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Instead of criticizing Donald Trump for “s—hole”-gate, Republicans are covering for him.

On Thursday, in a meeting with senators about a possible immigration bill, Trump asked why the United States was letting in people from “shithole countries,” including Haiti and unspecified African nations, and not from countries like Norway. In response to the subsequent furor, Trump denied that he made the comment, which caused a number of senators to speak out on Friday. “He said these hate-filled things, and he said them repeatedly,” said Senator Dick Durbin, who was in the room with Trump. “I cannot believe that in the history of the White House in that Oval Office any president has ever spoken the words that I personally heard the president speak yesterday.”

A number of Republicans, notably John McCain, have criticized Trump’s comments. And Tim Scott told the press that Lindsey Graham, who was in the room, told him that reports of Trump’s comments were “basically accurate.” But two Republican senators, Tom Cotton and David Perdue, are covering for Trump:

This does not deny that Trump used the term “shithole countries.” But it nevertheless exists to muddy the waters and to give Trump’s denial a degree of credibility. Cotton and Perdue, both immigration hardliners, have had the president’s backing in recent weeks as they have pushed for a tough immigration bill that would dramatically reduce legal immigration and family reunification. This non-denial denial looks to be an attempt to shield the president from criticism—and keep his support for their bill.