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As Sen. Richard Durbin (R) (D-IL) looks on, Sen. Patrick Leahy (L) (D-VT) questions Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen during a hearing held by the Senate Judiciary Committee January 16, 2018 in Washington, DC. Leahy and Durbin both questioned Nielsen about derogatory language reportedly used by U.S. President Donald Trump during a meeting last week on immigration. Nielsen said 'I did not hear that word used', when asked about the word 'shithole'. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

DHS Secretary Testifies She Has Bad Memory When It Comes to "Tough Language" Trump Used

Head of DHS, Kirstjen Nielsen, said she remembers "tough language" being used but says she doesn't remember Trump categorizing African nations in any specific way

Jon Queally

During a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen testified that President Donald Trump and others used "strong language" during a closed-door meeting in the Oval Office last week but couldn't recall exactly what that language was and said she did not hear the president refer to African nations as "shithole countries."

Questioned by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Illinois)—who was also in the meeting and said publicly that Trump did, in fact, use those precise words—pressed Nielsen to give the committee her best recollection of what was said and by whom, but Nielsen's memory remained spotty.

"The conversation was very impassioned," Nielsen told Durbin. "I don't dispute the president using tough language. Others in the room were also using tough language."

Watch the exchange:

Though he had done so publicly on two other occasions in the days since the meeting, Durbin spoke with CNN's Jake Tapper on Tuesday and laid out in even more detail the nature of the exchange in the Oval Office and explained why nobody in that room should have trouble remembering exactly what was said and by whom:

While reporters have stood by their stories "100 percent" and as Durbin has held firm that his account of what transpired is accurate, Republicans in the meeting have come under critical fire for changing their tune about what they remember and what was said.

As Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin, no lefty, writes on Tuesday, it's clear now that Sens. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and David Perdue (R-Ga.), both of whom were in the room but deny Trump used the term "shithole countries," are lying to protect the president.

"The incident is telling in many respects," Rubin writes, "but none more important for Republicans than this: They can lie and enable the president hoping to score brownie points, but this White House won’t repay loyalty in kind. Instead, Republicans will find themselves humiliated."

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