Monthly Archives: January 2018

Inside the swanky private club where Bill Gates, Eric Schmidt, and Justin Timberlake go to ski

The Rainbow Lodge at the Yellowstone Club.

The Rainbow Lodge at the Yellowstone Club.
Photo courtesy of The Yellowstone Club

  • Yellowstone Club was the first private ski club with its own mountain.
  • Notable members include Bill and Melinda Gates, Google’s Eric Schmidt, and Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel.
  • To become a member, you must own property within the grounds – which ranges from $2 million to $25 million. Initial membership fees are $300,000, and there is an annual fee of $37,500.

Yellowstone Club, a private ski resort and residential community near Big Sky, Montana, was a pioneer in the members-only space. The first private club with its own mountain, its uber-rich members include Bill and Melinda Gates, Google’s Eric Schmidt, Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel, former Vice President Dan Quayle, and NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke, as well as many Wall Streeters. Last summer, Fox NFL correspondent and “Dancing with the Stars” host Erin Andrews wed former NHL star Jarret Stoll at the club.

Its 2,200 acres of powder offer world-class skiing from the bunny slopes to its 2,700-vertical-foot drops, but to gain access to the club’s exclusive mountain, you must own property within the community limits. Real estate prices can range greatly, from $2 million all the way up to $25 million. Members must also pay an initial fee of $300,000 and an annual fee of $37,500.

Founded in 2001 by Tim Blixseth and his then-wife Edra, the club has endured its fair share of turmoil. It was forced to file for bankruptcy in 2008, and, ending last July, Blixseth spent 15 months in prison for civil contempt of court. This month Blixseth agreed to a $3 million settlement with creditors – a fraction of the $525 million they say they’re owed.

However, in June 2009 CrossHarbor Capital Partners’ cofounder, Sam Byrne, paid $115 million for Yellowstone Club, ushering in a new era and helping to turn the club around financially. The club’s Rainbow Lodge, with its spa, fitness center and pool, is the newest evidence that Yellowstone Club is working to stay up-to-date with the modern skier.

Ahead, 15 photos that show the joys of private skiing: no lift lines, and plenty of breathing room out on the slopes.

Yellowstone Club is nestled in the Rocky Mountains. Founder Tim Blixseth was set on creating a resort that focused on families with slopes and activities that catered to all ages.

Photo courtesy of The Yellowstone Club

To be a member of the Yellowstone Club, you must own property. With an aim to remain exclusive, membership is capped to 864 households.

Photo courtesy of The Yellowstone Club

There’s a huge range of real estate options, from condominiums to ranch homes on 360 acres of land.

Photo courtesy of The Yellowstone Club

Of course, prices also vary, from $2.5 million for a condominium to as much as $25 million for a mansion. And while traditional ski homes are common, there are also some modern, glassy mansions under construction.

Photo courtesy of The Yellowstone Club

Source: New York Times

The homes are just as gorgeous inside as they are on the outside — and they’re just as luxe as you’d expect. According to The New York Times, most homes include “ski rooms with individual lockers, heated driveways, bunk rooms and $5,000 boot dryers.”

Photo courtesy of The Yellowstone Club

Source: New York Times

Joining the Yellowstone Club costs an initial $300,000, and annual fees are $37,500.

Photo courtesy of The Yellowstone Club

One of the club’s most recent projects is the Rainbow Lodge, which now includes a restaurant, spa, fitness center, and a copper pool. With the renovation, the lodge has more than doubled in square footage.

Inside the Rainbow Lodge
Photo courtesy of The Yellowstone Club

Source: Curbed

Members also love the privacy and safety that the club offers. The grounds are reportedly protected by a security team that is led by a former Secret Service officer. It’s a major perk for those who don’t want bodyguards surrounding them while they ski.

Photo courtesy of The Yellowstone Club

Source: New York Times

The resort has 15 ski lifts and more than 60 trails.

