Donald Trump began his bid to buy the presidency with blatant dog whistling about immigrants. In the two-plus years since then, dog whistling has become one of his many trademarks. But several White House officials claim that Trump dropped all pretense this summer. They say they were on hand for a meeting at which Trump made a number of staggeringly racist comments about immigrants.
Sunday’s edition of The New York Times will lead with a story about Trump’s “disorganized and dysfunctional” effort to implement his desired immigration policy–by doing an end run around those charged with enforcing it. The story begins with a meeting in the Oval Office this past June. An outraged Trump read a document listing how many immigrants received American visas in the first six months of 2017.
Several figures jumped out at him. Over 2,500 visas came from the “terrorist haven” of Afghanistan. Another 15,000 came from Haiti. According to two officials on hand for the meeting–one of whom briefed a third aide–Trump harrumphed that Haitians “all have AIDS.” Those same two officials say that Trump thought the 40,000 people who came from Nigeria wouldn’t “go back to their huts” once they set foot in this country.
The meeting quickly grew heated, with John Kelly–then Secretary of Homeland Security, now White House Chief of Staff–and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson claiming that many of the visas were for short-term travelers. But as the meeting progressed, Kelly and White House policy adviser Stephen Miller ganged up on Tillerson, blaming him for the large number of visas. Tillerson threw up his hands and snapped that he ought to stop issuing visas if he was as bad as his job as Kelly and Miller thought he was.
The White House, through Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, vehemently pushed back. In a statement, Sanders claimed that Kelly and Tillerson, as well as Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen–at the time, Kelly’s chief of staff at DHS–and National Security Adviser H. R. McMaster all denied the “outrageous claims” raised by The Times. Sanders also rapped the Old Gray Lady for relying “the lies of their anonymous ‘sources'”–ironic, considering that she works for a man who frequently makes outlandish statements on Twitter based on what “many people are saying.”
In response, Times reporter Maggie Haberman took to Twitter to defend her colleagues.
Two people who described the comments found them so noteworthy that they related them to others at the time, well predating WH pushback https://t.co/wiGpOlAwQM
— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) December 23, 2017
One of the reporters on the story, Michael Shear, defended his reporting on CNN. Watch here.
Shear said that he and his co-author, Julie Hirschfeld Davis, said that they had learned about the meeting while doing a broader story on Trump’s immigration policy. He said that they talked to a number of people who described the meeting, at which Trump complained that too many people were still coming into the country.
There’s another reason this story sounds believable. The sentiments reportedly expressed by Trump are similar to those expressed in a 2014 tweet from Trump himself.
Our government now imports illegal immigrants and deadly diseases. Our leaders are inept.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 5, 2014
In light of The Times’ reporting, this tweet definitely hasn’t aged well.
(featured image courtesy Michael Vadon, available under a Creative Commons BY-SA license)