I'm not racist, Trump says after 'shithole countries' remark

Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin, who was in the meeting, also confirmed Trump made the remark, although some Republican senators in the room said they did not remember hearing it.

"I'm not a racist. I'm the least racist person you will ever interview", Trump said, according to The Hill. His first act as the president was to sign the executive order on Jan.25, 2017, to suspend the US refugee programs and temporarily ban the admission of citizens of seven Muslim countries.

After the story first broke, some White House staffers reportedly predicted the remark would resonate with Trump's base, much like his earlier attacks on National Football League players.

Trump has defended himself against accusations of being a racist on numerous occasions, including during his insistence that President Barack Obama was not American-born and after he opened his presidential campaign in 2015 by describing Mexicans as rapists and drug peddlers.

The row broke out after lawmakers from both parties visited the president on Thursday to work on a proposal for a bipartisan immigration deal. This did not bode well with Trump's recent declaration that he's not a racist.

"I think it's unfair to sort of draw conclusions from a remark that I think wasn't constructive is the least we can say, and it's unfair to all of a sudden paint him as "oh well, he's a racist" when I know for a fact that he cares very deeply about the people in Haiti because he helped finance a trip where we were able to get vision back for 200 people in Haiti", Paul said.

Trump said in the meeting that he would prefer immigrants from countries like Norway instead. He has said he has "a wonderful relationship with Haitians". "Do we need more Haitians?"

A century ago, there were nativists who railed against Irish, Italian and Eastern European immigration, claiming that unwashed hordes from poor countries were "mongrelizing" the nation. But language like the kind the president used last week cuts to the core of what his presidency means - and what it's doing to foreign relations, to the business of governing, and to the future of hundreds of thousands of young undocumented immigrants, almost 6,000 of them in Pennsylvania, and more than 22,000 in New Jersey.

He also posted another tweet denying he had insulted Haitians, accusing Democrats of making it up.

Despite what happened last week, Durbin says Trump and Republicans now have a chance to dispel those racism rumors. "And I'm telling you it's a gross misrepresentation", Perdue said on ABC's "This Week". On Friday, in the immediate aftermath, he had said he could not recall the conversation. Lindsey Graham, a Republican senator, described the reports as "basically accurate".

Durbin credited Graham with quickly speaking up against Trump's comments during the meeting. The president said he was misquoted, which recordings appear to corroborate.

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