DHS secretary on Trump’s ‘s---hole’ comments: ‘I don’t recall him saying that exact phrase’

DHS secretary on Trump’s ‘s---hole’ comments: ‘I don’t recall him saying that exact phrase’
© Greg Nash

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenDHS IG won't investigate after watchdog said Wolf, Cuccinelli appointments violated law Appeals court sides with Trump over drawdown of immigrant protections Democrats smell blood with new DHS whistleblower complaint MORE said Sunday that she does not recall President TrumpDonald John TrumpHR McMaster says president's policy to withdraw troops from Afghanistan is 'unwise' Cast of 'Parks and Rec' reunite for virtual town hall to address Wisconsin voters Biden says Trump should step down over coronavirus response MORE referring to Haiti, El Salvador and several African nations as "shithole countries" during a White House meeting with lawmakers.

In an interview with "Fox News Sunday," Nielsen said that she didn't recall Trump making the remarks last week, but added that the president would continue to use "strong language" in the fight over immigration reform and border security.

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"I don't recall him saying that exact phrase," Nielsen said. "I think he has been clear, and I think undoubtedly the president will continue to use strong language when it comes to this issue, because he feels very passionate about it."

Nielsen went on to say that Democrats in the meeting presented the president with a deal that didn't adequately address border security.

"I think what was frustrating about that meeting for all of us in the meeting was that although the deal presented, in theory, an approach to the four pillars on which we had agreed, it did not address the core security issues that we need to do our job. And more importantly, there was nothing in there that would prevent us from getting here again."

Trump faced sharp criticism from Democrats and some Republicans over the weekend after he reportedly questioned why the U.S. would accept more immigrants from countries such as Haiti, El Salvador and African countries over immigrants from places such as Norway.

“Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” Trump reportedly asked.

The White House did not initially deny the reported remarks in a statement last Thursday night. 

On Friday morning, the president said he never said anything derogatory about Haitians.

"Never said anything derogatory about Haitians other than Haiti is, obviously, a very poor and troubled country. Never said 'take them out.' Made up by Dems," the president tweeted.

— This report was updated at 11:21 a.m.