Donald Trump’s special assistant Julia Hahn has a new job in the White House—and, so far, it’s not going according to plan.
After Steve Bannon was ousted from the Trump White House in mid-August, his former Breitbart employee and fellow Donald Trump aide Seb Gorka wasn’t far behind. Next, White House official Andrew Surabian, a Bannon adviser and Trump campaign vet, left the West Wing to go join the former chief strategist’s outside political operation.
That left Hahn, a former Breitbart staffer and Bannon protégée, to fend for herself in a White House that appeared to be shedding Breitbart alumni and Bannon-associated personnel.
In the months since, Hahn has managed to hold on. But her position in the Trump administration has changed. Previously, she had worked as an aide to Bannon, advising on immigration policy, on which she is a right-wing hardliner. But her boss’s departure killed the specific office she worked for, and she quickly started expressing her wish to be transitioned into a communications role, according to three sources working in and out of the West Wing.
It appears she got her wish. According to a source familiar with her situation, the former Breitbart rabble-rouser has, for the past few weeks, been working with the White House comms team, with a focus on outreach to conservative media outlets. In that capacity, she has reached out to right-leaning and pro-Trump publications.
“There have been meetings and outreach to right-of-center news organizations like… The Washington Free Beacon, The [Daily] Caller, [and] Breitbart News,” a White House official told The Daily Beast, discussing Hahn’s new job. Hahn has also been in touch with the Conservative Review, according to a source familiar with the conversations.
Hahn also still works closely with senior policy adviser Stephen Miller, particularly when pitching outlets on immigration-related stories. And recently, the two of them have been talking to journalists at conservative publications, trying to sell them on a possible deal framework that the White House has been preparing on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), the President Barack Obama-era program ended by Donald Trump that give legal protections to undocumented minors.
“Given her background, it made sense to have her do this type of media outreach for [the White House],” another West Wing adviser told The Daily Beast.
According to multiple sources familiar with their overtures, the pair have been actively taking the temperature with hard-right media outlets to see what their reporters and editors think of a potential deal with the Democrats to legislatively enshrine DACA protections (which won’t fully expire until March) in exchange for slashing legal immigration and chain migration.
The strategy is aimed at putting Democrats in a box. Ever since the president seemed to agree to a DACA framework with Democratic leaders, Miller has looked for “poison pills”—the types of policy demands that Republican would include for the express purpose of forcing Democrats to vote the bill down.
But Miller and Hahn have had trouble making the sale. Though President Trump is supportive of their approach, the deal does not include the White House’s promised border wall. Beyond that, some conservative reporters have flat-out told the White House that they will not get behind any deal that includes DACA protections, and that they don’t believe Miller and Hahn are selling a “poison pill” at all.
This includes Hahn’s former employer.
Two sources familiar with the situation tell The Daily Beast that Hahn and Miller’s pitch to Breitbart (where Bannon is now again serving as its chairman) went over “incredibly poorly,” as one person noted, and that the pro-Trump outlet made clear that they would “wage war” if and when the proposal officially sees the light of day.
In a speech on Saturday, President Trump’s former top strategist echoed this sentiment.
“It’s time [Republicans in Congress] finally understood something: If there is amnesty, they’re going to get blown out,” Bannon said in an address to The Remembrance Project, an anti-illegal immigration American nonprofit organization. “We have fought this for years and years and years and years. The American people, and particularly folks in the Republican Party and the conservative movement, have said in no uncertain terms, there will be no amnesty and there will be no path to citizenship.”
Hahn, Miller, Breitbart’s rep, and the White House comms shop did not respond to multiple requests for comment on this story. Sources spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not cleared to discuss Hahn’s new portfolio.
One reason Hahn may be struggling to sell a new DACA deal is that her outreach to those in conservative media has been surprisingly limited. Top officials at right-wing press outlets say they have yet to hear from her in her new capacity.
“Not a peep,” said an editor of the popular site RedState. Leon Wolf, the managing editor of The Blaze, Glenn Beck’s network, said he has “not heard from her personally, and I’m not aware that anyone on my team has.”
Even Jim Hoft, the proprietor of the popular and vehemently pro-Trump website The Gateway Pundit, says Hahn has been MIA. “I have not heard a thing from Julia in months,” he told The Daily Beast on Friday.
But Hahn also has gotten little help from the president in her job. Members of conservative media have been increasingly complaining that the president has done only a few interviews on conservative talk radio, a hub of Trump support, preferring instead to go on cable news—almost exclusively Fox News—where he knows he will get a warm reception.
That has left some conservatives in the digital space frustrated with the White House. “We have tried to do several interviews [with the president and senior White House officials] and it has been ridiculously difficult,” a senior official at one popular conservative news outlet said.
The official asked not to be named for fear of further alienating the White House press office.