Nielsen acknowledges Trump used 'tough language' in immigration meeting

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenDHS officials called lawmaker visit to migrant detention facility a 'Hill stunt' White House fires DHS general counsel Fox's Cavuto roasts Trump over criticism of network MORE acknowledged Tuesday that President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump conversation with foreign leader part of complaint that led to standoff between intel chief, Congress: report Pelosi: Lewandowski should have been held in contempt 'right then and there' Trump to withdraw FEMA chief nominee: report 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 LeahyDemocrats press for action on election security The Hill's Morning Report — Biden steadies in third debate as top tier remains the same Overnight Defense: Dems grill Trump Army, Air Force picks | House chair subpoenas Trump Afghanistan negotiator | Trump officials release military aid to Ukraine 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 Cotton2020 Democrats raise alarm about China's intellectual property theft Bolton returns to political group after exiting administration Meadows, Cotton introduce bill to prevent district judges from blocking federal policy changes MORE (Ark.), have also denied that he used such language to describe certain countries. 

But Sen. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinGOP's Kennedy sends warning shot to Trump nominee Menashi Senate Democrats block government spending bill Kavanaugh impeachment push hits Capitol buzz saw 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 signals unease with Barr's gun plan Overnight Defense: Trump says he has 'many options' on Iran | Hostage negotiator chosen for national security adviser | Senate Dems block funding bill | Documents show Pentagon spent at least 4K at Trump's Scotland resort GOP's Kennedy sends warning shot to Trump nominee Menashi 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."