The White House did not initially deny or push back on firsthand reports last Thursday that President Trump said the U.S. should not take in immigrants from "shithole countries" like Haiti, African nations, and El Salvador "because aides knew that Trump had said it and that the president wasn't even too upset," The Washington Post reports, citing "people involved in the talks."
While "many White House aides were concerned that the story was exploding beyond the usual level for a Trump controversy," nearly every top official decided to attend a going-away party for top White House aide Dina Powell, the Post adds, and Trump spent some part of Thursday evening "calling friends and asking how they expected it to play with his political supporters." The feedback wasn't negative. "Everyone was saying it would help with the base," one person who spoke with the president told the Post.
Still, by Friday morning, Trump seemed to be denying that his "tough" language included the word "shithole," and by Sunday, two Republican senators in the meeting, Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and David Perdue (R-Ga.), said they couldn't recall hearing Trump say that vulgarity; Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said she didn't "recall him saying that exact phrase." Well, the Post reports:
Three White House officials said Perdue and Cotton told the White House that they heard "shithouse" rather than "shithole," allowing them to deny the president's comments on television over the weekend. The two men initially said publicly that they could not recall what the president said. Representatives for both men declined to comment. [The Washington Post]
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), who was in the meeting and confirmed Trump's vulgar comments, didn't seem too upset about Cotton kind of contradicting him, and he stood by his version of events.
Sen. Durbin responds to @SenTomCotton who says he "misrepresented" what @realDonaldTrump said during Oval Office meeting when @SenatorDurbin says referred "shi-hole" countries. @cbschicago pic.twitter.com/NflI5XzlhC
— Mike Puccinelli (@MPuccinelliCBS2) January 15, 2018