When President Trump issued an executive order late Friday suspending the immigration of refugees and people from seven predominantly Muslim countries, the order was quickly traced back to his advisers Steve Bannon, the former publisher of Breitbart News, and Stephen Miller, a former aide to now-attorney general nominee Jeff Sessions.
The astonishingly cruel and incompetently executed order reflected a view of Muslims, and particularly of Muslim refugees, that Bannon frequently promoted at Breitbart. As the head of the conservative outlet, he regularly lifted up the voices of leading anti-Muslim extremists and used his daily Sirius radio program to share a dystopian vision of what he depicted as western civilization overrun by a Muslim “invasion.”
Bannon seemed especially taken with the description of refugees offered in the 1975 novel “The Camp of Saints” by French author Jean Raspail. Raspail’s dystopian vision of dark-skinned refugees taking over a white Europe has become popular among American white supremacists. Bannon cited the book at least twice on his radio program; once was in an interview with Sessions, where he warned that the “Muslim invasion of Europe” is “almost a Camp of Saints type invasion.”
While Trump spent his campaign demonizing refugees, calling them the “ultimate Trojan horse” and vowing to deport Syrian refugees already in the country, it appears to be Bannon and Miller who shaped that rhetoric into policy.
It’s this mindset that informed Trump’s executive order—and that will likely have another powerful voice if Sessions is confirmed as attorney general. In a story calling Sessions the “intellectual godfather” of Trump’s executive actions on immigration, the Washington Post’s Phillip Rucker and Robert Costa lay out the close alliance and ideological affinity between Sessions, Bannon and Miller when it comes to immigration issues:
The author of many of Trump’s executive orders is senior policy adviser Stephen Miller, a Sessions confidant who was mentored by him and who spent the weekend overseeing the government’s implementation of the refugee ban. The tactician turning Trump’s agenda into law is deputy chief of staff Rick Dearborn, Sessions’s longtime chief of staff in the Senate. The mastermind behind Trump’s incendiary brand of populism is chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon, who, as chairman of the Breitbart website, promoted Sessions for years.
Then there is Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, who considers Sessions a savant and forged a bond with the senator while orchestrating Trump’s trip last summer to Mexico City and during the darkest days of the campaign.
In an email in response to a request from The Washington Post, Bannon described Sessions as “the clearinghouse for policy and philosophy” in Trump’s administration, saying he and the senator are at the center of Trump’s “pro-America movement” and the global nationalist phenomenon.
“In America and Europe, working people are reasserting their right to control their own destinies,” Bannon wrote. “Jeff Sessions has been at the forefront of this movement for years, developing populist nation-state policies that are supported by the vast and overwhelming majority of Americans, but are poorly understood by cosmopolitan elites in the media that live in a handful of our larger cities.”
He continued: “Throughout the campaign, Sessions has been the fiercest, most dedicated, and most loyal promoter in Congress of Trump’s agenda, and has played a critical role as the clearinghouse for policy and philosophy to undergird the implementation of that agenda. What we are witnessing now is the birth of a new political order, and the more frantic a handful of media elites become, the more powerful that new political order becomes itself.”