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DHS Secretary Recalls 'General Profanity Used in the Room by Almost Everyone' at White House Meeting

WASHINGTON – Though President Trump used “tough language” during an Oval Office meeting on immigration last week, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen told Congress on Tuesday that she did not hear the president say the word “shithole” or anything similar to describe African countries.

“I did not hear that word used. No, sir,” Nielsen, who attended the meeting, told senators at a Judiciary Committee hearing. “The conversation was very impassioned. I don’t dispute that the president was using tough language. Others in the room were also using tough language. The concept and the context, I believe in which this came up, was the concept that the president would like to move to a merit-based (immigration) system.”

President Trump, who rejected a bipartisan deal to save the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program during the meeting, has denied using the term “shithole” or anything similar to describe Haiti or African nations. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) has been at the center of the controversy, insisting that the president used the vulgar term while also requesting more immigrants from predominantly white countries like Norway.

During the hearing, Durbin grilled Nielsen on what transpired at the immigration meeting. He again claimed that the president used the vulgar term, which he said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) repeated verbatim while countering the president’s characterization of African nations.

“Sen. Graham spoke up in a way that I very much respect, countering what the president had said about countries in Africa, reminding the president that his family did not come to America with great skills or wealth, but they came here as most families do: looking for a chance to prove themselves and make this a better nation,” Durbin said.

Nielsen said what struck her during the meeting was “the general profanity that was used in the room by almost everyone.” She repeatedly denied hearing the word “shithole,” though she admitted hearing specific cuss words used by “a variety of members.”

In a tweet on Friday, Trump wrote: “The language used by me at the DACA meeting was tough, but this was not the language used. What was really tough was the outlandish proposal made - a big setback for DACA!”

On Tuesday, Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) attacked Nielsen, saying that her “silence” and “amnesia” on the issue is “complicit” with Trump’s actions.

“We have this incredible nation where we are taught it doesn't matter where you are from, your race, your color, your religion. It is about the content of your character,” Booker said. He added later: “When Dick Durbin called me, I had tears of rage in my eyes.”

Sen. Pat Leahy (D-Vt.) described the alleged comments from the president as the “most vulgar and racist things I’ve ever heard a president of either party utter.”