Photo courtesy of The Yellowstone Club

The club prides itself on its variety of runs, which include groomed beginner runs, steep chutes, and trails lined with trees for experienced glade skiers.

Photo courtesy of The Yellowstone Club

On average, the Yellowstone Club’s Pioneer Mountain receives approximately 300 inches of snowfall each year — plenty of powder for great skiing and snowboarding.

Photo courtesy of The Yellowstone Club

But if that’s not enough, club members also have access to the 5,800 acres of public ski area at neighboring Big Sky Resort.

Photo courtesy of The Yellowstone Club

Other activities like tubing are available for children. The Li’l Rippers ski program teaches kids how to ski or snowboard.

Photo courtesy of The Yellowstone Club

Adults can get ski or snowboarding lessons, too.

Photo courtesy of The Yellowstone Club

Members can also go snowshoeing or snowmobiling in the winter months. In the summer, adventurers might go mountain biking, bushwhacking, or mountain climbing, while those wanting a slower pace can try out the 18-hole golf course designed by Tom Weiskopf. According to The New York Times, members now spend 60 days a year here on average.

Photo courtesy of The Yellowstone Club

Source: New York Times

We’re about to find out if Trump meant anything he said about taking a jackhammer to global trade deals

Mark Lyons / Stringer / Getty Images

  • In the coming weeks, the White House is expected to make trade decisions about several goods, ranging from steel to solar panels.
  • These decisions are aimed mostly at attacking China, but the way President Donald Trump is undertaking them could mean massive collateral damage.
  • If the White House’s moves are as aggressive as its rhetoric, it could undermine the international trading system and prompt some of the US’s closest allies to retaliate.

In the coming weeks, we’ll find out whether President Donald Trump meant what he said about trade during his campaign – whether he will “Make America Great Again” by throwing up protectionist tariffs meant to punish countries that have been “unfair” to the US in the international trading system.

In this White House’s endeavor to protect industries like steel and aluminum, we could very well anger powerful allies and open a Pandora’s box of issues unthinkable since World War II.

And in its effort to protect American intellectual property in China, the US could undermine the rule of law and, subsequently, its own very real argument against China’s very real IP theft.

In other words, we’re doing this all wrong, and that will have consequences. Of course, if you look at it Trump’s way, we’re already dealing with those.

“We already have a trade war,” Trump told a crowd at a rally in 2016. “And we’re losing, badly.”

Free to decide

The big decisions down the line have to do with steel, aluminum, washing machines, and solar panels.

The administration will decide whether to put up tariffs on steel and aluminum based on national security concerns. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross last week gave Trump his report on the issue.

To trade experts, this is a huge problem. Using national security concerns to justify tariffs on commodities brings up issues that World Trade Organization member nations have been responsible enough to leave off the table since WWII.

One such expert, Lee Branstetter, a professor of economics at Carnegie Mellon, said it would “set a precedent that anyone, especially the Chinese, can use against us.”

What he means is that once the US starts invoking national security to protect industries, everyone can do it. That’s why no one has done it. The international trade system is built on trust, and no one has violated that trust to this degree.

What’s more, the Trump administration wants to hit China with these measures for steel and aluminum. China has a problem with commodity overcapacity – it has more steel, aluminum, copper, and more than it can sell or use.

“The underlying source of the issue is China’s overcapacity,” said Chad Bown, an economist and senior fellow at the Peterson Institute. “But the problem from the US side is that we’ve mostly stopped steel and aluminum coming from China through anti-dumping duties.”

The US has used more-targeted measures to stop Chinese steel from coming into the country. It did pretty much the same thing with Chinese solar panels, Bown told Business Insider – in 2012, the US government put anti-dumping measures on them, but they kept coming in from other parts of Asia.

If the Trump administration just puts up blanket tariffs on these goods, we’d be hitting our allies, not the target.

“The proposed cure is worse than the disease,” Branstetter said, adding that it’s “quite likely” the US’s allies would retaliate.

