President Donald Trump on Thursday tried to revise his statement the previous day that the United States was committed to deporting undocumented immigrant “animals.”
“I’m referring, and you know I’m referring, to the MS-13 gangs that are coming in,” Trump told an inquiring reporter while he sat next to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
“If you look a little bit further on in the tape you will see that, so I’m actually surprised you’re asking this question, because most people got it right,” he claimed, adding later: “When the MS-13 comes in, when the other gang members come into our country I refer to them as animals. And guess what, I always will.”
Trump did not specify Wednesday — when he said that “these aren’t people, these are animals, and we’re taking them out of the country at a level and at a rate that’s never happened before” — that he was speaking specifically about violent gang members.
And while Trump’s remark came in response to a California sheriff who said “there could be an MS-13 member I know about — if they don’t reach a certain threshold, I cannot tell ICE about it,” Trump himself did not specify he was only calling gang members “animals.”
His answer to the Sheriff is reprinted below in full, copied from the White House transcript of the event:
SHERIFF MIMS: Thank you. There could be an MS-13 member I know about — if they don’t reach a certain threshold, I cannot tell ICE about it.
THE PRESIDENT: We have people coming into the country, or trying to come in — and we’re stopping a lot of them — but we’re taking people out of the country. You wouldn’t believe how bad these people are. These aren’t people. These are animals. And we’re taking them out of the country at a level and at a rate that’s never happened before. And because of the weak laws, they come in fast, we get them, we release them, we get them again, we bring them out. It’s crazy.
The dumbest laws — as I said before, the dumbest laws on immigration in the world. So we’re going to take care of it, Margaret. We’ll get it done. We’re going to ask that man right there, because that man can do it. (Laughter.) Right now he’s the most important man in the room. [House Majority Leader] Kevin [McCarthy] can do it.