Nielsen acknowledges Trump used 'tough language' in immigration meeting

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenElection security bills face GOP buzzsaw Election security bills face GOP buzzsaw Five memorable moments from Sarah Sanders at the White House MORE acknowledged Tuesday that President TrumpDonald John TrumpGOP senator introduces bill to hold online platforms liable for political bias Rubio responds to journalist who called it 'strange' to see him at Trump rally Rubio responds to journalist who called it 'strange' to see him at Trump rally 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 LeahyTrump planning Air Force One flyover during July 4 celebration at Mall: report Senators reach .5B deal on Trump's emergency border request Senators reach .5B deal on Trump's emergency border request 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 CottonOvernight Defense: US to send 1K more troops to Mideast amid Iran tensions | Iran threatens to break limit on uranium production in 10 days | US accuses Iran of 'nuclear blackmail' | Details on key defense bill amendments Overnight Defense: US to send 1K more troops to Mideast amid Iran tensions | Iran threatens to break limit on uranium production in 10 days | US accuses Iran of 'nuclear blackmail' | Details on key defense bill amendments Iran announces it will exceed uranium stockpile restraints of nuclear deal MORE (Ark.), have also denied that he used such language to describe certain countries. 

But Sen. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinOvernight Defense: Shanahan exit shocks Washington | Pentagon left rudderless | Lawmakers want answers on Mideast troop deployment | Senate could vote on Saudi arms deal this week | Pompeo says Trump doesn't want war with Iran Senators demand Trump explain decision to deploy troops amid Iran tensions Senators demand Trump explain decision to deploy troops amid Iran tensions 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 GrahamOvernight Defense: Shanahan exit shocks Washington | Pentagon left rudderless | Lawmakers want answers on Mideast troop deployment | Senate could vote on Saudi arms deal this week | Pompeo says Trump doesn't want war with Iran Shanahan drama shocks Capitol Hill, leaving Pentagon rudderless Shanahan drama shocks Capitol Hill, leaving Pentagon rudderless 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."