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This way madness lies

Dana Milbank on

WASHINGTON -- This way madness lies.

I knew that Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, when she appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, would deny that Trump said what the whole world knows he said: that he wants immigrants from Norway rather than from "shithole" countries in Africa.

What I was not expecting was that Nielsen would raise a question about whether Norwegians are mostly white.

Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., displayed a poster from the dais proclaiming, in big letters, "Trump: Why allow immigrants from 'Shithole Countries'?" An aide held the poster aloft right behind Sen. Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., who, along with Sen. Lindsey O. Graham, R-S.C., was at the infamous meeting with Trump and told others about his racist language.

Nielsen, who was also in that meeting, was now under oath, and she wiggled every which way to excuse Trump without perjuring herself: "I did not hear that word used. … I don't dispute that the president was using tough language."

Leahy moved on to Trump's wish for more Norwegian immigrants. "Norway is a predominantly white country, isn't it?" he asked, rhetorically.

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"I actually do not know that, sir," Nielsen replied. "But I imagine that is the case."

Kirstjen Nielsen doesn't know Norwegians are white?

Just as Nielsen "imagines" Norwegians are white, I imagine that she, in her denial of the obvious and defense of the indefensible, is the latest Trump sycophant to trash her reputation. She joins the two Republican senators, David Perdue of Georgia and Tom Cotton of Arkansas, who were in the room for the "shithole" moment but not only denied that it was said (Trump's use of the vulgar word was widely confirmed, even by Fox News, and not denied by the White House until Trump tweeted a partial denial the next day) but also disparaged the integrity of Durbin for being truthful.

It's clear they, like Nielsen, do this so they don't get crosswise with the volatile president -- but in the process shred their own integrity.

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