“The WTO will give them a right to inflict equal pain on other industries,” he said.

That means, say, Boeing planes. Or Wisconsin dairy products.

“If a president had deliberately tried to undermine our allies’ good faith in us, you could hardly do a better job than the Trump administration,” Branstetter said.

US steel imports

US Department of Commerce

Don’t analyze

Some analysts expect the Trump administration may also act in the coming weeks on its investigation into the theft of American intellectual property in China.

Trade experts across the political spectrum assert that this theft is an issue. When US companies go into China, they’re forced into joint ventures with state-owned enterprises – and that’s where, they say, part of this theft occurs.

Multinationals also say that simply using the internet in China, with its “Great Firewall,” can result in theft. Of course, complaining too publicly is a no-no if they want to continue doing business there.

So the question here isn’t whether this is a problem, but how to deal with it.

The Trump administration has invoked Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974, something that hasn’t been used in the 15 years since the development of our modern trading system.

China sees the use of Section 301 as an act of aggression because it allows the American president to act against the Chinese economy without consulting the WTO, of which China has been a member since 2001. The section’s use fell out of fashion around that time because US leaders saw the WTO’s framework as having more legitimacy. Even allies were complaining about its use.

Initiating the investigation is not a violation of WTO rules, which the Trump administration would break only if it punished China on the basis of Section 301. The US could still take its findings to the WTO to try to come up with a solution within the body – but that wouldn’t jibe with the administration’s rhetoric.

What would be better, Branstetter said, is an effort to get countries together to subpoena multinationals to see what’s going on with IP theft in China. This would allow them to find out what multinationals are too afraid to say, as well as give multinationals the cover of being subpoenaed by their own governments.

The way this investigation is headed now, though, could give China the moral high ground on this issue. It too, then, could retaliate.

“This issue with China would be there even if had Trump hadn’t been elected,” Bown said. “But there’s still no real strategy from the administration on how to deal with China. There’s more of a piecemeal strategy.”

That piecemeal strategy comes with baggage. It comes with the erosion of trust in the US as a good actor on the world stage, as well as potential retaliation from our friends and frenemies that could harm our economy.

None of this is necessary. And it could have wide-ranging effects.

As Cordell Hull, the US secretary of state from 1933 to 1944, put it: “Unhampered trade dovetailed with peace; high tariffs, trade barriers, and unfair economic competition with war … It is a fact that war did not break out between the US and any country with which we had been able to negotiate a trade agreement.”

china imports to the us

Deutsche Bank

Ferrari will build an electric supercar to take on Tesla


  • Ferrari plans to build an electric supercar to challenge Tesla, according to a Bloomberg report.
  • The luxury carmaker said it also plans to launch an SUV by the end of 2019 or early 2020.
  • All Ferraris will have some hybrid technology by 2019.

Ferrari is throwing down the gauntlet and challenging Tesla by jumping into the electric car space.

CEO Sergio Marchionne said on Tuesday at the Detroit auto show that the automaker plans to build an electric supercar, according to a Bloomberg report. Marchionne also said that the company plans to launch its first SUV by late 2019 or early 2020 and that the vehicle will be the fastest SUV on the market, according to the report.

“If there is an electric supercar to be built then Ferrari will be the first,” Marchionne said.

Ferrari pushing into electric cars isn’t a complete surprise. Marchionne said in 2016 that all Ferraris would have some hybrid technology by 2019 and he said during an earnings call last May that the company was moving towards electrification.

“I think that there is now a view inside the house that electrification is a core skill that needs to be mastered and needs to be part of the offering of the combustion engine world,” Marchionne said.

Ferrari isn’t the only automaker investing in battery-powered cars, though.

According to a Reuters analysis, global carmakers have invested some $90 billion in electric vehicles. So once the automaker’s first electric car hits the market, it will likely have some stiff competition.

In November, Tesla revealed it a new Roadster, which is set to launch in 2020. And Porsche is planning on rolling out its all-electric Mission E in 2019.

