It is the latest profanity to be mouthed by the American leader about foreigners. The last one reported, which his spin doctors denied, was that he described Haitians as people infected with AIDS and Nigerians as people living in huts.
The latest comments, first reported by The Washington Post, sparked anger among Democrats and Republicans and revived questions about Trump’s tendency to make racially charged remarks.
Trump sat down with senators and congressmen at the White House to discuss a proposed bipartisan deal that would limit immigrants from bringing family members into the country, and restrict the green card visa lottery in exchange for shielding hundreds of thousands of young immigrants from deportation.
“Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” Trump said, according to people briefed on the meeting who spoke with The Washington Post.
The New York Times later reported the same comment, citing unidentified people with direct knowledge of the meeting.
The president was referring to African countries and Haiti, both newspapers said, with the Post including El Salvador on its list.
Trump then suggested the United States should welcome immigrants from places like Norway, whose prime minister met with Trump on Wednesday.
“Why do we need more Haitians?” he added, according to the Post account. “Take them out.”
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham and Democratic Senator Dick Durbin came to the White House to outline their bipartisan compromise, but found themselves in the room with several Republican immigration hardliners.
Graham and Durbin are leading efforts to codify protections for so-called “dreamers”, immigrants who came to the United States illegally as children.
In exchange, the deal would end extended family “chain migration”.
It also reportedly would cut the visa lottery programme by half and prioritise certain countries in the system, instead of scrapping it altogether as several Republicans have suggested as part of an agreement.
The president and lawmakers are in the midst of intense negotiations about how to shield nearly 800,000 “dreamers” from deportation.