WASHINGTON (CBSNewYork) — The debate on immigration took center stage on Capitol Hill Tuesday.
As CBS2’s Dick Brennan reported, the fight over what President Donald Trump said in an immigration meeting became the focus of sharp questioning – particularly by U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-New Jersey).
Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen was in the meeting, and said Tuesday that many people – including the president – were using what she called “tough language” when it comes to immigration. But she did not give specifics.
U.S. Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Illinois) said Trump referred to some countries that immigrants come from as “s***holes” – referring specifically to Haiti, African nations and El Salvador.
“This has turned into a S-show,” said U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), censoring the word in his own speech.
On Capitol Hill, Nielsen was grilled by the Senate Judiciary Committee about what she heard.
“How did he characterize those countries in Africa?” Durbin said.
“I don’t specifically remember,” she said.
Her response infuriated Booker, who said he was “seething with anger.”
“We have this incredible nation where we have been taught that it does not matter where you’re from; it doesn’t matter your color, your race, or religion – it’s about the content of your character. It’s about your values and your ideals,” Booker said. “And yet we have a language that from Dick Durbin to Lindsey Graham, they seem to have a much better recollection of what went on. You’re under oath. You and others in that room that suddenly cannot remember.”
As to Trump’s alleged choice of words at the immigration meeting, Booker said that language “festers,” and brought up several high-profile incidents of violence where white supremacism was the motive.
“When ignorance and bigotry is allied with power, it is a dangerous force in our country. Your silence and your amnesia is complicity,” Booker told Nielsen.
The controversy over Trump’s words has stalled negotiations to reach an immigration agreement, which lawmakers were hoping to accomplish before tackling the budget.
But now, Congress only has until Friday to cut a deal to fund the government, and Democrats said the bill must preserve DACA – a program that protects young undocumented workers.
“Democrats need to quit playing politics and start doing what they were elected to do, and that is governing,” said White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
Also Tuesday, reporters questioned President Trump himself regarding the language that he used at a White House meeting on immigration last week.
“Mr. President, did you say that you want more people to come in from Norway?” a reporter asked.
“I want ’em to come in from everywhere, everywhere,” Trump said.
Meanwhile, Trump’s doctor briefed the press and said Trump is in good health – but does have high cholesterol and needs to diet and exercise more.
When asked how Trump can been such good health while eating McDonald’s and drinking Diet Coke and not exercising, Dr. Ronny Jackson said: “It’s called genetics. I don’t know. Some people have, you know, just great genes. You know, I told the president if he had a healthier diet over the last 20 years, he could live to be 200 years old. I don’t know.”
Jackson also said the president took a cognitive test and scored 30 out of 30. He said Trump has no mental or cognitive issues and is very sharp.