WASHINGTON • President Donald Trump has acknowledged he has no proof that people of Middle Eastern descent have joined a large migrant caravan moving towards the United States-Mexico border, tempering a claim he has made in recent days.
"There's no proof of anything. But there could very well be," Mr Trump said in remarks in the Oval Office on Tuesday afternoon.
His remarks appeared to be at odds with the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which tweeted on Tuesday that the caravan includes people from all over the world.
"Citizens of countries outside Central America, including countries in the Middle East, Africa, South Asia, and elsewhere are currently travelling through Mexico toward the US," DHS spokesman Tyler Houlton said in a tweet.
He also tweeted the department has confirmed that some migrants, who are part of the caravan, "are gang members or have significant criminal histories".
In the Oval Office, the President maintained that he has "very good information" from Border Control and other officials that they've "intercepted many people from the Middle East", both "good ones and bad ones", in recent years.
"They say it happens all the time from the Middle East," Mr Trump said.
His remarks came after Vice-President Mike Pence said earlier on Tuesday it is "inconceivable" that people from the Middle East have not joined the caravan.
Mr Trump first claimed in a tweet on Monday that "criminals and unknown Middle Easterners are mixed in" the caravan, which the President has pointed to repeatedly as he seeks to elevate immigration as an issue ahead of the mid-term elections early next month.
When asked for evidence of his claim later on Monday, Mr Trump told a television reporter to "take your camera, go in the middle and search" the caravan, which originated in Honduras and includes mostly mothers and their children, based on what reporters have observed.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also spoke about the caravan at a State Department news conference early on Tuesday evening, arguing that it presents a national security risk to the US.
The President has sought to tie the caravan to Democrats in his recent campaign-trail remarks.