When the Southern Poverty Law Center’s blog Hatewatch revealed on Tuesday that Stephen Miller had pushed racist—and explicitly white-nationalist—content over and over again in 2015 and 2016, President Donald Trump’s senior policy adviser didn’t need any reassurances from his boss or his colleagues that his job was safe. Practically everyone in the building already knew it.
“Stephen is not going anywhere,” a senior White House official said on Tuesday afternoon, shortly after the story started going viral. “The president has his back.”
Since then, six other senior Trump administration officials with knowledge of Miller’s standing with the president and top staffers have all individually told The Daily Beast that the story did not endanger Miller’s position, or change Trump’s favorable view of him. Two of them literally laughed at the mere suggestion that the Hatewatch exposé could have toppled or hobbled the top Trump adviser.
Katie McHugh, a disgraced former Breitbart staffer who provided Hatewatch with the trove of emails, told the blog that Miller had personally flagged for her in July 2015 an American Renaissance “article about crime statistics and race.” American Renaissance is a white-supremacist website beloved by fascists and alt-right adherents. McHugh added, “I responded in the affirmative because I had read it. Many of us [on the far-right] had read it. I remember being struck by the way he called it ‘AmRen,’ the nickname.”
Publicly, the White House has turned to a patently absurd defense of Miller, the president’s White House speechwriter and go-to immigration restrictionist. Several prominent Democrats have denounced Miller or called for his resignation in the wake of the Hatewatch report. On Friday, BuzzFeed reported that Justice Department and Homeland Security officials were trashing the Miller emails as “sickening” proof that the Trump aide is spearheading a racist enterprise and deserves to be ousted from the administration.
But according to Trumpworld, it’s the liberals criticizing Miller who are engaging in flagrant prejudice and hatred, not the senior Trump aide who’s uncritically shared white-supremacist, anti-immigrant material from websites like VDARE, and also later helped shape the president’s disastrous policy of separating migrant families at the U.S. southern border.
“I work with Stephen,” Hogan Gidley, the White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary, told The New York Times on Thursday. “I know Stephen. He loves this country and hates bigotry in all forms—and it concerns me as to why so many on the left consistently attack Jewish members of this administration.”
By the White House’s own logic, Miller, who is Jewish, could also be charged with anti-Semitism. According to two people who’ve heard Miller go on protracted rants on the topic of immigration, many of the preferred targets for Miller’s ire also happen to be Jewish. One of his biggest bêtes noires over the past several years has been Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, largely due to the internet entrepreneur’s support for immigration reform during the presidency of Barack Obama.
The Hatewatch story—and a follow-up, published on Thursday—may have depicted, in graphic detail, the depths of Miller’s racist intellectual pedigree. The leaked emails between Miller and the pro-Trump website Breitbart show just how aggressively he was using his former position—while working in the office of then-Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL)—to promote the genre of extremist, far-right agitprop that Team Trump will sometimes officially disavow. Still, the extent of Miller’s views and xenophobia have been on full public display for years now. Just look at his record and trail of policymaking in the Trump era.
Since 2015, Miller has been instrumental in the honing of Trump’s anti-immigration fervor and racist rhetoric into actual policy. In the summer of that year, Trump’s presidential campaign put out a much-touted immigration policy “white paper,” which was released after receiving months of criticism that the campaign was all bluster and hadn’t detailed any real policies. As The Daily Beast previously reported, Miller was the principal author behind the white paper—even though he hadn’t formally joined the campaign yet.
In the years since, Miller has been a main driver, if not the architect, behind some of President Trump’s most brutal policies and proposals, including the “Muslim ban” and the separation of immigrant families. Miller routinely advocates for dramatically cutting legal immigration, as well as imposing lower and lower caps on the number of refugees Washington will allow into the country. He pushed for a purge of top administration officials and fellow immigration hawks deemed insufficiently hardline. And toward the end of Trump’s first year in office, Miller successfully operated behind the scenes to kill a deal that the president had tentatively struck with Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill to shield DREAMers from deportation.
In his past, working as a communications hand on the Hill, he was widely known as a prominent source, ideological fellow traveler, and—as some would joke—“assignment editor” for conservative media outlets opposing the Obama-era momentum toward bipartisan immigration reform. The Obama years, of course, closed out without the passage of a comprehensive immigration reform law, in large part due to politicians, operatives, and activists like Miller. As he ascended to his position of power and influence in the executive branch, Miller initially sought to maintain chummy relationships with journalists, and not just of the right-wing variety.
After the 2017 inauguration, Miller—like virtually every other senior Trump aide—would talk to certain political reporters covering the administration to try to get on their good sides, sometimes meeting them in public at bars such as Off The Record at the Hay-Adams luxury hotel, within walking distance of the White House. That’s according to two sources with knowledge of his interactions with the press. When talking to Washington Post reporters, for instance, Miller has lightheartedly said to them that they are “not fake news” like reporters at The New York Times are. On separate occasions, he has also been known to use the same line on staff at the Times but with the names of the two competing news outlets inverted.
However, times have changed since late 2017. Over the past two years, Trump’s senior policy adviser has become much more guarded and, as The Daily Beast previously reported, is nowadays incredibly careful about what he says while on the phone, because he’s concerned the call might be recorded to be used against him in the future. (To be fair, that is not an irrational fear to have in the upper echelons of Trumpworld.) Miller has also stopped having frequent contact with the majority of his political allies outside the administration, and speaks regularly to significantly fewer reporters than he used to. According to those who know him, he enjoys keeping his pool of possible leakers as small as possible.
“The handful of times he’s been public-facing have been as over-the-top as possible in his defense of Trump and advocacy for his policies,” Cliff Sims, Trump’s former director of White House message strategy, said earlier this year. “But ultimately he prefers to just keep his head down and work behind the scenes. That’s when he’s most effective.”