WASHINGTON — Sen. Dick Durbin’s meetings with the Trump Administration on immigration and Trump’s efforts to “grease” Chicago politicians with campaign donations before he was president are recounted in Bob Woodward’s scathing new book, “Fear: Trump in the White House,” released on Tuesday.
The book looks at two previously reported episodes involving Durbin, D-Ill.: His back-channel meetings with Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and White House adviser, and Durbin’s making public that Trump had referred to some nations as “sh-thole countries.”
It is in the retelling of these episodes that we glean more information.
Another theme running through the book is Trump’s habitual lying, summed up in Woodward’s final paragraph in the book regarding Trump’s former lead lawyer on the Russian probe, John Dowd:
“In the man and his presidency, Dowd had seen the tragic flaw. In the political back-and-forth, the evasions, the denials, the tweeting. The obscuring, crying, ‘Fake News,’ the indignation, Trump had one overriding problem that Dowd knew but could not bring himself to say to the president: ‘You’re a f—ing liar.’”
(On Tuesday, as Hurricane Florence raced toward the East Coast, Trump gave birth to yet another whopper — that his administration was “incredibly successful” in helping Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. He shrugged off the hurricane-related deaths, now estimated at some 3,000, and incorrectly said that before Maria, the island had almost no electricity.)
Woodward, writing on an exchange between Trump and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., about Durbin revealing Trump’s sh-thole comment, gives some insight how Trump just plows ahead even when getting caught not telling the truth.
Wheaton and Woodward
Woodward is on a media blitz to promote his latest book, and if his accent sounds familiar, it’s because he is from west suburban Wheaton. He is a 1961 graduate of what was then Wheaton Community High School.
His father, Alfred, who died in 2007, was a DuPage County Circuit Court judge and an Illinois Appellate Court justice.
Durbin, DACA, Jared and Ivanka
Last September, Reuters reported that Durbin was having “multiple conversations” with Kushner and two other White House officials on one of his crusades: how to protect “Dreamers,” immigrants brought illegally into the U.S. when they were children.
They were protected from deportation under an Obama-era program, created by executive action, called DACA, which stands for- Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. (Fact check: DACA was not created by legislation, as the book says. If it were, Trump could not undo the work of Congress with the stroke of a pen.)
Woodward writes that John Kelly, then the Department of Homeland Security Secretary and now the White House Chief of Staff, was “furious” when he learned that Kushner “was working on a back-channel compromise” when that issue was supposed to be in Kelly’s portfolio.
Kushner “had been inviting Senator Dick Durbin, the Illinois Democrat who was number two in his party’s leadership, and Lindsey Graham to his office to discuss a compromise,” the book notes. Kushner and his wife Ivanka — Trump’s daughter and also a White House senior adviser — also invited Durbin, Graham and immigration hard-liner Stephen Miller to their house for dinner, Woodward writes.
Last January, Durbin said Trump used the phrase “sh-thole countries” during an Oval Office meeting on immigration, in reference to Haiti and some countries in Central America and Africa. The story of what happened at the meeting shot around the world. Graham, who was in the room, backed Durbin’s version of what was said.
In “Fear,” Woodward writes that Trump called Graham one morning and the senator “thought Trump was calling to take his temperature.”
Trump told Graham, “’I didn’t say some of the things that he said I said,’ Trump said, referring to Durbin,” Woodward writes.
“’Yeah, you did,’” Graham insisted.
And with that, Trump — neither embarrassed nor insistent — just moved on, dropping the pretense he did not say what he said, the book says.
“’Well, some people like what I said,’ Trump said.
“’I’m not one of them,’ Graham said.”
‘You’ve got to grease them’
Chicago also has an appearance in the book. When Trump was thinking about running for president, David Bossie, a GOP activist who had worked as a congressional investigator, pressed him about why he donated so much money to Democrats. That could be something GOP primary voters didn’t approve of.
At first, Trump denied the donations, Woodward writes.
Then Bossie told him contributions are publicly disclosed and remarked records showed that Trump had given “quite a bit” to Democrats in Chicago and other cities. The donations were written about by the Chicago media.
“I’ve got to do that,” Trump replied, according to the book. ”All these f—ing Democrats run all the cities. You’ve got to build hotels. You’ve got to grease them. Those are people who came to me.”