Nielsen acknowledges Trump used 'tough language' in immigration meeting

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 acknowledged Tuesday that President TrumpDonald John TrumpObama calls on Senate not to fill Ginsburg's vacancy until after election Planned Parenthood: 'The fate of our rights' depends on Ginsburg replacement Progressive group to spend M in ad campaign on Supreme Court vacancy 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 LeahyBattle over timing complicates Democratic shutdown strategy Hillicon Valley: Russia 'amplifying' concerns around mail-in voting to undermine election | Facebook and Twitter take steps to limit Trump remarks on voting | Facebook to block political ads ahead of election Top Democrats press Trump to sanction Russian individuals over 2020 election interference efforts 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 CottonTom Bryant CottonRenewed focus on Trump's Supreme Court list after Ginsburg's death Republicans call for DOJ to prosecute Netflix executives for releasing 'Cuties' Loeffler calls for hearing in wake of Netflix's 'Cuties' MORE (Ark.), have also denied that he used such language to describe certain countries. 

But Sen. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinMcConnell focuses on confirming judicial nominees with COVID-19 talks stalled Senate Republicans signal openness to working with Biden Top GOP senator calls for Biden to release list of possible Supreme Court picks 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 GrahamSenate Republicans face tough decision on replacing Ginsburg Democratic senator calls for eliminating filibuster, expanding Supreme Court if GOP fills vacancy What Senate Republicans have said about election-year Supreme Court vacancies 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."