Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen testified under oath Tuesday that she did not hear President Trump call Haiti, El Salvador and other developing nations “sh—hole” countries in a controversial meeting last week — though she did say he used “tough language.”
Mr. Nielsen also said “other congressmen” in the meeting used tough language when they were negotiating with Mr. Trump.
“I actually was struck more by the fact that the conversation … had gotten to a place where many people in the room were using inappropriate language in the Oval Office,” she said, saying she remembered “specific cuss words being used by a variety of members.”
Sen. Richard Durbin, the Illinois Democrat who has driven the issue of Mr. Trump’s words, said he did not use foul language, and Ms. Nielsen agreed.
She did say that Sen. Lindsey Graham, Mr. Durbin’s negotiating partner, used harsh language, and Mr. Durbin countered Mr. Graham was just repeating Mr. Trump’s words.
Ms. Nielsen said she didn’t remember any specific offensive word, but rather “the general profanity that was used in the room by almost everyone.”
She was testifying to the Senate Judiciary Committee, amid tense negotiations about immigration and whether illegal immigrant “Dreamers” will be granted legal status as part of a 2018 spending deal.
Mr. Trump has said in exchange for legal status, he wants to see border security and changes to basic immigration policy that would limit the chain of family migration and cancel the diversity visa lottery.
Under questioning by Sen. Patrick Leahy and Mr. Durbin, Ms. Nielsen defended the president’s stance, saying he was arguing against quotas allowing migration from specific developing countries.
Instead Mr. Trump wants merit-based immigration, where the U.S. would select migrants based on their skills and ability to assimilate in the U.S., the secretary said.