People are desperately trying to #FixTrumpIn5Words

Twitter users are posting their best suggestions to #FixTrumpIn5Words

President Donald Trump has had his fair share of blunders since he took office about a year ago.

Just looking at 2018 alone: He reportedly referred to several foreign countries as “shithole countries”.

Then, there was the whole debacle of the US selling Norway fighter jets (F-52s) that didn’t exist. 

Oh, and let’s not forget that Trump also called himself “a very stable genius” who was “like, really smart”.

And from the looks of it, Twitter users have had enough. To solve the problem, many users started posting their best suggestions to #FixTrumpIn5Words on Friday (Jan 12).

Here’s a snapshot of some of the best ones we could find:

Twitter post by Devlyn Angel

Twitter post by SarahCA

Twitter post by E5quire

Twitter post by Travis Allen

Meanwhile, others simply admitted defeat:

Twitter post by Luisa Haynes

Twitter post by Dan Sutton

Twitter post by Lets_Groove_Tonights

But of course, there were a few who felt that there was nothing to be fixed:

Twitter post by Minnesota Patriot

Twitter post by S.Churchill

Twitter post by Jim Hanson

Trump’s hawkish security adviser reportedly held secret meetings with Japan and South Korea about standing up to North Korea

Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, the national security adviser, waiting to be introduced at the FDD National Security Summit in Washington, DC, on October 19.

Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, the national security adviser, waiting to be introduced at the FDD National Security Summit in Washington, DC, on October 19.
REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

  • President Donald Trump’s hawkish national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, reportedly took a meeting with his South Korean and Japanese counterparts to discuss North Korea.
  • McMaster has reportedly been pushing Trump to strike North Korea, and allegedly dismissed the recent talks between North and South Korea as “diversions.”
  • The US has backed off military drills that anger North Korea but stepped up pressure and military deployments in other ways.

H.R. McMaster, the US Army general and academic who leads President Donald Trump’s National Security Council, has reportedly attended secret meetings with his South Korean and Japanese counterparts on North Korea.

McMaster, a noted hawk who is reportedly pushing for Trump to give North Korean leader Kim Jong Un a “bloody nose” by conducting a limited strike on the country, took meetings Saturday and Sunday in San Francisco where he stressed a need for the three countries to present a unified front against Pyongyang, according to the news website Axios.

In the meetings, Axios reports, McMaster dismissed North Korea’s recent thawing of tensions and talks to Pyongyang as “diversions,” noting that Kim still intended to develop nuclear weapons.

Axios’ report sheds light on one of the more inaccessible parts of Trump’s presidency, in which top staffers guide his hand on North Korea issues.

While many have looked to the recent talks between North and South Korea as a beacon of hope, it could be that McMaster is looking past them. Though the US and South Korea took a big step toward peace talks by delaying joint military drills until after the Paralympics conclude in mid-March, the US has stepped up pressure in other ways.

US officials are now discussing interdicting ships they suspect of heading into North Korea, and the US has deployed all three varieties of strategic bombers to Guam as tensions soar between the two countries.

There’s a ‘significant risk to markets’ that’s a bigger worry than where the economy is headed next

REUTERS/Philip Massie

  • The Treasury Department is set to increase its bond sales to support the government’s funding needs.
  • According to Deutsche Bank’s Torsten Slok, this incoming supply flood is a “significant risk to markets” that’s worth more attention than the US economy’s nuts and bolts.
  • Several central banks, among the biggest buyers of Treasurys and key sources of demand, are getting ready to slow their bond buying.

The Treasury Department’s forthcoming increase in debt sales poses “a significant risk to markets,” according to Torsten Slok, Deutsche Bank’s chief international economist.

Treasury plans to slowly increase its issuance of coupon-bearing securities to support the government’s funding needs. This will be crucial as the gap between spending and income continues to widen. The US deficit jumped to a record $665.7 billion in the most recent fiscal year, and could hit $1 trillion in a decade, according to analyses of the new tax law.

