WASHINGTON — Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin is standing behind his statement that President Trump used a vulgar term to refer to African countries and is calling on the White House to release any recordings it might have of the exchange.
Speaking to reporters in his home state, Durbin said Monday he didn’t record the conversation between Trump and a bipartisan group of lawmakers last Thursday because visitors are required to check their cell phones before entering the Oval Office. Durbin said he doesn’t know if the White House has recordings of the meeting either.
“If there was,” he said, “I want to just call on the White House right now, release whatever you have. If they don’t have it, so be it.”
Durbin, a Democrat, said last week that Trump had told lawmakers during the meeting on immigration policy that the U.S. didn’t need any more immigrants from Haiti and that he’d rather have more from Norway and fewer from “shithole countries” in Africa.
Trump slammed Durbin in a Twitter post on Monday, saying “Senator Dicky Durbin totally misrepresented what was said at the DACA meeting. Deals can’t get made when there is no trust! Durbin blew DACA and is hurting our Military.”
He was referring to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, an Obama-era initiative that provided legal protections for hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children. A federal judge last week temporarily blocked the Trump administration from ending the program.
Earlier, Trump acknowledged using “tough” language in the meeting, but denied uttering the vulgar term.
He also suggested the White House did not record the conversation. “Probably should record future meetings – unfortunately, no trust,” he wrote on Twitter last Friday.
Two Republican senators who were in the meeting – David Perdue of Georgia and Tom Cotton of Arkansas – said Friday they didn’t recall Trump using the term.
But Perdue went even further on Sunday and said emphatically on ABC’s “This Week” that Trump did not use the racially charged phrase. Perdue accused Durbin of spreading false information about the meeting.
Appearing on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” Cotton repeated Sunday that he never heard Trump use the expression and suggested Durbin “has a history of misrepresenting what happens in White House meetings.”
Durbin didn’t back down Monday when asked Perdue’s and Cotton’s comments.
“I know what happened,” he said. “I stand behind every word that I said.
Meanwhile, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who was also in the meeting, declined to confirm to a South Carolina newspaper whether Trump used the vulgar expression, even though Graham reportedly told Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., in a private conversation that media accounts of the remarks were “basically accurate.”
In the newspaper interview, Graham did take what could be interpreted as a direct jab at Perdue and Cotton.
“My memory hasn’t evolved,” Graham told the Charleston Courier and Post. “I know what was said and I know what I said.”