Dem: Trump ‘absolutely knows’ he is playing to racists with 's---hole' remark

Rep. Gregory MeeksGregory Weldon MeeksProtesters interrupt Elliott Abrams during Venezuela hearing Dem behind impeachment push to boycott State of the Union Democrats seek to take on Trump at State of the Union MORE (D-N.Y.) on Monday blasted President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump nominates ambassador to Turkey Trump heads to Mar-a-Lago after signing bill to avert shutdown CNN, MSNBC to air ad turned down by Fox over Nazi imagery MORE over his controversial "shithole countries" remarks, saying that he intentionally made the comments to endear himself with white nationalist groups.

"I think that what the president is doing is diabolical — he absolutely knows that he is playing to the racists," Meeks told host John Berman on CNN's "Newsroom." 

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"Listen, those individuals that we know who were former members of the Ku Klux Klan, they're the ones coming out supporting the president in a very big way," said Meeks, a member of the Congressional Black Caucus.

The Democratic lawmaker's remarks come after the president faced immense scrutiny for reportedly describing African nations, Haiti and El Salvador as "shithole countries" during a meeting on immigration reform with lawmakers last week.

Meeks called on other lawmakers to stand up to this sort of rhetoric on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, pointing to how the civil rights leader repeatedly emphasized how people will remember when their friends remained silent as opposed to when enemies spoke with cruel words.

"It is incumbent upon all Americans, particularly those of us who have the responsibility of being members of the United States Congress — be it in the House or the Senate — to have a strong voice and to say that what the president said is wrong. Irrespective of your political viewpoint, what he said is morally wrong and we should say it and stand up against it loudly and clearly," he continued.

Trump on Sunday pushed back on claims that he is a racist.

“I’m not a racist. I’m the least racist person you will ever interview,” Trump told reporters while entering Trump International Golf Course.

Meeks said Trump's denial is "a joke," listing what he says are examples that the president is a racist including his involvement in the Birther movement that claimed then-President Obama, the first black U.S. president, had not been born in the country. 

"His words are clear," Meeks added.