One way the government plans to fund all that spending is by borrowing from the public. And this means that the Treasury’s issuance of bonds is set to surge.

There just needs to be interested buyers.

“The bottom line is that investors should spend less time looking at US economic fundamentals and more time on where a doubling in demand for US fixed income can come from, in particular in a world where central banks at the same time stop doing QE,” Slok said in a note on Tuesday.

He continued: “If demand for US fixed income doesn’t double over the coming years then US long rates will move higher, credit spreads will widen, the dollar will fall, and stocks will likely go down as foreigners move out of depreciating US assets. And this could happen even in a situation where US economic fundamentals remain solid.”

1 16 18 treasury supply COTD

Deutsche Bank

The Treasury Department is selling $62 billion in coupon-bearing bonds in the three months through February, when it’s expected to announce an increase.

This comes at a time when one of the biggest sources of demand for Treasurys – central banks – appears to be retreating to the backseat.

After the financial crisis, central banks in the US, Japan, and Eurozone helped keep interest rates low by buying up several billions worth of Treasurys. When demand for the bonds rises and increases their prices, their yields fall.

But the global economy is now in recovery.

The Fed is already shrinking its balance sheet, partly by not reinvesting $6 billion of its maturing Treasurys every month.

Last week, the European Central Bank and Bank of Japan spooked investors with news that suggested they were slowing their bond purchases.

Also, senior Chinese government officials reportedly urged slowing or stopping their buying of Treasurys. All this news sent the benchmark 10-year yield to its highest level in 10 months.

Poll: 48% of Americans think Trump’s ‘shithole’ remarks were racist

President Donald Trump.

President Donald Trump.
Getty Images/Pool

  • 48% of respondents to an MSN poll said it was racist of President Donald Trump to refer to African nations and Haiti as “shithole countries.”
  • Americans were sharply divided along partisan lines: 83% of Democrats considered the comment racist, compared to 10% of Republicans.
  • Trump’s comments have sparked widespread condemnation, including from the African Union, and several commentators and writers have accused Trump of racism.

Americans are divided on whether the latest provocative remark from President Donald Trump was racist.

The comment in question was Trump’s reported use of the word “shithole” to describe African nations and Haiti during a meeting with top senators about immigration last week.

According to a poll from Business Insider’s partner MSN, 48% of respondents thought Trump’s comment was racist, while 51% said it wasn’t and 1% wasn’t sure.

The results were split heavily along party lines: 83% of Democrats considered the comment racist, while just 10% of Republicans felt the same. Exactly 50% of independents said Trump’s comment was racist.

MSN Poll results are analyzed to represent the US adult population or specific sub-demographics. MSN describes the US adult population by thousands of combinations of age, gender, education, location and several other demographics. MSN takes the raw polling data and models how demographic groups answered each question, and then projects those answers onto the true distribution of the demographic groups. The method was tested in the 2016 election and proven to be as accurate as other polling methods – more details can be found here.

Trump’s comments sparked outrage from Democratic lawmakers, and prompted numerous commentators and columnists in the media to accuse Trump of racism.

A day later, the African Union, comprising all 55 African nations, condemned Trump’s remarks, saying they “dishonor the celebrated American creed and respect for diversity and human dignity.” The union demanded that Trump retract the statement and deliver “an apology not only to the Africans but to all people of African descent around the globe.”

Trump has denied that he used the specific word in the meeting, which was first reported by The Washington Post, citing several people briefed on the meeting.

“Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” Trump said, according to the report.

The comments were later confirmed by other news outlets. Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin, who was in the meeting, also confirmed Trump made the remark, although some Republican senators in the room said they did not remember hearing it.

The Post added that Trump said he would prefer if the US accepted more immigrants from Norway, which is predominantly white.

Exactly 50% of the respondents in the MSN poll said they were offended by Trump’s remarks. And more than half – 54% – said it was appropriate for the media to repeat Trump’s language. Several news outlets, including The Post, included the word “shithole” in its headlines, and CNN broke with tradition and featured the word prominently in its chyrons.

