Republican Georgia Sen. David Perdue was in the room when President Trump allegedly asked why the U.S. allows so many immigrants from "shithole countries." Perdue says that quote is a "gross misrepresentation" of what the president really said.
"Multiple sources? There were six of us in the room. I haven't heard any of those six sources -- other than Sen. Durbin talk about what was said," Perdue said plainly. Dick Durbin, the Illinois Democrat, said Friday that the president used the word "shithole" to describe African and Latin American countries "not just once but repeatedly" at a meeting in the Oval Office on Thursday.
Perdue explained: "On Thursday we had a meeting, and coming out of that meeting, we heard gross misrepresentation of what happened in that meeting... It is not the first time we’ve had a grossness representation by that individual."
"In 2013, Senator Durbin also made the same accusation against a Republican leader in a meeting with President Obama," Perdue said. "[Durbin] said that [a Republican member of Congress] chewed out the president, and it was so disrespectful to President Obama, we couldn’t even have the meeting."
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.— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) January 14, 2018
SEN. DAVID PERDUE: The problem is, is when you get to the Washington politicians, the career politicians, who want to pander to their base, what we have going on here right now is a gross misrepresentation.
This all started with a total misrepresentation of a meeting that happened last Thursday, and people forget that just two days earlier, this president, in an open meeting – we’ve meeting in there for almost an hour, George – debated this with both sides, democrats, republicans, House members, and the Senate.
And what we forget is that 72 percent of Americans wants us to solve this problem, we want to solve the DACA problem, we want to have border security with a wall, we want to end chain migration and end this archaic diversity lottery.
That’s the scope that we all agree to on Tuesday. Then in Thursday we had a meeting, and coming out of that meeting, we heard gross misrepresentation of what happened in that meeting.
But it’s not the first time we’ve had a grossness representation by that individual.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, let’s get into – let’s get into things.
PERDUE: No, let me finish, George.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, I want to know what the gross misrepresentation was.
PERDUE: In 2013 – the gross misrepresentation was that language was used in there that was not used, and also that the tone of that meeting was not contributory and not constructive.
In 2013, Senator Durbin also made the same accusation against a Republican leader in a meeting with President Obama, and said that it was – he chewed out the president, it was so disrespectful to President Obama, we couldn’t even have the meeting.
That’s what he said in 2013. Later that day, the president’s own press secretary came out and said, and I quote, it did not happen. This is about a gross misrepresentation. It’s not the first time.
These people have been trying for 35 years to solve this immigration problem without success, for one reason, and that is I don’t believe they’re serious about trying to solve that right now.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You just said that what Senator Durbin said the president – the words the president used were not used. You said that that did not happen. But it’s not just Senator Durbin who said that, I mean Senator Lindsey Graham has put out a statement saying that he counted the president’s words in the moment, and he told his republican colleagues from South Carolina, to Tim Scott, that the reports of that meeting were basically accurate.
Those comments have been confirmed by multiple sources, but you’re saying it didn’t happen?
PERDUE: Multiple sources? There were six of us in the room. I haven’t heard any of those six sources other than Senator Durbin talk about what was said.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Look, Senator Graham told Senator Scott that the reports were basically accurate.
PERDUE: Well that’s – you’ll have to deal with him. Basically is an operative word. The trouble here is that Senator Durbin came and brought a proposal, and let’s put this in perspective.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I want to get into (inaudible) you’re saying – you’re saying flat out, definitively, the president did not say those words?
PERDUE: I’m saying that this is a gross misrepresentation, it’s not the first time Senator Durbin has done it, and it is not productive to solving the problem that we have at hand.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So what did the president say?
PERDUE: Most people in America, George, want us to solve the DACA situation. Republicans and democrats want to solve the DACA situation, but we also want to make sure that we’re not back here in five years doing the same thing again.
What we have to do is secure our borders, George. This is a serious issue. It’s not just immigration, it’s a national security issue. The president wants a wall, and we’re not talking about 2,000 miles here.
We’re talking about 600 miles or so, we’re not talking about anything that’s unreasonable or that the democrats have already voted for in the past. The second this is we got – or third thing, we’ve got to end chain migration.
And this is where 72 percent of our population agrees, we need to limit it to the worker, the spouse, and the immediate family. 72 percent, George, almost 60 percent believe that we should move to a merit based immigration system, similar to what the commission did when you were in the White House in the 90’s.
President Clinton received a report from Barbara Jordan and a presidential commission on immigration that said they wanted to end chain migration and move more toward an immigration system based on merit and who people were, not where they were from, which is what our system is, one that’s more like Canada and Australia.
STEPHANOPOULOS: The supporters in this bipartisan deal say they do limit chain migration, and that there is some border wall funding in there as well, about $1.6 billion. I want to get more on that.
But just to be clear, I’m – I’m – I’m not clear on exactly what you’re saying happened in this meeting. You say it was a gross misrepresentation. Senator Durbin has been very clear, Senator Graham has told others that the reports were basically accurate.
Are you saying the president did not use the word that has been so widely reported?
PERDUE: I’m telling you he did not use that word, George, and I’m telling you it’s a gross misrepresentation. How many times you want me to say that? What is happening here is the same thing that happened in 2013 where you had a press secretary of your president who said it didn’t happen.
What did happen in that meeting was a very constructive conversation about how to move forward. We were listening to a proposal that the democrats are bringing forward. It’s not a serious proposal, but 1.8 billion has already been basically approved.
It’s in the current budget. What we want to do is get serious about a compromise. Look, this deal has got to find symmetry, and so far, the potential is there. We can solve the DACA – we may even be able to solve some of the Dreamer numbers that Senator Durbin wants to talk about.
But we have to talk about ending chain migration and securing our borders, George.