Nielsen acknowledges Trump used 'tough language' in immigration meeting

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenTrump: Obama didn't warn about Russia before election because 'it is all a big hoax' Ex-ICE director responds to Michelle Wolf video comparing agency to ISIS Top Ethics Dem calls for Nielsen to resign MORE acknowledged Tuesday that President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump warns Iran's Rouhani: Threaten us 'and you will suffer' Pompeo: Iran's leaders resemble the mafia NYT's Haberman: Trump 'often tells the truth' MORE used "tough language" in an immigration policy meeting with lawmakers last week, but stopped short of saying she heard the president describe Haiti, El Salvador and some African nations as "shithole countries."

Asked by Sen. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahySenate Dems protest vote on controversial court pick Budget chairs press appropriators on veterans spending Kavanaugh paper chase heats up MORE (D-Vt.) at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing whether Trump used vulgar language — in particular, the word "shithole" — to decry immigration from countries like Haiti, Nielsen said she did not dispute that the president used "tough language."

"The conversation was very impassioned," Nielsen said. "I don’t dispute the president using tough language. Others in the room were also using tough language."

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"The president used tough language in general, as did other congressmen in the room," she said.

Trump has faced accusations of racism in recent days, after reports surfaced that he demanded in a meeting last week to know why the U.S. admits immigrants from "shithole countries." 

Trump has denied the reports. Two GOP lawmakers, Sens. David Perdue (Ga.) and Tom CottonThomas (Tom) Bryant CottonBipartisan group introduces retirement savings legislation in Senate Overnight Defense: Fallout from tense NATO summit | Senators push to block ZTE deal in defense bill | Blackwater founder makes new pitch for mercenaries to run Afghan war Hillicon Valley: DOJ appeals AT&T-Time Warner ruling | FBI agent testifies in heated hearing | Uproar after FCC changes rules on consumer complaints | Broadcom makes bid for another US company | Facebook under fire over conspiracy sites MORE (Ark.), have also denied that he used such language to describe certain countries. 

But Sen. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinChicago detention facility under investigation following allegations of abuse of migrant children Senate approves resolution warning Trump not to hand over US officials Deal to fix family separations hits snag in the Senate MORE (D-Ill.) has claimed that Trump did, in fact, use vulgar language to refer to Haiti and other countries, and Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGOP strategist: Putin press conference 'made Trump look weak' Release of Carter Page surveillance documents reignites debate Graham: Warrant for Carter Page surveillance was 'a bunch of garbage' MORE (R-S.C.) has called reports of the president's comments "basically accurate."

Leahy blasted Trump's reported comments as "racist" and "vulgar," saying that he had never before heard of another president using such language.

"President Trump reportedly said the most vulgar and racist things I’ve ever heard a president of either party utter," he said. "In fact, I’ve never heard any president, Republican or Democrat, utter anything even similar."