Trump: Not sorry about calling gang members ‘animals’
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Thursday defended his use of the word “animals” to describe murderers and gang members, saying he would continue to use the term to refer to violent gang members despite protests from Democrats and the media.
Answering a reporter’s question during a meeting with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, Trump was asked about his comment a day earlier about members of the MS-13 gang.
“MS-13, these are animals coming onto our country,” Trump said, repeating his language from Wednesday. He added: “When the MS-13 comes in, when the other gang members come into our coun- try, I refer to them as animals. And guess what? I always will.”
Trump has been under fire from Democrats for his comment about gang members who enter the country illegally.
Trump was speaking Wednesday at a roundtable with local California officials when he responded to a comment about MS-13.
“We have people coming into the country, or trying to come in — and we’re stopping a lot of them,” Trump said. “You wouldn’t believe how bad these people are. These aren’t people. These are animals.”
Trump has repeatedly referred to members of the violent street gang as “animals” in speeches, rallies and at White House events. He has also used the term to describe terrorists and school shooters.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., defended the gang on Twitter, saying, “When all of our great-great-grandparents came to America they weren’t ‘animals,’ and these people aren’t either.”
And House Minority leader Nancy Pelosi said, “Every day that you think you’ve seen it all, along comes another manifestation of why their policies are so inhumane.”
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders defended the president’s comments, arguing the word “animals” didn’t go far enough.
“This is one of the most vicious and deadly gangs that operates by the motto of, ‘Rape, control and kill,’” she said, adding that, “If the media and liberals want to defend MS-13, they’re more than welcome to. Frankly, I don’t think the term that the president used was strong enough.”
Trump was joined at the Wednesday White House meeting by mayors, sheriffs and other local leaders from California who oppose the state’s immigration policies and who applauded his administration’s hard-line efforts.
“This is your Republican resistance right here against what they’re doing in California,” said Assemblywoman Melissa Melendez. She, like others, said the president and his policies were far more popular in the state than people realize.
They were criticizing legislation Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law last year that bars police from ask- ing people about their immigration status or helping federal agents with immigration enforcement.
Republicans see backlash to the law as a potentially galvanizing issue during the midterm elections, especially with Trump’s anti-immigrant base. And Trump has held numerous events in recent months during which he’s drawn attention to California’s policies.
During the session, Trump thanked the officials, saying they had “bravely resisted California’s deadly and unconstitutional sanctuary state laws.” He claimed those laws are forcing “the release of illegal immigrant criminals, drug dealers, gang members and violent predators into your communities” and providing “safe harbor to some of the most vicious and violent offenders on earth.”