Trump had asked Durbin and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., to brief him after they called him that morning to say their bipartisan group had reached a tentative immigration deal. It would protect so-called Dreamers from deportation and beef up border security and make other changes to family and diversity visas.

But as Graham and Durbin arrived to meet the president, Cotton, Perdue and other Republicans who oppose the bipartisan plan were also at the White House, according to a source familiar with the session.

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Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., who is part of the bipartisan group but did not attend the White House meeting, confirmed the comments.

"The words used by the president, as related to me directly following the meeting by those in attendance, were not 'tough,' they were abhorrent and repulsive," Flake tweeted.

And South Carolina Republican Sen. Tim Scott told the Post and Courier in Charleston that he had spoken with Graham, who confirmed to him the reports of the comments were "basically accurate."

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