Florida leaders respond to President Trump's 'sh**hole' comment

'It is absolutely wrong to say or think this,' Gov. Scott says

(Getty Images)

ORLANDO, Fla. – Florida Gov. Rick Scott responded to President Donald Trump's alleged use of a vulgar term to describe other countries, saying he disagrees with Trump's statement.

'Why do we want all these people from 'shithole countries' coming here?" Trump told senators in the Oval Office, the Washington Post reported, citing a source briefed on the meeting.

Trump tweeted Friday morning that he used "really tough" language but "this was not the language used."

The source said Trump made the statement as he rejected a pitch Thursday from a bipartisan team of senators on a compromise immigration deal to protect DACA participants while increasing border security.

“If this report is true, it is absolutely wrong to say or think this. I do not think this way, nor do I agree with this kind of sentiment," Gov. Rick Scott said. "I represent Florida, and we are an amazing melting pot where over 250 languages are spoken. I work every day to make this the most welcoming state for everyone – Haitians, Cubans, Venezuelans, and others from all around the world that call Florida home. I’m incredibly proud of our diversity."

Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs also issued a statement Friday in response to the reports of Trump's comment.

“Yesterday, we heard reports of a very disparaging comment attributed to the President. Although I have no way of knowing whether these reports are accurate, I do know that on the eve of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, when we honor his legacy of love, equality, peace and justice, it's more important than ever that we keep the principles of equality, respect and inclusion at the forefront. Orange County is recognized as a community that is both respectful and joyous in celebrating our wonderful blend of culture, religion and diversity. We deeply value all who have chosen to live here, including individuals and families from Haiti, El Salvador and the countries of Africa. We celebrate their heritage and culture, as well as their contributions to our community.”

The source said Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin was explaining a proposal to end the visa lottery in exchange for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for countries such as El Salvador. Durbin was going through a list of TPS countries that would be covered and when he got to Haiti, Trump asked why the US wants more people from Haiti and African countries.

The president added that the US should get more people from countries like Norway. Norway Prime Minister Erna Solberg visited the White House Wednesday.

Durbin and Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham were meeting with Trump and GOP lawmakers to discuss a compromise plan from a bipartisan "Gang of Six" senators, but were rebuffed and told to keep working, Durbin said told reporters.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Thursday afternoon: "There has not been a deal reached yet."

The January 19 deadline for reaching agreement on government spending is rapidly approaching -- which many Democrats insist must include immigration -- and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program is set to end in early March.

"I'm not sure what the next step will be," Durbin told reporters. "The president invited us to -- at his little get-together in the Cabinet room -- to come up with proposals, and we did. It's a bipartisan proposal which we've worked on for four months in the Senate, and I don't know what happens next."

Gang of Six proposal

The proposal presented by the bipartisan Gang of Six was a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who came to the US as children -- beyond just those who were enrolled in DACA when it ended, according to lawmakers and sources familiar with the meeting.

In addition, they proposed a down payment of the $1.6 billion requested by the administration this year on border security, limits to the ability of recipients to sponsor family members and an end to the diversity lottery and reallocation of those visas in part to cover people who were under Temporary Protected Status.

Republican Sens. Tom Cotton and David Perdue and Republican Reps. Bob Goodlatte, Kevin McCarthy and Mario Diaz-Balart were also at the Trump meeting on Thursday. Cotton, Perdue, Goodlatte and McCarthy pushed back at the Durbin and Graham proposal.

What's next?

Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn said the gang of six's work is not enough to get a vote, and said that any path forward will have to come from talks among a broader group of lawmakers including Republican leadership.

"Hopefully they'll contribute their ideas to the solution but ... six people can't agree to something that will bind Congress and the House," Cornyn said.

Asked what it would take to bring something to the floor -- Cornyn said any deal would have to hit the four items identified by the President in a meeting on Tuesday -- a DACA fix, border security, something to curtail "chain migration" or family-based migration, and ending the diversity lottery -- and be "something that the President would sign."

"We're going to have -- more than a signal -- we're going to have a very clear message this is something he'd support, that he'd sign," Cornyn said. "I think the message has now been delivered that we need to get everybody at the table and we'll take the best of their ideas."

In a joint statement after the meeting, the six senators in the Durbin group noted their deal hit those four points and pledged to work to seek support from colleagues, without acknowledging the setback.

"President Trump called on Congress to solve the DACA challenge. We have been working for four months and have reached an agreement in principle that addresses border security, the diversity visa lottery, chain migration/family reunification, and the Dream Act---the areas outlined by the President. We are now working to build support for that deal in Congress," wrote Durbin, Graham, Republicans Jeff Flake and Cory Gardner and Democrats Michael Bennet and Bob Menendez.

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