Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday and faced a barrage of questions about last week’s immigration meeting in which President Trump reportedly referred to several African nations as “shithole countries.”
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), who was in the meeting, grilled Nielsen about what she heard in the meeting. Durbin noted that Nielsen had said on Fox News that Trump had used “strong language,” but asked if she could specify what that language was.
“Let’s see, strong language, there was — apologies,” she said. “I don’t remember a specific word. What I was struck with frankly, as I’m sure you were as well, was the general profanity that was used in the room by almost everyone.”
Nielsen confirmed that she heard Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) use some “tough language,” but when Durbin asked if Graham was simply repeating back what Trump had said, Nielsen demurred. “I remember specific cuss words being used by a variety of members.”
Nielsen did not clarify how it was possible for her to remember “specific cuss words” while simultaneously not remembering “a specific word.”
Earlier in the hearing, under questioning from Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Nielsen also said she did “not hear that word [shithole] used.” In a response to a question about whether Trump used “vulgar language,” she confirmed that he had, but again described what he’d used as “tough language.”
Nielsen later said that she was struck more by the fact that others would use “inappropriate language in the Oval Office in front of the President,” dodging whether he’d used the language himself.
DHS Sec. Nielsen: "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, in front of the president." https://t.co/FN0uWgHIR3 pic.twitter.com/0JTPTlgxqE
— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) January 16, 2018
Claiming under oath not to remember something that one actually remembers — as Nielsen did during Tuesday’s hearing — is considered a form of perjury.
The White House has denied that Trump made the “shithole” remark, however both Durbin and Graham have effectively confirmed that he did.