In an extraordinary Oval Office exchange, President Donald Trump questioned Thursday why the U.S. should permit immigrants from "shithole countries" as he rejected a plan by a bipartisan group of senators that would have changed rules affecting entrants from Africa and Haiti, according to three people briefed on the conversation.
The White House did not deny the comment.
Trump made the remark in a meeting as Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., was explaining the outlines of an agreement that six senators had reached to protect hundreds of thousands of young immigrants from deportation and bolster border security, the people said.
Durbin explained that as part of that deal, a lottery for visas that has benefited people from African and other diverse nations would be ended. In exchange, Durbin said people would be allowed to stay in the U.S. who fled here after disasters hit their homes in places including El Salvador, Guatemala and Haiti.
Trump specifically questioned why the U.S. would want to admit more people from Haiti. He also mentioned Africa and asked why more people from "shithole countries" should be allowed into the U.S., the sources said.
Asked about the remarks, White House spokesman Raj Shad defended the president but did not directly deny his remarks.
"Certain Washington politicians choose to fight for foreign countries, but President Trump will always fight for the American people," Shad said.
The sources spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to publicly describe the conversation.