Sen. Cory Booker (D., N.J.) tore into Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen on Tuesday over President Donald Trump's reported vulgar remark about African countries, shouting at her and saying he cried "tears of rage" when told of the president's comments.
Booker expressed alarm and disgust at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing over the report that Trump referred to "s–hole" countries in Africa last week and also questioned why the U.S. should allow immigrants from Haiti.
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Nielsen earlier testified she did not hear Trump use that term, and Booker said he had been in the Oval Office many times and had never gotten "amnesia" over comments made in that room.
"I hurt!" he yelled. "When Dick Durbin called me, I had tears of rage when I heard about his experience in that meeting, and for you not to feel that hurt and that pain and to dismiss some of the questions of my colleagues … when tens of millions of Americas are hurting right now because of what they're worried about what happened in the White House, that's unacceptable to me!"
Booker repeated it was "unacceptable" that Nielsen didn't recall Trump's words.
"Why is this so important? Why is this so disturbing for me? Why am I frankly seething with anger?" Booker asked. "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, your religion, it's about the content of your character. It's about your values and your ideals, 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."
Booker quoted Martin Luther King, Jr., Elie Wiesel, and Mohandas Gandhi as he berated Nielsen over what he said was being a silent bystander to Trump's wrongdoing. When he recalled her testimony saying Norweigans were preferred by Trump due to their hardworking nature and she attempted to speak, he snapped, "Let me finish!"
"Happy to," Nielsen said.
Booker went on to cite statistics about hate crimes in the U.S. and the far-right being responsible for the majority of them.
"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 when ignorance and bigotry is aligned with power. It is a dangerous force in our country. Your silence and your amnesia is complicity," he said.
Booker spoke without stopping for more than 10 minutes before Nielsen responded.
"I do clearly—and I want to be clear on this—abhor violence in all of its forms," she said. "I couldn't agree with you more that the Department of Homeland Security has a duty to stop and prevent violence in all of its forms."