President Trump said Wednesday his administration is considering a plan to cut foreign aid to countries that do not help stem the flow of immigrants entering the United States illegally.
"Many of these countries we give tremendous amounts of aid to — tens of millions of dollars,” Trump said during a discussion on Long Island, N.Y., focused on the MS-13 gang.
“Were working on a plan to deduct a lot of the aid," the president said. “Every time someone comes in from a certain country, were going to deduct a rather large amount of money from what we give them.”
The president has made similar statements before. He said in April the U.S. might cut aid to Honduras in response to a caravan of immigrants moving through Mexico toward the U.S. border. There is no indication his administration followed through on the threat.
The president also used the forum to double-down on controversial rhetoric he used last week during a conversation about immigrants. The White House has touted the president’s use of the term “animals” in the discussion, and has criticized those who questioned it.
Trump has said he was using the word to describe members of international gangs like MS-13, not all immigrants.
“I called them ‘animals’ the other day and I was met with rebuke,” Trump said to applause. “They said, ‘they’re people.’ They’re not people. They’re animals. We have to be very, very tough.”
Trump recounted a number of horrific crimes carried out by MS-13, and he heard from several federal officials working on the issue, including Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. The meeting put on display a rare interaction between the president and Rosenstein, who is overseeing the probe into Russian involvement in the 2016 presidential election.
Rosenstein said “loopholes” in U.S. immigration law are allowing gang members and young immigrants vulnerable to gang recruitment into the country.
“We’re hopeful, Mr. President, that we can get some assistance from Congress in closing some of these loopholes,” Rosenstein said.
“That’s great, Rod,” Trump said . “And I think it’s happening. I’m seeing a willingness — even to a certain extent by the Democrats.”