How a 23-year-old Max Levchin got Peter Thiel to invest in his startup — which became PayPal — in under 24 hours

Peter Thiel, pictured, didn't spend much time deliberating.

Peter Thiel, pictured, didn’t spend much time deliberating.
Neilson Barnard/Getty

  • At age 23, Max Levchin moved to Palo Alto, where some of his former startup cofounders lived.
  • One former cofounder recommended he talk to Peter Thiel, who was teaching a class at Stanford. Levchin wandered into Thiel’s class and they struck up a conversation.
  • Thiel picked one of Levchin’s business ideas and decided, over breakfast the next day, that he wanted to invest. That business became PayPal.

The summer of 1998 in Palo Alto was really hot.

Max Levchin, a 23-year-old recent graduate from the University of Illinois had just moved to the west coast, lured by two friends who were his former cofounders. The three of them had previously started a company that failed within a year.

Levchin didn’t have an apartment or a job of his own, he told Business Insider’s US editor-in-chief Alyson Shontell on an episode of the podcast “Success! How I Did It.” So he crashed on his friend’s – Scott Banister’s – floor.

The heat was the only problem. There was no air conditioning. Levchin was quick with a solution.

“I had a habit of hanging out at Stanford on campus during summer school because it was all air-conditioned,” he told Shontell. “So I could sneak into a lecture, go in the back, pass out, and sleep a little.”

At that point, Levchin’s other friend in Palo Alto – Luke Nosek – had just started another company, which was funded by a man named Peter Thiel. Nosek told Levchin: “Hey, Peter’s giving a lecture at Stanford one of these days. You should go meet him because he’s a really cool hedge-fund-manager-type guy, who is investing in startups.”

Levchin told Shontell, “I saw [Thiel’s] name on the pinboard, wandered into a class that was taught by him, which turned out to be more like seminar with six people in the room. So it was a very small group of people. One: I couldn’t sleep because it would be obvious, but two, he was actually pretty interesting. So I stayed awake and chatted him up afterwards.”

That turned out to be a good move. Here’s Levchin:

“In the inimitable Peter Thiel fashion, we basically spend about 20 minutes talking after his lecture, and he said, ‘Well, what are you doing in Silicon Valley?’ I said, ‘I just got here two weeks ago. Probably gonna start a company.’ He said, ‘Oh, great. We should meet for breakfast.’

“We met the next day. He said, ‘All right, so what companies are you thinking of starting?’ I had two ideas that I was concurrently thinking about. I described No. 1., No. 2. He said, ‘No. 1 is better; you should do that.’ ‘OK.’ ‘I’d like to invest.’ It was less than 24 hours later. Peter was a committed investor in my new project.”

Levchin told Shontell that his original “deal” with Thiel was that, in addition to investing, he’d have to help Levchin learn how to raise money.

At some point, it became clear to Levchin that Thiel was better at big-picture thinking, and that Thiel should be CEO. Thiel agreed, and they incorporated the company that would become PayPal.

Under Armour is getting hit after Macquarie slashes its price target

Facebook/Under Armour

Under Armour is getting whacked after Macquarie downgraded the stock and slashed its price target by 20%. The company is trading 7.85% lower to $13.01 on Tuesday.

Macquarie’s view on Under Armour is so dire that the firm suggested the company might have to raise new capital at some point in the future. Under Armour’s decline has been much worse than investors have realized, analyst Laurent Vasilescu wrote in a client note.

While the rest of Wall Street is expecting 2018 revenues to be 4.6% higher than the previous year, Vasilescu is expecting a decline of about 1% for Under Armour. He argues that only looking at the company’s income statement fails to tell the whole picture. While Under Armour has boosted its revenue number by adding several new wholesale retailers, sales at existing partners have slipped.

