Pence defends Trump over remarks on African immigrants


JERUSALEM (AP) — U.S. Vice President Mike Pence today defended President Donald Trump over his recent comments disparaging immigration from Africa and Haiti, telling The Associated Press the president's "heart" is aimed at a merit-based system that is blind to immigrants' "race or creed."

Pence, in an interview with the AP from Jerusalem, said the president was intent on implementing a merit-based system that encourages immigration by those who will "contribute to a growing American economy and thriving communities."

"I know the president's heart, and I know that what President Trump wants to do is reform immigration to make our system one that puts the interests of America first," Pence said. He added immigrants should be considered on their merits, "regardless of what country they come from or what their race and creed is."

He was responding to reports that Trump, in a private meeting with legislators earlier this month, challenged immigration from "shithole" African countries, disparaged Haiti and said the U.S. should welcome more immigrants from countries like Norway.

The vice president also dismissed an adult film star's account of a sexual encounter with Trump in 2006, questioning its validity.

"I'm just not going to comment on the latest baseless allegations against the president," Pence said. "My focus is on serving the president, advancing the priorities of the administration, advancing American interests and that's where it will stay."

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