Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen testified Tuesday that she never heard President Trump use the term "shithole countries" to describe Haiti, El Salvador or African nations in a meeting last week.
"You were in the room. You're under oath. Did President Trump use this word or a substantially similar word to describe certain countries?" Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., asked during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.
"I did not hear that word used. No sir," Nielsen said about last week's meeting.
"That's not my question. Did he use anything similar to that describing certain countries?" Leahy pressed.
"The conversation was very impassioned. I don't dispute that the president was using tough language. Others in the room were also using tough language," Nielsen replied. "The concept and context, I believe, in which this came up was the concept that the president would like to move to a merit-based system. He would like to not and no longer look at quotas.
"Did he use what would be considered vulgar language referring to certain countries," Leahy pushed for a third time.
"The president used tough language in general as did other congressmen in the room," Nielsen said.
"The others aren't president," Leahy fired back. "You imply the president was particularly in support of [a] merit-based system, like those in Australia and Canada. But when he denigrated Haiti and El Salvador and Africa, a country where we are trying to have some ability to match China and others in influence, he didn't say it's because we needed more Ph.D. students or skilled workers," Leahy said. "He said he wanted more people from Norway. Being from Norway is not a skill."
Nielsen said Trump had not said "specifically" said he wanted immigrants from Norway.
"What he was specifically referring to was the prime minister telling him that the people of Norway work very hard. What he was referencing to is from a merit-based perspective, we'd like to have those with skills who can assimilate and contribute to the United States, moving away from country quotas and to an individual merit-based system," she added.
Leahy finished up his questions on the issue by asking Nielsen if Norway as "predominantly white."
"I actually do not know that, sir, but I imagine that's the case," she responded.