Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., said that President Trump’s language during a closed-door meeting 10 days ago did not offend him, and that Trump’s actual words have been grossly misrepresented.
The Arkansas Republican offered this defense of the commander in chief while discussing immigration reform on NBC News’ “Meet the Press” with moderator Chuck Todd.
“I was not offended. And nobody in the meeting expressed their offense at any of the language that was being used,” he said on Sunday.
Cotton said he would not go over every single word from the controversial meeting, in which Trump reportedly denigrated Haiti and various African countries as “shitholes.” But he admitted that there was “some cursing behind closed doors,” as Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen had confirmed under oath.
Todd pressed Cotton on this point, asking him why he had changed his story, recalling that shortly after the Washington Post reported on Trump’s language, Cotton implied that it wasn’t accurate. At that time, Cotton also disputed the accounts of people like Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who disputed some of Trump’s arguments during the meeting, and Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., who spoke out against Trump after the meeting.
Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., explains his thoughts on immigration reform to NBC News’ Chuck Todd on Sunday. (Photo: NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
To these points, Cotton responded that Durbin had claimed that Trump “repeatedly used vile, racist, hateful language,” but that this was not in fact the case.
“If it was, why didn’t he say anything? Why didn’t he slam his paper down and walk out?” he asked. “What President Trump and others in that meeting expressed was astonishment that Senator Durbin and Senator Graham would bring a proposal that wouldn’t move us toward a skill-based system but would bring us a system based on where they come from — not who they are.”
Cotton argued that immigration reform should lead to a system that judges people as individuals on their merit and on what they can contribute to U.S. society — rather than on their family members already resident in the United States or their nation of origin.
Unpersuaded, Todd accused Cotton of letting the American public believe that Durbin and Graham had misled the public completely and was only now giving any credence to what they said.
“I’ve never denied that there wasn’t strong language used in the meeting by lots of people,” Cotton replied. “I’m not a shrinking violet about these things. I’ve been in a command post overseas. I’ve heard some salty language before. What I am saying is, it was a gross misrepresentation.”
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