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Cory Booker to DHS Secretary: 'Your silence and your amnesia is complicity'

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Updated January 16, 2018 02:37 PM EST

Sen. Cory Booker (D-New Jersey) delivered a blistering lecture to Homelady Security Secretary Kristjen Nielsen during a Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing on Tuesday, saying she was "complicit" with President Trump for claiming she did not recall him say the U.S. should not accept immigrants from "sh**hole countries."

"Your silence and your amnesia is complicity," he told Nielsen during his remarks.

Nielsen claimed earlier during the hearing that she did not recall Trump using vulgar language to describe Haiti and African countries.

"It was a meeting of 12 people. There was cross talk," Nielsen told the panel. "Anything is possible. I can't testify to what I don't know."

Booker criticized Nielsen for allegedly forgetting the remark and said "when the Commander in Chief speaks, I listened. I don’t have amnesia on conversations I’ve had in the oval office."

Booker, who is black, said he had "tears of rage" when he heard about the comment and said he's received enough "death threats" that Trump's remark filled him with anger.

“For you not to feel that hurt and that pain and to dismiss some of the questions of my colleagues saying, ‘I’ve already answered that line of questions’ when tens of millions of Americans are hurting right now because of what they’re worried about right now in the White House — that’s unacceptable to me,” Booker yelled at Nielsen.

Booker was appointed to the committee this month along with fellow Democrat Sen. Kamala Harris of California.

Homeland Security Secretary Kristjen Nielsen told members of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday that she did not hear President Trump ask why the U.S. should admit immigrants from "sh**hole" countries.

Nielsen was seated next to Trump at a meeting with a bipartisan group of senators last week about the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and immigration reform.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) said Friday that Trump had used vulgar language to characterize countries in Africa and Haiti.

Questioned by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) on the comment, Nielsen said she did not recall Trump using that word.

When pressed by Durbin about what she heard at the meeting, Nielsen said she heard "strong language" from a variety of members at the meeting.

She said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) specifically used curse words and was impassioned during the meeting.

Durbin, who was also at the meeting, defended Graham and said to Nielsen, "his strong words repeated exactly the words used by the president, which you cannot remember."

Senators also grilled Nielsen about Trump's demands for a border wall in order to pass a deal to save the DACA program, which the administration has decided to end.

When asked by Leahy if a border wall would be the best way to fortify the border or if it was an "outdated technology," Nielsen said "walls work."

She told Durbin that she "cannot agree to a deal that does not give the tools and resources to the men and women of DHS to do the job they have been asked to do."

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