White House insiders tussle over Donald Trump vulgarity

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As the fallout continues over US president Donald Trump’s use of a vulgar term to describe African countries during immigration talks, aides to the president are locked in an internal debate over which version of the word the president used.

Mr Trump was said to have uttered “shithole” during last Thursday’s conversation with senators in the Oval Office, a version backed up by Democrat Dick Durbin and some Republicans.

When Mr Durbin was challenged about his version of what term Mr Trump used, the Illinois senator said: “I stand by every word I said about what was said.”

There is internal debate in the West Wing over whether Mr Trump said “shithole” or “shithouse”.

One person who attended the meeting told aides they heard the latter expletive, while others recalled the president saying the more widely reported “shithole”.

Donald Trump with first lady Melania Trump at the White House (AP)
Donald Trump with first lady Melania Trump at the White House (AP)

Mr Trump has not clarified to aides what he said, but told reporters on Sunday night in Florida that comments attributed to him “weren’t made”.

The White House has not denied that Mr Trump used a vulgar term, and indicated on Tuesday that no apology would be forthcoming.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said: “The president hasn’t said he didn’t use strong language.

“This is an important issue, he’s passionate about it, he’s not going to apologise for trying to fix our immigration system.”

The debate continued as Washington was gripped with uncertainty over whether the government would shut down at midnight on Friday, when temporary government funding is set to run out, in the absence of a deal on immigration and other matters.

The path to a deal seems even more complicated after last week’s coarse Oval Office conversation, and Mr Trump has accused Mr Durbin of undermining the trust necessary to reach an agreement.

Without explicitly denying using the vulgarity, Mr Trump lashed out at Mr Durbin, who said the president uttered it several times during the meeting.

“Senator Dicky Durbin totally misrepresented what was said at the DACA meeting,” Mr Trump tweeted Monday, using a nickname to needle the Illinois senator.

“Deals can’t get made when there is no trust! Durbin blew DACA and is hurting our Military.”

He was referring to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals programme, which protects young people who came to the US as children and are living here illegally.

Mr Trump announced last year that he will end the Obama-era DACA program unless legislators come up with a solution by March. Members of Congress from both parties are trying to strike a deal Mr Trump would support to extend that protection.

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