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Stop the lying and protect the Dreamers

The unseemly back and forth that has followed President Donald Trump’s racist and profane remarks about preferring immigrants from Norway to those from Haiti and African nations is incredibly dangerous. Americans should demand better.

Expecting Trump to be truthful is a lost cause, but what of others in his orbit? The growing acceptance of Trumpian lies will come to no good. Should Republicans not reverse use of this corrosive strategy among their peers, Orwellian times are ahead.

Meanwhile, the ugly episode threatens a compromise measure to help the Dreamers, the young people brought to the country illegally as children who have until March to see their Obama-era protections from deportation renewed. Further, there are victims of natural disasters from Haiti, El Salvador and other countries our nation has welcomed over the years who Trump plans to send home for no good reason.

Since The Washington Post’s Josh Dawsey reported that Trump griped about immigrants from “shithole countries,” two Republican senators, Tom Cotton and David Perdue, have attempted to muddy the waters, claiming they didn’t hear Trump use such language, though a White House official told Dawsey Sunday that the pair are apparently arguing that Trump said “shithouse” instead.

We fail to see a difference that would support a denial of the original report. The problem isn’t simply use of profanity. Rather, as we argued last week, it’s that a U.S. president would seek to bar immigrants on the basis of their race while showing preference to others based on theirs. Now the problem is exacerbated as two U.S. senators would seek to help Trump attempt to cover his tracks.

Meanwhile, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen also denied, during congressional testimony Tuesday, hearing the president use the profanity or single out African countries.

Yet Sen. Lindsey Graham, a former rival Republican presidential candidate who has become accepting of Trump, stands by his memory of the outlandish conversation, and his involvement in pushing back against the president. Fellow Republican Sen. Tim Scott says Graham told him personally media reports of what Trump said last Thursday are “basically accurate.” And Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin is steadfast in his account of the conversation, which supports The Washington Post’s original story. We see no reason for Durbin to lie with so many witnesses at hand. And given Graham’s remarkable willingness to try to help Trump find his better angels, despite the president’s long history with falsehood, we’re comfortable keeping the heat on Cotton and Perdue.

We feared this day would come. After months of watching how successfully our bellicose president has lied to his base, it’s little wonder other elected officials and government bureaucrats would attempt to adopt the strategy. The result means our nation is headed down a road that is terribly dangerous, and it is despicable that the Republicans are letting it happen.

The remaining adults in Congress need to press the issue now as they work to pass a bill to protect the Dreamers and those, like the Haitians, who have enjoyed protected status. Colorado’s senators, Democrat Michael Bennet and Republican Cory Gardner, tell us they still hold out hope for a compromise that avoids the threat of government shutdown later this week.

Having Bennet and Gardner at the negotiating table on this mini-immigration reform bill is remarkable. The legislation Trump rejected was a true compromise that should have been met with constructive criticism at best and expensive demands at worst from a hard-liner like Trump. Instead Bennet and Gardner are left trying to pick a reasonable path forward.

We wish them Godspeed.

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