DHS secretary grilled by Senate on Sh*tholegate: "I did not hear that word used"

Five days later and we’re still on this, huh? Look on the bright side: It’s an excuse for CNN to say “sh*thole” on the air 195 more times.

Note how Pat Leahy phrases his question to her, asking if Trump described certain countries with the word “sh*thole” or “a substantially similar word.” There’s a reason for that.

Why does Leahy suspect Nielsen of splitting hairs, denying that Trump used a particular vulgarity when in reality he used a nearly indistinguishable one? Because, if you believe WaPo, that’s what Tom Cotton and David Perdue have been doing to spin for Trump.

Three White House officials said Perdue and Cotton told the White House that they heard “sh*thouse” rather than “sh*thole,” allowing them to deny the president’s comments on television over the weekend. The two men initially said publicly that they could not recall what the president said.

Sh*thouse, not sh*thole! This is the hill Republicans are apparently planning to die on as a party. Some are even drawing finely tuned distinctions between the two words to try to clean up what Trump might have meant:

Not only is that spin painfully lame, it doesn’t make sense on the merits. You could spin “sh*thole” the same way by claiming that he was referring to poor countries where pit latrines are used. It’s an insult to everyone’s intelligence to claim there’s a meaningful distinction between the two terms and a bigger insult to suggest that Trump might have meant something literal by his chosen pejorative. His fans knew exactly what he meant by “sh*thole countries.” And the punchline, via a Twitter pal, will be that all the dumb GOPers who are lining up now to defend the tortured sh*thole/sh*thouse discrepancy will be knifed by Trump himself when he inevitably admits at some point to having said “sh*thole.”

The most alarming detail in the WaPo piece, by the way, isn’t the rhetorical sleight of hand from Cotton and Perdue. It’s the suggestion that Trump really is tilting wildly between amnesty shills like Lindsey Graham and Dick Durbin and restrictionists like Cotton and Stephen Miller depending on whoever’s talked to him last. He’s been accused of that before; we even saw a small demonstration of it on live TV last week. But this is a high-stakes example:

When President Trump spoke by phone with Sen. Richard J. Durbin around 10:15 a.m. last Thursday, he expressed pleasure with Durbin’s outline of a bipartisan immigration pact and praised the high-ranking Illinois Democrat’s efforts, according to White House officials and congressional aides…

But when [Durbin and Lindsey Graham] arrived at the Oval Office, the two senators were surprised to find that Trump was far from ready to finalize the agreement. He was “fired up” and surrounded by hard-line conservatives such as Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), who seemed confident that the president was now aligned with them, according to one person with knowledge of the meeting…

After Graham left, he told associates that he was disturbed by what he heard in the Oval Office, according to people who spoke with him, and that it was evident the deal’s antagonists had gotten to Trump. Graham and Durbin also told allies that they were stunned that the other lawmakers were present — and that Trump’s tone seemed so different than it had been days or even hours before, according to people close to them.

The good news: People like Cotton, John Kelly, and Stephen Miller were there to steer Trump away from what really would have been a terrible DREAM deal. The bad news: It’s entirely possible that there’ll be no more immigration hawks in the White House at some point in the next three years to keep him firmly in the border-hawk camp. If Cotton ends up at the CIA, consumed with intelligence matters, who’s going to be there to explain to Trump why Durbin and Grahamnesty don’t have his best interests at heart on immigration?

“The meeting was short, tense and often dominated by loud cross-talk and swearing,” WaPo goes on to say. Nielsen made the same point during her testimony today, as you’ll see below. It wasn’t just the president cursing, she insists, it was everyone. Is that going to be the new lame spin, that profanity per se is the issue rather than Trump’s insinuation about the sort of people who produce “sh*thole countries”? Good lord, just admit it already and own it.