The Latest: Trump defends remarks about Africa, Haiti

In this Jan. 9, 2017, photo, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., left, and Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md. listen as President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with lawmakers on immigration policy in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington. Bargainers seeking a bipartisan immigration accord planned talks as soon as Wednesday as President Donald Trump and leading lawmakers sought to parlay an extraordinary White House meeting into momentum for resolving a politically blistering issue.(AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

EVAN VUCCI, ASSOCIATED PRESS

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.

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"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.

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