Leaked Emails Reveal Extent of Stephen Miller’s Extremism and GOP’s Moral Rot

White House senior policy advisor Stephen Miller speaks with supporters of Donald Trump at a rally at Veterans Memorial Coliseum at the Arizona State Fairgrounds in Phoenix, Arizona, in 2016. (Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr Commons)

Reporting published today by Southern Poverty Law Center’s Hatewatch blog further reveals the extent that Stephen Miller, a senior policy adviser to President Donald Trump, relied on white nationalist perspectives to inform his policy-making and worldview.

Miller is often credited as the architect of Trump’s immigration agenda, which has included separating migrant children from their parents at border detention centers, denying green cards to applicants who seek welfare assistance from the government, banning immigrants from five Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S., and repealing protections for immigrants who were brought to the United States illegally as children. The Washington Post wrote of Miller in August: “As one of Trump’s longest-tenured and most trusted aides, his influence in the West Wing is rivaled only by Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, [top administration officials] say.” The New York Times wrote that Miller has operated with “influence on virtually every element of immigration policy” and that while wielding that influence, “he has pushed for the hardest line.”

As a student at Duke University, Miller interacted with white nationalists Richard Spencer, who helped organize the deadly Unite the Right rally in 2017, and Peter Brimelow. Although Miller denies Spencer’s characterization of their interactions as a mentor-mentee relationship, Spencer has refuted Miller’s denials in public podcasts. Earlier this year, Spencer said of Miller while he attended Duke, “Clearly I was influencing him.”

In July, Right Wing Watch’s Peter Montgomery posited the question: “Is Donald Trump Fulfilling White Nationalist Jared Taylor’s Dreams?” Taylor expressed his optimism in May 2016 that the Trump administration would attract “people who do think the way we do … who read our web pages, who listen to our podcasts, and they will work in all sorts of very, very useful ways in all levels of his administration.” In Miller, Taylor’s wish came true.

In the SPLC report, senior investigative reporter Michael E. Hayden examines a trove of emails leaked by former Breitbart editor Katie McHugh, in which Miller corresponded with employees at the right-wing website in 2015 and 2016 and sought on multiple occasions to insert white nationalist talking points into the site’s coverage. SPLC’s Hatewatch reportedly “reviewed more than 900 previously private emails Miller sent to Breitbart editors” and found that “more than 80 percent of the emails Hatewatch reviewed relate to or appear on threads relating to the subjects of race or immigration.” From SPLC’s Hatewatch:

Miller’s perspective on race and immigration across the emails is repetitious. When discussing crime, which he does scores of times, Miller focuses on offenses committed by nonwhites. On immigration, he touches solely on the perspective of severely limiting or ending nonwhite immigration to the United States. Hatewatch was unable to find any examples of Miller writing sympathetically or even in neutral tones about any person who is nonwhite or foreign-born.

Hatewatch reports that among the emails Miller sent to McHugh while she worked at Breitbart, one included a link to a story published on the white nationalist website VDARE. The sentiment of that article—which criticized instances when the U.S. granted temporary protected status to refugees from majority non-white countries—is now reflected in modern Trump administration immigration policy. Miller also recommended that Breitbart write about the racist novel, “The Camp of the Saints.” Hatewatch reports that the novel is popular in extreme-right circles because it “fictionalizes the ‘white genocide’ or ‘great replacement’ myth into a violent and sexualized story about refugees.” Breitbart obliged and published a story referencing the novel weeks later.

Emails obtained by Hatewatch also revealed that Miller sought to direct a counternarrative through Breitbart in response to web retailers’ removal of Confederate flag merchandise after white nationalist Dylann Roof murdered black churchgoers in South Carolina in 2015. When another white supremacist murderer killed nine people at a community college that same year, Miller hyperfocused on the killer’s racial identity, according to other emails obtained by Hatewatch. Miller also reportedly espoused conspiracy theories about immigration, backed racist immigration policies introduced by President Calvin Coolidge that were praised by Adolf Hitler, and deployed slang popular in white nationalist circles to reference immigration. 

Miller has long been accused of supporting a racist agenda from his perch in the White House. Miller’s own uncle has criticized Miller as being an “immigration hypocrite” because Miller is the descendant of ancestors who fled violent anti-Jewish pogroms in Belarus, writing in Politico that Miller had become “the architect of immigration policies that repudiate the very foundation of our family’s life in this country.” Miller’s right-wing allies have been largely dismissive of evidence that Miller supports a racist immigration agenda, and have instead praised his extreme anti-immigrant policies. Earlier this year, right-wing media attacked Rep. Ilhan Omar after she called Miller a white nationalist.

The leaked emails underscore the fact that despite occupying an office with seemingly boundless access to the nation’s resources and information pools, Trump chooses to rely on far-right conspiracy theories to inform his agenda. And in this instance, Trump has leaned on someone whose worldview is shaped by white nationalist propaganda to craft his administration’s immigration policy.

That a figure like Miller could rise in the ranks of the GOP and be normalized in the American press is indicative of a moral rot in the Republican Party and a failure of the nation’s largest mass media networks to address Miller as what he is: a white nationalist at the heart of power in a GOP administration.