Unfiltered Political News

White House doesn't deny Trump's 'shithole' immigration remark

President Donald Trump made racially-charged comments during a meeting on immigration with lawmakers on Thursday, asking why the U.S. admits people from “shithole countries,” according to two people familiar with the meeting.

The White House did not deny Trump made the remarks.

During the meeting, senators who had worked out a deal on protecting so-called Dreamers had been briefing Trump on how they had worked out details of reallocating green cards from the diversity lottery — a frequent Trump target — to people affected by the Temporary Protected Status program that the administration is terminating for particular countries.

Lawmakers were explaining to Trump how immigrants from Africa could still later access some visas from the lottery under their plan. Then, Trump asked, why does the United States want “all these people from shithole countries?”

“We need more people from Norway,” Trump said, according to the people familiar with the meeting. Trump met with Norwegian prime minister Erna Solberg earlier this week.

The comments were first reported by the Washington Post. The White House did not deny that Trump made the comments.

“Certain Washington politicians choose to fight for foreign countries, but President Trump will always fight for the American people,” White House spokesperson Raj Shah said in a statement, adding a list of parameters the president believes should be part of any immigration agreement.

Democrats were quick to pounce on the remarks, slamming Trump for what Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.) described on Twitter as “abhorrent bigotry.”

“Breathtakingly offensive,” wrote Sen. Patrick Leahy on Twitter. “Worse, it’s ignorant of American ideals, and of the strength we derive from E Pluribus Unum. This is not who we are.”

Some Republicans also lambasted Trump for the comment.

“The President'(s) comments are unkind, divisive, elitist, and fly in the face of our nation’s values,” said Rep. Mia Love (R-Utah), whose parents immigrated to the United States from Haiti. “The President must apologize to both the American people and to the nations he so wantonly maligned.”

This is the second time in a month that Trump has been accused of making racially-charged remarks during private meetings, according to media reports. The New York Times in December reported that Trump has said immigrants from Nigeria would never “go back to their huts” in Africa after experiencing life in the United States. The White House denied Trump made those comments.

Unlike that meeting, which included only White House staff, this one was attended by members of Congress. Those who attended included Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), David Perdue (R-Ga.), House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), and Reps. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.).

Trump’s reported comments provoked visceral outrage in the Miami-area, one of the nation’s largest Hatian-American communities, where he campaigned in September of 2015.

“Whether you vote for me or not I really want to be your biggest champion,” Trump said at the time. Since then, Trump won election, moved to end the temporary protective status of about 58,700 Haitians and allegedly said Haitians had AIDS, in addition to his remarks Thursday.

The president’s comments come as Democrats and Republicans in Congress scramble to make a deal on immigration that would protect Dreamers, immigrants brought to the country illegally as children. Trump has expressed interest in such a deal, but has said changes to the legal immigration system would have to accompany it.

Marc Caputo contributed to this report.

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