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The Latest: Trump defends remarks about Africa, Haiti

The Latest: Trump defends remarks about Africa, Haiti
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January 13

The Latest on President Trump and immigration (all times local):

8 p.m.

President Donald Trump has privately defended his remarks disparaging Haitians and African countries, saying he was only expressing what many people think but won't say about immigrants from economically depressed countries.

That's according to a person who spoke to the president as criticism of his comments ricocheted around the globe.

Trump spent Thursday evening making a flurry of calls to friends and outside advisers to judge their reaction to the tempest, said the confidant, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to disclose a private conversation. Trump wasn't apologetic about his inflammatory remarks and denied he was racist, instead, blaming the media for distorting his meaning, the confidant said.

Critics of the president, including some Republicans, spent Friday blasting the vulgar comments he made behind closed doors.

— Jill Colvin and Jonathan Lemire


5:30 p.m.

President Donald Trump is privately defending his inflammatory comments about African nations and Haitian immigrants.

Trump made a round of calls Thursday night to friends and outside advisers to judge their reaction to the tempest, says a person who spoke to Trump but wasn't authorized to discuss a private conversation.

Trump wasn't apologetic, the person says.

The president instead blamed the media for distorting his meaning, arguing his description of "shithole" was not racist but rather a straightforward assessment of some nations' depressed conditions.

Trump also said he believed he was expressing what many people think, according to the person.

During a bipartisan Oval Office immigration meeting Thursday, Trump questioned why the U.S. would accept more immigrants from Haiti and "shithole countries" in Africa.

Related stories from Kansas City Star

— Josh Lederman and Jonathan Lemire


5:15 p.m.

The chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus and the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee say they plan to introduce a censure resolution against President Donald Trump over his "bigoted fear mongering" about Haiti and Africa.

Democratic Reps. Cedric Richmond of Louisiana and Jerrold Nadler of New York say they were deeply troubled by Trump's comments referring to African nations as "shithole" countries during an Oval Office meeting on immigration.

Richmond and Nadler say the countries Trump insulted "produce immigrants that are remarkable and make significant contributions to our country."

The censure resolution has little chance of passage in the Republican-controlled House, but Richmond and Nadler say it's important because "America is a beacon of hope." They say Trump's comments don't "represent the real feelings" of most Americans.


3:20 p.m.

Sen. John McCain says all elected officials, including the president, must respect that people from all over the world have "made America great."

The Arizona Republican's statement comes a day after President Donald Trump referred to African nations as "shithole" countries during Oval Office talks with lawmakers about immigration.

McCain says respecting all people "is the essence of American patriotism." He says rejecting that "is to oppose the very idea of America."

McCain did not specifically mention Trump or the profanity he used. He did employ a variant of Trump's campaign theme, "Make America Great Again."

Trump's vulgarity was described by Democratic Sen. Richard Durbin, who attended the White House meeting, and three others briefed on the session.

McCain is in Arizona being treated for brain cancer.


3 p.m.

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham says he "said my piece" to Donald Trump after the president's comments about Africa and Haiti that have stirred such controversy. But Graham isn't confirming exactly what Trump said.

In a statement Friday, the South Carolina lawmaker says, "Following comments by the president, I said my piece directly to him." Graham also says diversity is "our strength, not our weakness."

Graham released his statement a day after an Oval Office immigration meeting at which Trump referred to African nations with a vulgar term. Trump's words have prompted an uproar and were relayed by Democratic Sen. Richard Durbin of Illinois — who was at the session — and three others familiar with the meeting.

Trump disputes the accounts of the language he used, but he has not denied the most controversial word he is said to have uttered.


2:45 p.m.

The State Department says American diplomats will have to work "extra hard" to send the message that the United States cares about other countries after President Donald Trump used the word "shithole" to describe Africa nations.

Undersecretary of State Steve Goldstein says it's Trump's right to "make whatever remark he chooses." He says that's the benefit of being president.

But Goldstein says U.S. diplomats have an obligation to represent the U.S. throughout the world. He says Trump's remarks don't "change what we do."

Goldstein says the State Department is advising U.S. ambassadors to "primarily listen" if summoned to explain Trump's comments to foreign leaders. He says they'll tell foreign countries that the U.S. commitment to their nations "hasn't wavered" and that the United States is honored to have diplomatic representation there.


2 p.m.

The lone Democrat in a White House immigration meeting says talks were "combative at times" and that Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham pushed back after President Donald Trump used a vulgarity about African countries.

Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois says he was the only Democrat among 12 people at Thursday's meeting, where he says Trump "repeatedly" used the term "shithole" to describe African countries.

He says Graham "spoke up" and told Trump his own family's story of coming to the U.S.

Durbin says it's up to the South Carolina senator to say more.

Durbin also repeated his earlier account that Trump said the U.S. doesn't need more people from Haiti. He says he told Trump if he singled out Haitians it was "clearly a racial decision."

Trump says he did not denigrate Haitians.


1:25 p.m.

Two Republicans who were in the Oval Office with President Donald Trump say they "do not recall" him talking about "shithole" countries in Africa.

Georgia Sen. David Perdue and Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton issued a joint statement Friday. They say, "We do not recall the president saying these comments specifically." They say, "But what he did call out was the imbalance in our current immigration system, which does not protect American workers."

Trump's slur came as pro-immigration senators tried to pitch Trump on a deal to protect younger immigrants brought to the country illegally as children. Perdue and Cotton had travelled separately to the White House.

Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois says Trump made the comments, as do people briefed on the conversation.


1:15 p.m.

Legal experts predict it won't be long before President Donald Trump's remarks about immigrants from "shithole countries" in Africa start showing up in lawsuits and judicial decisions, much as the president's tweets already have.

Lawyer Neal Katyal says on Twitter Thursday that he's putting the finishing touches on his latest Supreme Court brief. The brief opposes Trump's ban on visitors from six mostly Muslim countries. Katyal says Trump's words "remind us again of how his un-American racist ideology impacts policy."

South Texas College of Law professor Josh Blackman says he is "willing to bet you lunch" the comments will find their way into a pending travel ban decision from the federal appeals court in Richmond, Virginia.


12:50 p.m.

House Speaker Paul Ryan says that President Donald Trump's vulgar slur about Africa was "very unfortunate, unhelpful."

The Wisconsin Republican was referring to Trump's asking during an Oval Office meeting with lawmakers why the U.S. should admit more immigrants from "shithole countries" in Africa.

Trump on Friday denied using certain "language," but didn't offer more specifics. Illinois Democratic Sen. Richard Durbin said Friday that Trump "said these hate-filled things and he said them repeatedly."

Ryan said his ancestors were Irish and "were really looked down upon." He called immigration "a beautiful story of America " and said Africans in his hometown of Janesville, Wisconsin, are "incredible citizens."

Ryan made his remark Friday at a public forum at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

—This item has been corrected to show that Ryan was complimenting Africans, not Haitians, in his hometown.


12:45 p.m.

GOP leaders are staying quiet while more moderate Republicans are speaking out against President Donald Trump's incendiary comments in a White House meeting Thursday about "shithole" countries in Africa.

Florida GOP Rep.

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