UPDATE: Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen, while attempting to defend President Donald Trump’s racist views on immigration, told a Senate committee she wasn’t aware that Norway was a predominantly white country.
Nielsen was trying to deny allegations regarding Trump’s racist language during a meeting last week that included a bipartisan group of lawmakers.
According to Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), and corroborated by several additional sources, when pressed to accept immigrants from places like Haiti and African nations, Trump reportedly asked why the U.S. had to take individuals from “s***hole countries,” adding that he desired immigrants to come from countries like Norway — a nation that is populated by considerably more white individuals.
The comments sparked outrage across both sides of the political aisle. But during Senate testimony, when asked about the comments made by the president, Nielsen had a lapse of memory.
“I don’t recall him saying that exact phrase,” she said.
That’s not the only thing she can’t recall. During questioning from Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Nielsen seemed to plead ignorance on the racist connotations that go along with preferring Norwegian immigrants to African or Hatian ones.
Leahy alluded to the whiteness of the European nation. “Norway is a predominantly white country, isn't it?” he rhetorically asked Nielsen.
But the "rhetorical" aspect of the question was apparently lost on Nielsen, who stuttered a bit in her response. "I, I actually do not know that sir, but I imagine that is the case," she responded.
LEAHY: "Norway is a predominantly white country, isn't it?"— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) January 16, 2018
NIELSEN: "I actually don't know that, sir." (via ABC) pic.twitter.com/SMIFgFe7B3
There are only two excuses for which Nielsen can provide for that pitiful answer. The first is that she truly is ignorant on the issue — which seems to be very difficult to accept, given that she’s leading the Department of Homeland Security, and should know a lot about general questions like whether a white, European nation is full of white people. If she doesn’t know that, then her capacity to lead that department comes into question.
The more likely excuse is that Nielsen, in trying to bat questions away from the issue, lied in order to make her boss look better. In some ways, this is a more reassuring excuse — it confirms she’s at least knowledgeable enough to know the right answer — but it’s also the more disappointing of the two, as it's made clear that members of the Trump administration will do or say anything to keep the president placated.
Were Nielsen a more honest head of Homeland Security, she’d be more forthright with her responses, perhaps admitting that Trump had said vulgarities when describing other nations, and certainly being willing to concede that Norway, a country Trump prefers to other non-white nations, is a predominantly white country.
Nielsen did just the opposite, however, and seemingly lied to a Senate committee to save face with Trump. Her feeble attempt to suggest she’s simply ignorant on the issue is very transparent.
Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) slammed Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen, calling her “complicit” for defending President Donald Trump’s disgraceful comments made in a recent White House meeting.
Apparently Nielsen, who was testifying under oath before the Senate Judiciary Committee, couldn’t recall her boss’ comments about not wanting to accept more immigrants from “shithole” African and Haitian countries.
According to the DHS secretary, she couldn’t hear Trump’s remarks because other senators were talking to each other, making it hard for her to listen to the comment.
An emotional Booker called out Nielsen on her inability to recall the comments.
“The commander in chief, in an Oval Office meeting, referring to people from African countries and Haitians with the most vile and vulgar language — that language festers,” he said.
“When ignorance and bigotry is alive with power, it’s a dangerous force in our country. Your silence and your amnesia is complicity.”
“I receive enough death threats to know the reality,” he added.
Booker joined the Judiciary Committee just last week and happens to be its second-ever African-American member. The senator said he had “tears of rage” when he heard what Trump had said. It made him remember about the time his family was denied housing for being black.
“I’ve got a president of the United States, whose office I respect, who talks about the country’s origins of my fellow citizens in the most despicable manner. You don’t remember? You can’t remember the words of your commander in chief?” asked the U.S. senator. “I find that unacceptable.”
The White House hasn’t denied Trump’s comments.
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, who were present during the meeting, have publicly confirmed them.
Later, the Homeland Security secretary said she wants to make it clear that she detests violence “in all its forms.”
Booker wasn’t the only one to denounce Trump’s disrespectful comments. Earlier, U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) also lamented Trump's words in an interview, calling the president “racist.”
“It’s just impossible. It’s not any way you can do that. It’s unreal. It’s unbelievable. It made me sad. It made me cry. As a nation and as a people we’ve come so far, we made so much progress,” Lewis said. “And I think this man, this president is taking up back to another place.”
“I think he is a racist,” he said. “We have to stand up, we have to speak up and not try to sweep it under the rug.”
Thumbnail/Banner Image: Reuters, Jonathan Ernst