(WASHINGTON) — After President Donald Trump’s disparaging comments Thursday about immigrants from Haiti, Africa and other “s—hole countries,” White House aides appear unfazed, with some there arguing the remark could actually help the president despite drawing bipartisan condemnation.
But it was “not the best way” for the president to convey his position, a senior White House official conceded, calling it a “classic Trump moment,” though arguing, “he’s making a point that people agree with, with words that are controversial.”
“This is a gaffe,” the official said. “It may not have been the best way to convey his position.”
In an Oval Office meeting at the White House Thursday, President Trump grew frustrated at a proposed bipartisan immigration plan that would scale back the visa lottery program, but not eliminate it, asking those in the room why they would want people from Haiti, Africa and other “s—hole countries” coming into the United States, according to multiple sources either briefed on or familiar with the discussion.
The president suggested instead that the United States should have more people from places like Norway, whose prime minister he met with Wednesday, according to these sources. Trump’s comments immediately sparked bipartisan outrage from lawmakers.
There will likely be some “private discussions with allies” who are making public calls for an explanation, a White House aide said.
Another White House official told ABC News the comment reflects the president’s “America First” policy.
“I don’t think anyone is worried about it,” the official said. “I haven’t seen or heard anyone worried about it. In this instance, our statement reflects our thinking here. America First.”
The White House did not deny that the president made the remarks. Deputy White House Press Secretary Raj Shah issued this statement to ABC News:
“Certain Washington politicians choose to fight for foreign countries, but President Trump will always fight for the American people. The President will only accept an immigration deal that adequately addresses the visa lottery system and chain migration – two programs that hurt our economy and allow terrorists into our country. Like other nations that have merit-based immigration, President Trump is fighting for permanent solutions that make our country stronger by welcoming those who can contribute to our society, grow our economy and assimilate into our great nation. 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.”
A Republican close to the White House believes the comment helps Trump with his base, comparing it to the president’s slamming the NFL players who kneeled during the national anthem.
“I think if you asked people whether we should be letting in more immigrants from ‘s—hole’ countries, most would say no,” the person said.
“Like we saw with the NFL-anthem issue, there’s a disconnect between how politically incorrect comments are heard by the media and how they’re heard by a large swath of voters. And when the media hyperventilates over something like this, it can actually help the president more than it can hurt him.”
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