In 2017, Under Armour started selling its product in Kohl’s, Famous Footwear and Designer Shoe Warehouse. Combined, the three partners added $120 million of revenue, which helped mask a 2.1% decline in revenue, sans new partners. In North America, where the athletic apparel industry competition is heating up, Under Armour saw a 7% year over year decline in sales, according to Vasilescu.

If sales continue to decline like this, and the company continues to spend heavily to compete with the likes of Nike, Lululemon, Adidas, and others, it could be forced to raise more money. Vasilescu expects that doing so through a debt offering would be preferable to diluting the shareholder’s stake by selling shares, though it would be expensive due to a lackluster rating from the credit rating agencies.

Vasilescu rates Under Armour an “underperform” with a price target of just $8, which is $43.7% lower than the company’s current price and 20% lower than Macquarie’s prior $10 price target.

Under Armour is down 5.55% this year.

Read more about how Nike is going into “battleship” mode.

under armour stock price

Markets Insider

Homeland Security secretary denies under oath that she heard Trump say ‘shithole countries,’ but admits that he used ‘tough language’

Kirstjen Nielsen testifies on her nomination to be secretary of the Department of Homeland Security in Washington

Kirstjen Nielsen testifies on her nomination to be secretary of the Department of Homeland Security in Washington
Thomson Reuters

  • Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said under oath that she “did not hear” President Donald Trump use the phrase “shithole countries.”
  • Trump made the reported remark at a meeting on immigration at the White House last week, according to some senators who attended the meeting.
  • Nielsen said she did not dispute that Trump “was using tough language” in the meeting.

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday that she “did not hear” President Donald Trump use the word “shithole” to refer to foreign countries in a meeting last week.

“The conversation was very impassioned. I don’t dispute that the president was using tough language,” Nielsen said. “The concept and the context I believe in which this came up, was that the president would like to move to a merit-based system. The president used tough language in general, as did other congressmen in the room.”

The question, first asked by Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy, came after a now-infamous White House meeting with a bipartisan group of lawmakers, some of whom have said Trump used “shithole countries” to refer to Haiti and African nations. Nielsen was also grilled during the Tuesday hearing by Sen. Dick Durbin, who had attended the meeting and said Trump use the “hate-filled” language repeatedly.

Since that meeting last week, some Republican senators who attended the meeting have pushed back and said they did not recall Trump using the word. Other reports have emerged that Trump may have instead used the word “shithouse,” a distinction which may have given them cover to deny that Trump had said “shithole.”

“You were in the room, you’re under oath,” Leahy reminded Nielsen on Tuesday. “Did Trump use this word or a substantially similar word?”

Nielsen responded that Trump used “tough language in general, as did other congressmen in the room.”

Nielsen also later told Durbin that she had heard Trump defending his view that he wanted to move away from a “country-based quota system to a merit-based system,” adding that she didn’t “specifically remember” the exact phrasing.

She added that she heard “general profanity that was used in the room by just about everyone,” with the exception of herself and Durbin.

‘Being from Norway is not a skill’

Leahy and Durbin also asked Nielsen about Trump’s reported question about why the US couldn’t accept more immigrants from countries like Norway.

“When he denigrated Haiti, El Salvador, and Africa … he didn’t say it was because we need more PhDs or skilled workers,” Leahy said. “Being from Norway is not a skill. What does he mean when he says he wants more immigrants from Norway?”

Nielsen responded that she didn’t believe Trump meant the comment in the way Leahy suggested, adding that he had brought up Norway in reference to his recent discussion with Norway’s prime minister.

“The prime minister was telling him that the people of Norway work very hard,” Nielsen said.

She later added, “I heard [Trump] repeating what he had learned in a meeting before; that they are industrious, they are hardworking, they don’t have much crime, they don’t have much debt.”

Leahy also said, “Norway is a predominantly white country, isn’t it?” to which Nielsen responded, “I actually do not know that sir, but I imagine that that is the case.”

Watch a clip of the exchange below: