White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders accused the media of twisting President Donald Trump’s words when he called some immigrants “animals,” and she argued the president’s remarks didn’t “go far enough” in condemning violent criminals who enter the country illegally.
During a press briefing on Thursday, Sanders addressed questions about what Trump meant when he called members of the MS-13 gang “animals” during an immigration roundtable with local leaders from California on Wednesday.
“We have people coming into the country, or trying to come in — and we’re stopping a lot of them,” Trump said during the meeting in response to a sheriff’s complaint about restrictions on law enforcement in the state to prevent criminal gangs from crossing the border illegally. “You wouldn’t believe how bad these people are. These aren’t people. These are animals.”
“The president was very clearly referring to MS-13 gang members who enter the country illegally, and whose deportations are hamstrung by our laws,” Sanders said. “This is one of the most vicious and deadly gangs that operates by the motto of ‘Rape, Control, and Kill.’ 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,” she added.
Watch the press secretary dig into reporters over Trump’s remarks on immigration below:
Democrats seized on Trump’s remarks to bash his stance toward all immigrants, but Sanders made clear that the president’s comments were directed at violent gangs who have perpetrated “heinous acts.”
The press secretary went on to list examples of violent and inhumane crimes deserving the moniker given by the president to gangs like MS-13.
“It took an animal to stab a man 100 times and decapitate him and rip his heart out. It took an animal to beat a woman they were sex trafficking with a bat 28 times, indenting part of her body. And it took an animal to kidnap, drug, and rape a 14-year-old Houston girl,” Sanders forcefully declared.
“Frankly, I think that the term ‘animal’ doesn’t go far enough, and I think that the president should continue to use his platform and everything he can do under the law to stop these types of horrible, horrible, disgusting people,” she added.
The Trump administration has taken a tough stance on immigration and the border wall despite opposition from Democrats. The White House has come under fire in recent weeks for a new policy that would separate parents from their children if caught crossing the border illegally.
But some Republicans facing daunting midterm challenges in November in pro-immigration states are resisting the policies of the Oval Office, attempting to force a vote on four immigration bills in the House as GOP leaders scramble to stop the split within the party.