Utah AG Sean Reyes defends Donald Trump’s remarks on terrorism, the Philippines

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LAS VEGAS -- Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes defended controversial remarks made by Donald Trump that supposedly suggest the Philippines is a terrorist nation.

Reyes is part Filipino. Friday night, he spoke as a surrogate for Trump at the Asian American Journalists Association 2016 Presidential Election Forum in Las Vegas.

At one point, he addressed a speech given by Trump a week earlier in Portland that has caused an uproar.

In that speech, Trump said, “We're letting people come in from terrorist nations that shouldn't be allowed. You can't vet them.”

He went on to give examples of people who were arrested for, or convicted of, terrorist-related crimes in the U.S. who were from other countries.

“We’re dealing with animals,” Trump said, while telling the story of a Syrian immigrant who he said was accused by federal prosecutors of planning to kill people “execution-style” at a military base in Texas.

One of the later examples included a man from the Philippines.

“An immigrant from Afghanistan who later applied for and received U.S. citizenship, and a legal, permanent resident from the Philippines were convicted of plotting to join the Al-Qaeda and the Taliban in order to kill as many Americans as possible,” Trump said.

Directly after that comment, he added, “Hillary Clinton wants to have them come in by the hundreds of thousands.”

That sequence of remarks made the rounds in the media, and according to the New York Times, even led to a lawmaker from the Philippines to call for banning Trump from that country.

To those comments, Sean Reyes said on Friday, “I want to clarify, first of all, some comments that Mr. Trump made about the Philippines, and being Filipino, those issues are near and dear to my heart. What Mr. Trump was trying to communicate--and I have full authority to make this clarification--is that he welcomes law-abiding Filipinos who want to come and have a better life and better opportunities, whether they want to live here or go back to the Philippines. Send money back to their families there. He welcomes them.”

Reyes continued that Trump was talking about terrorists who, “do exist in the Philippines, and there’s no one here from the Philippines who can dispute that. They know that that exists.”

During his speech, Reyes also touched upon several topics and Trump’s stance on them, from health care to national security.