DAVID GREENE, HOST:
President Trump has thrown a wrench into negotiations trying to find a solution for DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy. A bipartisan group of senators thought they had figured out an agreement to extend protections for people in the country illegally who were brought here as children. But at a White House meeting, President Trump erupted when he learned the details of the deal.
And according to our sources, Trump used vulgar language. And I want to acknowledge what I'm about to say could offend some people. He asked why the U.S. would admit people from African nations which he called shithole countries. Trump then told lawmakers he would rather see more immigrants from Norway. The vulgar comment drew swift condemnation. Many saw it as racist.
NPR congressional correspondent Scott Detrow is in the studio to talk to us this morning. Hi, Scott.
SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: Morning, David.
GREENE: All right, last night the White House pointedly did not deny these reports about this word the president used. Today President Trump is saying something different.
DETROW: Yeah. Earlier this morning he said on Twitter, 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. And I'll say that we have multiple sources telling us - many other news outlets do as well. And the White House issued statements on this last night and pointedly never pushed back on the notion that he used that language.
GREENE: OK. And there's some vagueness in the tweet this morning, we should say, but - saying he didn't use that language. Congressional leaders reacting to this comment - what have they been saying?
DETROW: There was immediate broad condemnation. Many Democrats said something very similar to what Steny Hoyer said. He's the No. 2 Democrat in the House. His statement said, President Trump's comments are racist and a disgrace. They do not reflect our nation's values. There was Republican criticism as well, notably from Utah House Republican Mia Love, whose family has Haitian heritage. She said, quote, "the president's comments are unkind, divisive, elitist and fly in the face of our nation's values. This behavior is unacceptable from the leader of our nation."
And we should say this does fit into a broader track record for President Trump. Remember; he launched his presidential campaign by making statements that Mexicans crossing into the country illegally, many of them were rapists. And that at the time was condemned from all sides.
GREENE: And we should say you mentioned Haiti. I mean, the comment - the word was used, we think, to refer to African nations, but the president in this meeting also said that he would prefer immigrants coming from places like Norway and not from places like Haiti. He included Haiti...
GREENE: ...In that list as well. How surprising was it that President Trump reacted so negatively to this deal?
DETROW: You know, going back to when President Trump first started the process of ending DACA, he's really shifted many times on what he's pushing for. He said I'll need a wall, other times he said the wall can wait till later. Listen to what he said on Tuesday.
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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: There should be no reason for us not to get this done. And, Chuck, I will say when this group comes back - hopefully with an agreement - this group and others from the Senate, from the House comes back with an agreement, I'm signing it. I mean, I will be signing it. I'm not going to say, oh, gee, I want this or I want that. I'll be signing it because I have a lot of confidence in the people in this room that you're going to come out with something really good.
DETROW: And here he was last night and this morning saying just that - I want this or that and then having major problems with the deal.
GREENE: All right, NPR's Scott Detrow in our studio this morning. Scott, thank you.
DETROW: Thank you.
EDITOR'S NOTE: NPR has decided in this case to spell out the vulgar word that the president reportedly used because it meets our standard for use of offensive language (http://ethics.npr.org/i-respect/using-potentially-offensive-language/). It is “absolutely integral to the meaning and spirit of the story being told.” Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.