According to numerous reports, South Carolina’s senior U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham was in the room discussing immigration when President Trump made now-infamous remarks referring to Haitian, El Salvadoran and African immigrants as coming from “Shithole” countries.
Graham essentially confirmed as much in a statement Friday — although he did not give specifics on what the President said.
“Following comments by the President, I said my piece directly to him (Thursday),” the statement said. “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.”
U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-IL, was the first lawmaker present to confirm Trump’s comments on the record after they were first reported with anonymous sourcing. “My colleague, [Sen. Graham], spoke up and made a direct comment on what the president said,” he told reporters, according to The Hill. “For him to confront the president as he did, literally sitting next to him, took extraordinary political courage and I respect him for it.”
Graham’s fellow U.S. Sen. Tim Scott said his counterpart confirmed the President’s word choice in a private conversation. He told Columbia affiliate The Point radio he supports Trump’s efforts to improve the American economy, but sees his words as frequently counterproductive. “You have to be willing to take a stand and be very clear in your opposition to some of the comments that are inflammatory and downright embarrassing.”
“When you separate the policy position from the rhetoric, the rhetoric, in my opinion, imperils where we are in the world’s standing,” he continued. “And I think it does us no service in promoting a positive, healthy American image that we are the only superpower. We should act like it.”
Graham is seen as a key Republican negotiator on any immigration deal. “I know the bipartisan proposal discussed at the White House can get a lot of support from both sides. As always, I look forward to considering additional ideas that could make the proposal even better.”