Donald Trump has rejected reports that he ranted about immigration from “s***hole countries” in a closed-door discussion at the White House. The US President said there was a “tough” meeting but that “this was not the language used”.
His denial followed a series of tweets in which he again called for a “merit-based system of immigration”.
Addressing reports about his use of expletives, Mr Trump tweeted: “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!”
According to the Washington Post, when plans were floated to protect some immigrants as part of the DACA deal Mr Trump asked: “Why are we having all these people from s***hole countries come here?”
Rupert Colville, a UN human rights spokesman, called Mr Trump’s offensive remarks about Haiti, El Salvador and unspecified African nations “racist”, saying “there is no other word you can use”.
But the President later reiterated his denial, adding: “Never said anything derogatory about Haitians other than Haiti is, obviously, a very poor and troubled country. Never said ‘take them out.’
“Made up by Dems. I have a wonderful relationship with Haitians. Probably should record future meetings – unfortunately, no trust!”
Democratic senator Dick Durbin, who was present at the Oval Office meeting, said during a press conference on Friday that reports of Mr Trump’s “hate-filled, vile and racist” language were accurate.
The President used the word “s***hole” “not just once but repeatedly”, Mr Durbin said at an event in Chicago.
Earlier on Friday morning Mr Trump had criticised a “so-called bipartisan DACA deal” as not going far enough in protecting the US from “large numbers of people from high-crime countries”.
The DACA programme – Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals – offered work permits and a reprieve from deportation to immigrants brought to the US as children.
Mr Trump ended the scheme but said he wanted it enshrined in law alongside other immigration measures including his promised border wall.
On Friday he tweeted: “The so-called bipartisan DACA deal presented yesterday to myself and a group of Republican Senators and Congressmen was a big step backwards.
“Wall was not properly funded, Chain & Lottery were made worse and USA would be forced to take large numbers of people from high crime countries which are doing badly.
“I want a merit based system of immigration and people who will help take our country to the next level. I want safety and security for our people. I want to stop the massive inflow of drugs.
“I want to fund our military, not do a Dem defund....
“Because of the Democrats not being interested in life and safety, DACA has now taken a big step backwards. The Dems will threaten “shutdown,” but what they are really doing is shutting down our military, at a time we need it most. Get smart, MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!”
Following his denial, he continued: “Sadly, Democrats want to stop paying our troops and government workers in order to give a sweetheart deal, not a fair deal, for DACA. Take care of our Military, and our Country, FIRST!”
Leaders abroad reacted strongly to Mr Trump’s reported comments, with the African Union saying it was “frankly alarmed” by the language allegedly used “given the historical reality of how many Africans arrived in the United States as slaves”.
“This is particularly surprising as the United States of America remains a global example of how migration gave birth to a nation built on strong values of diversity and opportunity,” spokeswoman Ebba Kalondo added.
Botswana’s government said it had hauled in the US ambassador there to clarify whether Mr Trump considered the southern African country a “s***hole”.
Uganda’s state minister for international relations, Henry Okello Oryem, called Mr Trump’s alleged remarks “unfortunate and regrettable.”
And Haiti’s government said it was “deeply shocked and outraged”, adding that “these insulting and reprehensible statements in no way reflect the virtues of wisdom, restraint and discernment that must be cultivated by any high political authority”.
Reports of Mr Trump’s comments and his subsequent denials came as he announced he would not visit the UK to open the new US embassy in Battersea.
The Nine Elms Lane site overlooking the Thames was an “off location” and had cost the country $1.2bn (£880,000,000), the President said.
However, the US ambassador to the UK writes in the London Evening Standard today that the new building is “the most secure, hi-tech and environmentally friendly embassy that the United States has ever built”.
Contradicting Mr Trump, Robert Johnson said it had “not cost the US taxpayer a cent” as it was funded by the sale of other property.
The previous embassy in Grosvenor Square was in a “perfect” location, he admitted, but security concerns after 9/11 had forced the move.
Anti-Trump campaigners had promised to hold massive protests if the billionaire's trip to Britain went ahead.
In response to Mr Trump’s announcement, London mayor Sadiq Khan said: “Many Londoners have made it clear that Donald Trump is not welcome here while he is pursuing such a divisive agenda. It seems he’s finally got that message.”