By Jeff Mason
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday blamed Senator Dick Durbin for blowing up talks on a deal to help immigrants brought to the country illegally as children and said the Democratic lawmaker misrepresented his comments about Haiti and African countries.
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“Senator Dicky Durbin totally misrepresented what was said at the DACA meeting,” Trump said in a post on Twitter, referring to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals programme that gave legal protection to the young immigrants known as “Dreamers.”
Durbin has said Trump used the term “shithole” when speaking about Haiti and African countries during the meeting about immigration policy at the White House last week.
“Deals can’t get made when there is no trust! Durbin blew DACA and is hurting our Military,” Trump added.
Trump has drawn criticism at home, from Republicans and Democrats and from abroad for the comments attributed to him. Some have accused the president of racism. Trump said on Sunday: “I’m not a racist.”
Durbin, who has been one of the lead senators in the efforts to protect Dreamers, stood by his account of the meeting.
“I know what happened. I stand behind every word that I said,” Durbin told reporters in Chicago on Monday. “In terms of that meeting, I’m focussed on one thing – not that meeting – but on making sure that those who are being protected by DACA … have a future in America. I’m focussed on that full time.”
Many Democrats have said they will not vote for a spending bill this week needed to avoid a partial government shutdown without a deal on DACA. Republicans will need at least some Democratic votes to pass a bill ahead of a Friday deadline.
Trump has said he is ready and willing to make a deal to help the Dreamers, but he has insisted that funding for border security, including a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico that he promised as a presidential candidate, be included in any legislative package.
The president has suggested a government shutdown would hurt the military and wants Democrats to get the blame if that occurs.
But the comments about Haiti and African countries, which Trump has denied making, complicated negotiations further.
While Durbin, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate, underscored his account, Republican Senator David Perdue, who was also at the meeting, on Monday said Trump did not use the word “shithole.” Perdue initially said he did not recall whether the president made the comment.