How Stephen Miller Manipulates Donald Trump to Further His Immigration Obsession | The New Yorker |
After graduation, in 2008, he was offered a job as press secretary for Michele Bachmann, a Republican representative from Minnesota, who gained national attention after an undocumented immigrant near her district crashed her car into a school bus, killing four children. Miller pushed Bachmann to go on television. On Fox News, she described the tragedy as an example of "anarchy versus the rule of law," and, in a later campaign stop, blamed immigrants for "bringing in diseases, bringing in drugs, bringing in violence." The following fall, after Bachmann was reëlected, Miller left his post, and took a communications job in the office of Jeff Sessions, of Alabama, then the Senate's staunchest opponent of immigration.
Sessions introduced Miller to such think tanks as NumbersUSA and the Center for Immigration Studies, which produced data-laden reports on the societal costs of immigration. Soon Miller was attending weekly meetings at the Heritage Foundation, the conservative-policy institute, with a small group of congressional staff. "He'd arrive with these policy notions he'd just conjure up," a participant told me. "He came across as super smart, but super right wing."
Putting theory into practise
In January, 2015, when Republicans took control of the Senate, Miller and Sessions published a rebuttal to the Party's 2012 postmortem, called "Immigration Handbook for the New Republican Majority." They wrote, "On no issue is there a greater separation between the everyday citizen and the political elite than on the issue of immigration."
Five months later, Trump declared his candidacy, and, in January, 2016, Miller took a leave from Sessions's office to join the campaign. Sessions, who considered Trump an ally on immigration, had doubts about his electability, but in February Steve Bannon convinced him that Trump could win.
In August, 2016, at a rally in Phoenix, Trump delivered a policy speech on immigration, written by Miller. It was typically raucous and aggressive, full of racist fearmongering, but it also contained a detailed blueprint. "Our immigration system is worse than anyone realizes," Trump began. "Countless Americans who have died in recent years would be alive today if not for the open-border policies of this Administration." A ten-point list of desired policies followed: among them were an "end to catch and release," "zero tolerance for criminal aliens," penalties for sanctuary cities, a vow to reverse Obama's executive orders, and a "big-picture" vision for reforming the immigration system "to serve the best interests of America and its workers." Miller told the Washington Post that it was "as though everything that I felt at the deepest levels of my heart were now being expressed by a candidate for our nation's highest office."
In the days leading up to Trump's Inauguration, Miller and a close associate named Gene Hamilton, another former Sessions staffer in his mid-thirties, drafted an executive order called "Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States"--the travel ban.
Miller has survived the upheavals in Trump's inner circle by representing himself as a member of the supporting cast. This strategy was reinforced by the demise of Steve Bannon, who, a few months before being fired, in August, 2017, appeared on the cover of Time, next to the headline "The Great Manipulator." Sessions was forced out in November, 2018, after having recused himself from the Russia probe. Trump continued to mock him, often in front of Miller. According to someone who witnessed the exchanges, Miller never spoke up to defend his mentor. He was "part of the family now," a White House official told me.
By the end of November, Miller was back in the news, though not by choice. The Southern Poverty Law Center acquired and published hundreds of e-mails that Miller had exchanged, between 2015 and 2016, with editors at Breitbart. They included links to articles on the white-supremacist Web site VDare, as well as an enthusiastic reference to "The Camp of Saints," a racist French novel about the ravages of immigration. In one e-mail, Miller approvingly forwarded an article arguing that the U.S. should deport immigrants on trains "to scare out the people who want to undo our country." In Congress, there were calls for his resignation, but only from Democrats.
In wake of 9/11 a bipartisan DHS ministry
In a cast of exceptionally polarizing officials, he has embraced the role of archvillain. Miller can be found shouting over interviewers on the weekend news shows or berating reporters in the White House briefing room; he has also vowed to quell a "deep state" conspiracy against Trump. When he's not accusing journalists of harboring a "cosmopolitan bias" or denying that the Statue of Liberty symbolizes America's identity as a nation of immigrants, he is shaping policy and provoking the President's most combative impulses.
Jeh Johnson [NY Times], who headed the Department of Homeland Security under Barack Obama, told me, "D.H.S. was born of bipartisan parents in Congress, in the aftermath of 9/11, when there was support for a large Cabinet-level department to consolidate control of all the different ways someone can enter this country." D.H.S. is the third-largest federal department, with a fifty-billion-dollar budget and a staff of some two hundred thousand employees, spanning the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. From its founding, in 2002, to the end of Obama's Presidency, the department had five secretaries; under Trump, it has had five more. "Immigration is overheated and over-politicized, and it has overwhelmed D.H.S.," Johnson said.
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