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2 Republican senators have come down with a case of “shithole”-related amnesia

Tom Cotton and David Perdue were in the room yesterday. They claim not to “recall” Trump’s comments.

Sens. Tom Cotton (R-AR) and David Perdue (R-GA) flank President Trump.
Zach Gibson - Pool/Getty
Andrew Prokop is a senior politics correspondent at Vox, covering the White House, elections, and political scandals and investigations. He’s worked at Vox since the site’s launch in 2014, and before that, he worked as a research assistant at the New Yorker’s Washington, DC, bureau.

Two Republican senators who attended yesterday’s meeting in which President Trump reportedly disparaged immigrants from “shithole countries” seem to have come down with a case of amnesia.

In a joint statement this afternoon, Sens. Tom Cotton (R-AR) and David Perdue (R-GA) wrote that they “do not recall the President saying those comments specifically” — but conspicuously didn’t outright deny that he said them.

Since Trump’s comments were confirmed by multiple other sources who attended the meeting or quickly heard about it, Cotton and Perdue’s statement doesn’t pass the laugh test. Indeed, it seems to be an unusually craven attempt to deny reality and curry favor with the president.

Trump’s “shithole” remark was first reported by the Washington Post’s Josh Dawsey on Thursday afternoon. Per “several people briefed” on an Oval Office meeting Trump held with lawmakers that day, Dawsey wrote, Trump asked, “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?”

Dawsey’s report quickly drew an enormous amount of attention. And through Thursday night, Trump never denied making the comments, despite tweeting on several other topics. (Per NBC News, Trump was calling friends and allies to attempt to gauge how his comments would be received.)

Finally, by Friday morning, Trump appeared to conclude that the comments were politically inconvenient for him, and hazily denied them. “This was not the language used,” he tweeted.

Others in the room, however, tell a very different story.

  • Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), who attended the meeting with Trump, has publicly confirmed that “he said these hate-filled things and he said them repeatedly.”
  • Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) told the Post and Courier that his South Carolina colleague Sen. Lindsey Graham, who attended the meeting, told him Trump’s reported comments were “basically accurate.”
  • And Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), who also didn’t attend the meeting, told the Washington Post he heard about Trump’s comments before they went public, and they matched the later reports.

Meanwhile, other Republican attendees of the meeting, like Rep. Mario Díaz-Balart (R-FL), have simply remained silent on the matter or tried to dodge the question, rather than outright denying it.

It is only Cotton and Perdue who are now publicly claiming to be unable to “recall” what would seem to be very memorable comments in a meeting they both attended just yesterday.

If true, it’s worrying that two US senators have been stricken with such a devastating memory-related malady, and I hope they find the help they need.