President Donald Trump leads a prison reform roundtable at the...

President Donald Trump leads a prison reform roundtable at the White House on Thursday, Jan. 11, 2018. Credit: Getty Images / Mark Wilson

Wretched refuse from his mouth

When Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), in a group of lawmakers meeting with Donald Trump, suggested restoring protections for immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador and African countries, the president didn’t want to hear it.

Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” Trump said, referring to African countries and Haiti, according to The Washington Post. The United States should instead bring more people from countries like Norway, whose prime minister he met Wednesday, Trump said.

The lawmakers gathered in the Oval Office were taken aback, the Post reported.

Asked about the remark, White House deputy press secretary Raj Shah did not deny it. “Certain Washington politicians choose to fight for foreign countries, but President Trump will always fight for the American people,” Shah said.

The exchange occurred during discussions of a potential bipartisan immigration deal that would restore protections for people from countries that have been removed from the temporary protected status program while adding $1.5 billion for a border wall and cutting admissions under the visa lottery system. See Newsday’s story by Tom Brune.

Calls it 'tough' language

In a muddled follow up, tweeted at 7:28 a.m. Friday, Trump said: "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!" He seemed to be trying to say that the problem wasn't the language he used but the bi-partisan proposal presented to him. It remained to be seen if he planned to clarify this.

Offense taken

There’s no surprise in Democrats’ reactions to Trump’s comment. Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.), chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, called it “further proof that his Make America Great Again agenda is really a Make America White Again agenda.”

So here’s Rep. Mia Love, a Utah Republican, a daughter of Haitian refugees:

Trump’s comments “are unkind, divisive, elitist, and fly in the face of our nation’s values,” said Love. Her parents “came from one of those countries but proudly took an oath of allegiance to the United States and took on the responsibilities of everything that being a citizen comes with.”

“They never took a thing from our federal government. They worked hard, paid taxes, and rose from nothing to take care of and provide opportunities for their children. They taught their children to do the same. That’s the American Dream.”

Spies he doesn’t love so much

A White House statement Wednesday said Trump was for renewal of a key foreign surveillance program and opposed an effort to water it down. But then a Trump tweet at 7:33 a.m. Thursday indicated he was hostile to it. Until 9:14 a.m., when he was for it.

With that settled, the House voted 233-183 to reject restrictions on information collected incidentally on Americans and then approved, 256-164, a six-year reauthorization of Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

Trump’s first tweet said, “This is the act that may have been used, with the help of the discredited and phony Dossier, to so badly surveil and abuse the Trump Campaign by the previous administration and others?”

The cleanup tweet said he had already solved the so-called “unmasking” issue pushed by critics of the Russia investigation and declared: “Today’s vote is about foreign surveillance of foreign bad guys on foreign land. We need it! Get smart!”

See Brune’s story for Newsday.

Janison: Trump outFoxes self

Even for Trump, tweeting doubts about legislation he says he supports marked a novel exercise in confusion, writes Newsday’s Dan Janison.

Trump, following his usual morning TV-watching routine, appears to have been ginned up by “Fox & Friends” talkers Andrew Napolitano and Steve Doocy. They said the bill would allow the “unlawful surveillance” that the president claimed was aimed at him in 2016.

Napolitano was Trump’s original inspiration for his unsupported accusation that former President Barack Obama, with the help of British intelligence, bugged Trump Tower.

The sourcing was so suspect that Fox yanked Napolitano from the air for a while. But Trump has never let go of the conspiracy theory.

Rocket Man in his pocket?

Trump told The Wall Street Journal (pay site) in an interview that “I probably have a very good relationship with Kim Jong Un,” the North Korean leader. “I have relationships with people. I think you people are surprised,” he said.

Asked if he’s spoken with Kim, whom he threatened with “fire and fury” over North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, Trump said, ”I don’t want to comment on it. I’m not saying I have or haven’t. I just don’t want to comment.”

Also in the interview: The president said that messages critical of Trump from an FBI employee who had been involved in Robert Mueller’s investigation amounted to “treason.”

Trump said renegotiating NAFTA may somehow yield money from Mexico that can be used to pay for a border wall.

Second chances

Trump said his administration had “great interest” in reforming the nation’s prisons to focus more on inmate rehabilitation and job training programs, Newsday’s Laura Figueroa Hernandez reports.

“We’ll be very tough on crime, but we will provide a ladder of opportunity to the future,” Trump said during a roundtable discussion on prison reform. Attendees included Republican lawmakers, criminal justice advocates, conservative fiscal groups and faith leaders.

Watch the tickers

Trump predicted his first presidential physical “is going to go very well” and “I’ll be very surprised if it doesn’t.”

He joked: “It better go well or otherwise the stock market will not be happy.”

Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the Navy physician in charge will put out a brief statement Friday, but the lab results will come in over the weekend. As it happens, the markets will be closed Monday for Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

London trip is falling down

When word first spread Thursday that Trump was canceling his visit to Britain, it was widely assumed the motive to duck the massive demonstrations he'd encounter. London Mayor Sadiq Khan said the American president had "gotten the message" that despite admiration for the United States, his policies are repugnant to most of his constituents.

In a rare late-night tweet, Trump sought to combat that impression with a story about how he didn't want to cut the ribbon for a new embassy building he doesn't like that had been planned before he got into office. He blamed predecessor Barack Obama for the deal, done under the George W. Bush administration -- among other inaccuracies in his tweet.

What else is happening

  • Trump’s attention span has been questioned, but his ability to absorb and retain the information and misinformation he gets from Fox — and tweet about in real time — is beyond question. The current issue of The New Yorker examined the Trump tweet-Fox News correlation.
  • For a third time, Trump is expected to re-certify the Iran nuclear deal he often attacks, but is also making noises about a new set of sanctions aimed at recent demonstrations there. 
  • Trump tweeted a finding in the latest Quinnipiac poll that “66% of people feel the economy is ‘Excellent or Good.’ ” He skipped some other details — more voters credit Obama than Trump for the economy; 57 percent say he is unfit to be president and 69 percent say his first year in office has been “a disaster.”
  • Steve Bannon, who previously bragged about not needing a lawyer to deal with Russia investigators, has hired one in advance of his scheduled closed-door testimony next week to the House Intelligence Committee.
  • Federal officials say the Trump administration’s decision to open almost all coastal U.S. waters for oil and gas drilling won’t interfere with steps to lease those areas for wind turbines, Newsday’s Mark Harrington reports. A 70,000-acre lease has already been granted 14 miles from Long Beach.
  • The Trump administration will allow states to impose work requirements on “able-bodied” Medicaid recipients. New York is not one of the 10 states that have sought permission.
  • No matter how hard he tries, Attorney General Jeff Sessions can’t get back into Trump’s good graces, The Washington Post reports. Trump also doesn’t like how Sessions is portrayed on “Saturday Night Live” by Sea Cliff native Kate McKinnon.
  • The Trump camp is worried and scrambling over a special election March 13 for a Congressional seat in southwest Pennsylvania, Politico reports.