Politics

With crass epithet, Trump reportedly dismisses African, Latino immigration

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 11: U.S. President Donald Trump leads a prison reform roundtable in the Roosevelt Room at the White House, on January 11, 2018 in Washington, DC. State and local leaders joined Trump to discuss programs intended to help prisoners re-enter the workforce among other policy initiatives. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
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President Donald Trump.

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump grew frustrated with lawmakers Thursday in the Oval Office when they floated restoring protections for immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador and African countries as part of a bipartisan immigration deal, according to two people briefed on the meeting.

‘‘Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?’’ Trump said, according to these people, referring to African countries and Haiti. He then suggested that the United States should instead bring more people from countries like Norway, whose prime minister he met Wednesday.

The comments left lawmakers taken aback, according to people familiar with their reactions. Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Richard Durbin, D-Ill., proposed cutting the visa lottery program by 50 percent and then prioritizing countries already in the system, a White House official said.

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Trump appeared to deny the use of the vulgarity in a tweet early Friday morning.

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Spokesman Raj Shah told the Associated Press in a statement that while ‘‘certain Washington politicians choose to fight for foreign countries,’’ Trump ‘‘will always fight for the American people.’’

He also told the AP that Trump wants to welcome immigrants who ‘‘contribute to our society, grow our economy and assimilate into our great nation,’’ and will always reject ‘‘temporary, weak and dangerous stopgap measures’’ that he says ‘‘threaten the lives of hardworking Americans’’ and undercut other immigrants.

Outlining a potential bipartisan deal, the lawmakers discussed restoring protections for countries that have been removed from the temporary protected status program while adding $1.5 billion for a border wall and making changes to the visa lottery system.

The administration announced earlier this week that it was removing the protection for El Salvador.

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Trump had seemed amenable to a deal earlier in the day during phone calls, aides said, but shifted his position in the meeting and did not seem interested.

Graham and Durbin thought they would be meeting with Trump alone and were surprised to find immigration hard-liners such as Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., at the meeting. The meeting was impromptu and came after phone calls this morning, Capitol Hill aides said.

After the meeting, Marc Short, Trump’s legislative aide, said the White House was nowhere near a bipartisan deal on immigration.

‘‘We still think we can get there,’’ White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said at the White House press briefing.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.