The quotation attributed to President Trump was both inaccurate and left out the full context behind his remarks, which referred to undocumented and deported migrants convicted of crimes.
What was not evident from much of the news coverage of the event was that the president made his comments immediately after Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims conveyed her frustrations at what she presented as a historical lack of intelligence-sharing capabilities between the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and local law enforcement agencies, with an emphasis on identifying and locating undocumented immigrants who have been convicted of crimes or are suspected of having committed crimes.
According to a White House transcript, Mims referred to "bad guys" and specifically named the violent criminal gang MS-13 immediately before President Trump's "animals" remarks (although MS-13 started in the United States and has many American citizens among its ranks):
Mims: Now ICE is the only law enforcement agency that cannot use our databases to find the bad guys. They cannot come in and talk to people in our jail, unless they reach a certain threshold. They can't do all kinds of things that other law enforcement agencies can do. And it's really put us in a very bad position.
Trump: It's a disgrace. Okay? It's a disgrace.
Mims: It's a disgrace.
Trump: And we're suing on that, and we're working hard, and I think it will all come together, because people want it to come together. It's so ridiculous. The concept that we're even talking about is ridiculous. We'll take care of it, Margaret. We'll win.
Mims: Thank you. There could be an MS-13 member I know about -- if they don't reach a certain threshold, I cannot tell ICE about it.
Trump: We have people coming into the country, or trying to come in -- we're stopping a lot of them -- but we're taking people out of the country, you wouldn't believe how bad these people are. These aren't people, these are animals. And we're taking them out of the country at a level and at a rate that's never happened before. And because of the weak laws, they come in fast, we get them, we release them, we get them again, we bring them out -- it's crazy. The dumbest laws -- as I said before -- the dumbest laws on immigration in the world.
The day after his initial "animals" remarks, President Trump clarified on NBC that "I'm referring, and you know I'm referring, to the MS-13 gangs that are coming in":