Georgia Republican Sen. David Perdue said Sunday that President Donald Trump did not use the phrase "shithole countries" during a meeting with lawmakers on immigration reform last week.
"I'm telling you he did not use that word, George, and I'm telling you it's a gross misrepresentation," Perdue told moderator George Stephanopoulos on ABC's "This Week."
During an Oval Office meeting on immigration Thursday, Trump expressed frustration with people coming to the United States from "shithole countries," sources told CNN.
Trump has denied making the vulgar remarks, tweeting Friday: "The language used by me at the DACA meeting was tough, but this was not the language used. What was really tough was the outlandish proposal made - a big setback for DACA!"
Perdue on Sunday accused Illinois Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin of spreading false information about what Trump said at the meeting and added that Trump has been misrepresented.
Durbin said Trump used "hate-filled, vile and racist" language in the meeting, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Sen. Tim Scott told The Post and Courier that fellow South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, who was at the meeting, told him the reported comments are "basically accurate."
Perdue and Arkansas Republican Sen. Tom Cotton said in a Friday statement that they did not recall the "shithole" comment, and like Perdue, Cotton on Sunday accused Durbin of misrepresenting Trump's comments.
"I didn't hear it, and I was sitting no further away from Donald Trump than Dick Durbin was," Cotton said on CBS's "Face the Nation."
Perdue on Sunday alluded to a 2013 back-and-forth in which Durbin said a Republican member of Congress made a rude remark to then-President Barack Obama, only to have the White House deny the remark happened, and an official attribute it in part to a "miscommunication" between the White House and Senate Democrats.
After the comments from Perdue and Cotton, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer defended Durbin on Twitter.
"To impugn @SenatorDurbin's integrity is disgraceful. Whether you agree with him on the issues or not, he is one of the most honorable members of the Senate," Schumer wrote.
Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said on "Fox News Sunday" that she did not recall Trump saying "that exact phrase."
"It was an impassioned conversation," Nielsen said when pressed. "I don't recall that specific phrase being used. That's all I can say about that."
Democrats have been demanding protections for recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program in exchange for border security funding that could include money for Trump's promised border wall. The deadline for passing a government spending bill is this Friday.
Nielsen said it was "frustrating" that the deal presented to the administration in the Thursday meeting did not address the administration's concerns about security or present a permanent fix.
"We're not interested in half measures," Nielsen said.
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