Nobody would mistake Stephen Miller for a humanitarian. The White House speechwriter is widely known to be the force shaping President Trump’s anti-immigration rhetoric and policies. Remember Trump’s Oval Office address in January, with its hyperbolic references to rapes, murders, and even dismemberment? That was all Miller, as McKay Coppins reported for The Atlantic at the time. Or the speech the president gave in Poland back in 2017? “The fundamental question of our time is whether the West has the will to survive,” Trump told a crowd in Warsaw. “Do we have the confidence in our values to defend them at any cost? Do we have enough respect for our citizens to protect our borders? Do we have the desire and the courage to preserve our civilization in the face of those who would subvert and destroy it?” If that sounds too eloquent for Trump, you’re right. The words belonged to Miller. So, too, did many of Trump’s most outrageous immigration policies, like family separation, and his ongoing quest to end temporary protected status for thousands of refugees.
None of this suggests that Trump is fully Miller’s puppet. Trump was a racist long before he became president and he campaigned on nationalist sentiments that Miller appears to share. But it is true that Miller has used the Trump White House to amplify his own, more developed notions about immigrants and race. A new report from the Southern Poverty Law Center clarifies the source of Miller’s views. He isn’t just an immigration skeptic. He’s immersed in the white-nationalist movement, and has been at least since he worked for Jeff Sessions.
Reporter Michael Edison Hayden says he received 900 emails between Miller and editors at Breitbart, a far-right website largely favorable to Trump. The emails were leaked by Katie McHugh, who was fired from Breitbart, and who told BuzzFeed News earlier this year that she had joined and then left the alt-right. In them, it’s clear that Miller directly influenced Breitbart’s coverage, and frequently shared links from white-nationalist websites, including InfoWars, VDare.com, and American Renaissance, with the expectation that McHugh would pick up their coverage for Breitbart. Miller also recommended Camp of the Saints, a book widely beloved by the alt-right. In it, Europe foolishly opens itself to hordes of refugees, who proceed to rape and murder the native inhabitants. Multiculturalism will kill you, it suggests; it will offer up your women and destroy your children. Steve Bannon loves the book. Even mainstream conservative commentators like Rod Dreher have offered somewhat more qualified — but still largely positive — assessments of its contents. Miller’s affection for the book not only shows him to be well-versed in the literature of the alt-right; it also helps establish a genealogy for the Trump administration’s posture toward refugees.
Miller’s white-nationalist sympathies aren’t limited to immigration. After Dylann Roof murdered black churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina, Miller was troubled by the prospect that Confederate monuments might disappear. In one message to McHugh, he wrote, “What do the [Confederate monument] vandals say to the people fighting and dying overseas in uniform right now who are carrying on a seventh or eighth generation of military service in their families, stretching back to our founding?” (The military might have its own white-nationalist problem, but as a matter of fact, it is not an all-white institution.) In a subsequent email, Miller wondered if the Spanish should thus be asked to stop displaying the country’s flag since it is, after all, a symbol of colonialism.
On their own, the emails are incontrovertible proof that Miller is not only racist, but is conversant in and influenced by white-nationalist thought. But Hayden also confirmed previous reports that as a student at Duke University, Miller worked closely with Richard Spencer, and had been in contact with Peter Brimelow, who would go on to found VDare. “It was evident to me Miller was not interested in a multicultural society,” a former student who’d known Miller told Hayden.
Though the report is damning, the White House has dismissed it. In a statement to press on Tuesday afternoon, the White House denounced SPLC, and seemed to indicate that Miller would remain on staff:
Another White House staff told Axios that SPLC’s report was “anti-Semitism,” since Miller is Jewish. SPLC’s report was a fitting start to a day that included the FBI’s yearly report on hate-crime trends, which are at their highest in 16 years.