'Animals'? Trump says he'll keep using term for gang members

President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in the Oval Office of the White House, Thursday, May 17, 2

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is defending his use of the word "animals" to describe some immigrants who enter the country illegally and says he will keep using that term to refer to violent gang members.

On Thursday, Trump said his comment a day earlier had clearly been directed at members of the MS-13 gang.

Trump says, "When the MS-13 comes in, when the other gang members come into our country, I refer to them as animals. And guess what? I always will."

Trump has been under fire for comments he made Wednesday while railing against California for its sanctuary immigration policies. Trump was speaking at a roundtable with local California officials when he responded to a comment that referenced MS-13.

Democratic lawmakers criticized the president for using that term toward immigrants.