President Trump slammed "sh-thole countries" during an Oval Office debate on immigration on Thursday afternoon, the Washington Post reported.
The remarks came during an impromptu meeting with members of Congress on a bipartisan immigration deal. An attendee proposed restoring protections to citizens of Haiti, El Salvador and African nations, after which the president "grew frustrated" and responded, "Why are we having all these people from sh-thole countries come here?” He then suggested that more immigrants be allowed from Norway, whose prime minister he met with yesterday, the Post said.
Lawmakers in the room were "taken aback," the Post said. They included senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Dick Durbin (D-IL), who thought they were meeting with the president alone but were surprised that immigration hardliners Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) were included. The bipartisan deal they proposed included cutting the visa lottery program by 50 percent, prioritizing countries currently in the system, restoring protections for countries that had been removed and allocating $1.5 billion for a border wall.
Trump had seemed amenable to the plan earlier in the day, but his mood shifted during the meeting and he didn't seem interested, the Post said.
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In a statement, the White House didn't deny the president made the remarks. "Certain Washington politicians choose to fight for foreign countries, but President Trump will always fight for the American people," White House deputy press secretary Raj Shah said Thursday afternoon. "He will always reject temporary, weak and dangerous stopgap measures that threaten the lives of hardworking Americans and undercut immigrants who seek a better life in the United States through a legal pathway.”
At a White House press briefing a few hours earlier, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders expressed optimism about a bipartisan immigration agreement. "We still think we can get there," she said.
Democrats are pressing for an immigration deal to be included in the latest government funding agreement, which expires in eight days. Trump held a meeting for TV cameras yesterday, in which he agreed to a Democratic proposal for a clean DACA bill — protections for the children of undocumented immigrants known as "Dreamers" — before clarifying later in the day that any agreement would need to include funding for a border wall.