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Trump Offers Vague Denial About Language on Immigrants 

click to enlarge President Donald Trump meets with members of his Cabinet, in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington, Jan. 10, 2018. - TOM BRENNER/THE NEW YORK TIMES
  • Tom Brenner/The New York Times
  • President Donald Trump meets with members of his Cabinet, in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington, Jan. 10, 2018.

By EILEEN SULLIVAN
© 2018 New York Times News Service

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Friday offered a vague denial about the language he chose to use about immigrants during a private meeting with lawmakers at the White House on Thursday, when he reportedly referred to African nations as “shithole countries.”

But Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said Friday that the president did use the term “shithole,” repeatedly, during the course of the meeting on immigration — which Durbin attended. The senator described Trump as saying “things which were hate-filled, vile and racist.”

In a Twitter post on Friday, just hours before the president was scheduled to sign a proclamation to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, which is Monday, Trump appeared to parse the language he spoke about immigrants from different regions of the world.

The president wrote that he never said of Haitians, “take them out.”

The Twitter post was his second about news accounts of a private meeting Thursday at the White House. The president denied some aspects of reports on his language — but he did not comment on his reported use of the specific word “shithole” to describe African nations.

“It’s not true,” Durbin said of Trump’s denial. “He said these hate-filled things and he said them repeatedly.”

Trump said in another Twitter post that his comments about Haitians were fabricated by Democrats, and said he “probably should record future meetings — unfortunately, no trust!”

In a discussion about immigration from African nations, Trump asked why he would want “all these people from shithole countries,” according to people with direct knowledge of the conversation. Trump also said the United States should admit more people from places like Norway, an overwhelmingly white country.

The president did not specifically deny the language that has drawn the most attention for being racially tinged. Instead, Trump denied that he said, “take them out” when he asked why the United States should accept more Haitian immigrants.

“Why do we need more Haitians?” Trump said, according to several news accounts, including The Washington Post. “Take them out.”

The White House has not denied his use of racially charged rhetoric, either.

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