Donald Trump refuses to apologise after ‘s***hole’ remark enrages several countries
White House aides debate whether Trump said ‘s***hole’ or ‘s***house’ – and if the latter is the case, it may be the reason Republicans present in the meeting said they did not hear him say ‘s***hole’
The White House said on Tuesday that US President Donald Trump is “not going to apologise for trying to fix our immigration system,” as the fallout continues from his reported use of a vulgarity to describe Haiti and some African countries.
Press Secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters that Trump “hasn’t said he didn’t use strong language” in the meeting with bipartisan lawmakers in the heated immigration debate last week. He was said to have used “s***hole” to describe some nations in Africa.
Responding to Democrats’ assertions that Trump’s comments were “racist,” Sanders calls the claim “outrageous,” citing their previous embrace of Trump.
She said: “Why did NBC give him a show for a decade on TV. Why did [US Senate Democratic minority leader] Chuck Schumer and all of his colleagues come and beg Donald Trump for money?”
Trump tweeted that Democratic Senator Dick Durbin misrepresented what he had said about African nations and Haiti and, in the process, undermined the trust needed to make a deal.
A confidant of Trump told The Associated Press that the president spent Thursday evening calling friends and outside advisers to judge their reaction to his remarks.
Trump was not apologetic and denied he was racist, said the confidant, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss a private conversation.
Coming out in partial defence of Trump was Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen.
She said on Tuesday that numerous people used profanities in an impassioned Oval Office meeting on immigration last week but she did not recall Trump using a specific vulgarity to refer to Haiti and African nations.
Nielsen faced questions during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing about the conversation that involved Trump and several lawmakers.
After that conversation, several people said the president referred to Haiti, El Salvador and African nations as “s***hole countries” and said he preferred to receive immigrants from countries like Norway.
Trump has publicly denied using that word.
“I did not hear that word used, no sir,” Nielsen said at the hearing. “The conversation was very impassioned. I don’t dispute that the president was using tough language. Others in the room were also using tough language.”
She did not address whether any variation of the word was used by Trump.
Several people who were at the meeting last week or familiar with the discussions, said Trump disparaged those countries in vulgar, racially tinged terms.
Durbin said the White House should release whatever recording it might have of the meeting.
Aides to the president are locked in an internal debate over which version of the word the president used to describe certain countries during immigration talks with senators.
Trump was said to have uttered “s***hole” during last Thursday’s conversation in the Oval Office, a version backed up by Durbin some Republicans.
Asked about Trump’s comments challenging his honesty, Durbin told reporters on Tuesday: “I stand by every word I said about what was said.”
The internal debate in the West Wing is over whether Trump said “s***hole” or “s***house.”
One person who attended the meeting told aides they heard the latter expletive, while others recalled the president saying the more widely reported “s***hole,” according to a person briefed on the meeting but not authorised to speak publicly about private conversations.
The person believes the discrepancy may be why some Republican senators are denying having heard the president say “s***hole.”
Trump has not clarified to aides what he said, but told reporters on Sunday night in Florida that comments attributed to him “weren’t made.” There appears to be little difference in meaning between the two words.
The debate continued to play out on Tuesday as Washington was gripped with uncertainty over whether the government would shut down at midnight on Friday, when temporary government funding is set to run out, in the absence of a deal on immigration and other matters.
The contentious comments came as Durbin was presenting details of a compromise immigration plan that had money for a first instalment of the president’s long-sought border wall.
Trump took particular issue with the idea that people who had fled to the US after disasters hit their homes in places such as El Salvador, Guatemala and Haiti would be allowed to stay as part of the deal, according to the people briefed on the conversation.
When it came to talk of extending protections for Haitians, Durbin said Trump replied, “We don’t need more Haitians.’”
“He said, ‘Put me down for wanting more Europeans to come to this country. Why don’t we get more people from Norway?’” Durbin said.
With additional reporting from Bloomberg