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Nielsen acknowledges Trump used 'tough language' in immigration meeting

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenLeft-leaning group to track which companies hire former top Trump aides Rosenstein: Zero tolerance immigration policy 'never should have been proposed or implemented' House Republican condemns anti-Trump celebrities during impeachment hearing MORE acknowledged Tuesday that President TrumpDonald TrumpVirginia GOP gubernatorial nominee acknowledges Biden was 'legitimately' elected Biden meets with DACA recipients on immigration reform Overnight Health Care: States begin lifting mask mandates after new CDC guidance | Walmart, Trader Joe's will no longer require customers to wear masks | CDC finds Pfizer, Moderna vaccines 94 percent effective in health workers 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 LeahyHouse Democrats unveil .9 billion bill to boost security after insurrection Biden officials testify that white supremacists are greatest domestic security threat Senate Democrats push Biden over raising refugee cap 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 CottonTim Scott sparks buzz in crowded field of White House hopefuls Opposition to refugees echoes one of America's most shameful moments White House defends CDC outreach to teachers union MORE (Ark.), have also denied that he used such language to describe certain countries. 

But Sen. Dick DurbinDick DurbinSenate Democrats urge Garland not to fight court order to release Trump obstruction memo Sweeping election reform bill faces Senate buzz saw Police reform talks hit familiar stumbling block 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 governors move to cut unemployment benefits as debate rages over effects Trump critics push new direction for GOP Graham warns about trying to 'drive' Trump from GOP: 'Half the people will leave' 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."