2 Republican senators in Trump meeting say they don't recall 'shithole' comment

Story highlights

  • Tom Cotton and David Perdue attended the White House meeting Thursday
  • They issued a statement saying they don't recall vulgar remarks from Trump

Washington (CNN)A day after President Donald Trump reportedly made highly incendiary comments about immigrants and African countries, two Republican senators said they don't recall those vulgar characterizations from the President.

Republican Sens. Tom Cotton and David Perdue, who've been close allies to the President on the issue of immigration, were in a White House meeting with him Thursday when Trump, according to sources, expressed frustration with people coming to the US from "shithole countries."
    "We do not recall the President saying these comments specifically but what he did call out was the imbalance in our current immigration system, which does not protect American workers and our national interest," they said in a statement.
    Their statement came after the President tweeted Friday morning that the description of his remarks was not accurate.
    "The language used by me at the DACA meeting was tough, but this was not the language used," Trump said. "What was really tough was the outlandish proposal made - a big setback for DACA!"
    Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, was also part of the Oval Office sitdown. He suggested in a statement Friday that the President had said something questionable, but Graham did not directly say Trump had used the term "shithole" to describe African countries.
    President Donald Trump makes an announcement with Sen. Tom Cotton, at left, an Arkansas Republican, and Sen. David Perdue, at right, a Georgia Republican, in the Roosevelt Room at the White House in August 2017. (Photo by Zach Gibson - Pool/Getty Images)
    "Following comments by the President, I said my piece directly to him yesterday," said Graham, who was part of a bipartisan proposal on immigration that Trump rejected at the meeting. "The President and all those attending the meeting know what I said and how I feel. I've always believed that America is an idea, not defined by its people but by its ideals."
    However, Republican Sen. Tim Scott, the junior senator from South Carolina, told the Charleston Post and Courier that Graham told him the reported comments are "basically accurate."
    "If that comment is accurate, the comment is incredibly disappointing," Scott told the newspaper.
    Sen. Dick Durbin, the lone Democrat in the meeting, confirmed the comments Friday morning, calling the words "hate filled, vile and racist."
    "I cannot believe that in the history of the White House, in the Oval Office, any president has ever spoken words that I personally heard our president speak yesterday," Durbin told reporters.
    Sen. Jeff Flake, a fierce Republican critic of the President, was not at the meeting but tweeted that he had heard directly from those who were in attendance.
    "The words used by the President, as related to me directly following the meeting by those in attendance, were not 'tough,' " he said, taking issue with the President's tweet. "They were abhorrent and repulsive."