Jan 16, 2018

The backstory on last week's explosive Oval Office meeting

Photo: Jabin Botsford / The Washington Post via Getty Images

"When President Trump spoke by phone with Sen. Richard J. Durbin [D-Ill.] around 10:15 a.m. last Thursday, he expressed pleasure with Durbin’s outline of a bipartisan immigration pact," the WashPost reports, filling in the backstory of the Oval Office "shithole" meeting.

Durbin said Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) was on board, and Trump invited the lawmakers to visit with him at noon. "But when they arrived at the Oval Office, the two senators were surprised to find that Trump was far from ready to finalize the agreement. He was 'fired up' and surrounded by hard-line conservatives such as Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.)."

  • "The meeting was short, tense and often dominated by loud cross-talk and swearing."

"Trump’s ping-ponging from dealmaking to feuding ... has come to define the contentious immigration talks between the White House and Congress, perplexing members of both parties as they navigate the president’s vulgarities, his combativeness and his willingness to suddenly change his position."

  • "Attendees who were alarmed by the racial undertones of Trump’s remarks were further disturbed when the topic of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) came up.'"
  • "At one point, Durbin told the president that members of that caucus — an influential House group — would be more likely to agree to a deal if certain countries were included in the proposed protections.
  • "Trump was curt and dismissive, saying he was not making immigration policy to cater to the CBC and did not particularly care about that bloc’s demands ... 'You’ve got to be joking,' one adviser said, describing Trump’s reaction."
  • "Three White House officials said Perdue and Cotton told the White House that they heard “shithouse” rather than “shithole,” allowing them to deny the president’s comments on television over the weekend. The two men initially said publicly that they could not recall what the president said.

Why it matters: The meeting heightens the risk of a shutdown, with Friday's deadline to pass a spending bill fast approaching.

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