Stephen Miller: the white nationalist at the heart of Trump's White House

The revelation of an email trove in which the senior aide trafficked in far-right ideas provoked outrage but little surprise

The extraordinary email leak came with a sense of inevitability. The senior Trump adviser Stephen Miller promoted white nationalist articles and books in emails to a writer at Breitbart, who after leaving the hard-right website leaked 900 messages to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).

It was a discovery that would end the careers of most political figures. But among calls for Miller’s resignation, a common theme emerged: a lack of surprise that the architect of Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant agenda endorsed white supremacist views.

“Stephen Miller has stoked bigotry, hate and division with his extreme political rhetoric and policies throughout his career,” a coalition of 55 civil rights groups wrote to the president this week. “The recent exposure of his deep-seated racism provides further proof that he is unfit to serve and should immediately leave his post.”

A columnist at the conservative newspaper the Washington Examiner, Tiana Lowe, wrote that while the public doesn’t know for a fact how Miller feels inside, he has historically shown an unwillingness to bend his hardline stance on immigration, thereby threatening more mainstream Republican policies.

“It’s long past time for Trump to dump Miller,” Lowe wrote.

In a turbulent White House, the 34-year-old has been the driving force behind controversial policies such as family separation, the travel ban on Muslim-majority countries and a rule that would penalize legal immigrants for using public benefits.

Courts have ended, amended or put the policies on hold but they are standout examples in a portfolio of changes to legal and humanitarian immigration frameworks happening at such a rapid pace it is difficult for most Americans to comprehend.

What the American public does understand is Miller’s laser focus on blocking immigration to the US.

Before the emails were released, Miller was called a fascist at a Mexican restaurant in Washington DC. He also reportedly threw away $80 of takeout sushi, after a bartender followed him into the street.

Miller’s uncle, who has admitted he has not had many conversations with his nephew in the past 10 years, wrote an opinion piece charging that Miller was an “immigration hypocrite”, because his ancestors included Jews who came to the US to escape pogroms in Russia.

In an interview with the Washington Post published in August, Miller dismissed charges of racism.

“It is a scurrilous and scandalous lie,” he said, “born of a complete and total lack of understanding of the harms done by uncontrolled migration to people of all backgrounds, and born of a contempt for this nation, for our law enforcement officers and for the citizens who live here – and oftentimes, I might add, born of a personal grudge against this administration.”

He told the Post he had no plans or ambitions beyond his job, because of his focus on the president.

“You cannot understand me, you cannot understand anything that I say, do or think if you do not understand that my sole motivation is to serve this president and this country, and there is no other,” Miller said.

Such religious attachment to Trump might have seemed unlikely for a Californian from a predominantly liberal, beachside community like Santa Monica. But Miller started early as a conservative provocateur.

“Am I the only one who is sick and tired of being told to pick up my trash when we have plenty of janitors who are paid to do it for us?” he asked while running for class president in high school.

Before graduating, he had appeared on a nationally syndicated conservative radio talkshow more than 70 times.

In the Trump administration, as one of few surviving initial appointees, he has deployed a similarly inflammatory style.

In response to questions about Trump’s authority to implement the travel ban, Miller said the president “will not be questioned”.

His response to the four Democratic congresswoman known as the Squad? “They want to tear down the structure of our country.”

How to explain the zero-tolerance policy which allowed for mass family separations at the border? “A simple decision.”

The email leak, however, showed a new depth to Miller’s anti-immigration agenda. In reports published in the past two weeks, the SPLC showed that Miller disseminated conspiracy theories positing a United Nations-inspired plan to colonize America and recommend a book which claims refugee resettlement – a program Miller has helped nearly destroy – is part of a plan to erase American sovereignty and culture.

There has been a steady drumbeat of calls for Miller to go. This week, Hillary Clinton tweeted: “Every day Stephen Miller remains in the White House is an emergency.”

On Thursday night, more than 100 Democrats in Congress signed a letter to Trump demanding Miller’s removal.

“A documented white nationalist has no place in any presidential administration, and especially not in such an influential position,” the letter said.

The White House has supported Miller. But it has not denied the emails came from him; nor has it addressed the emails’ content.

Stephanie Grisham, the White House press secretary, said the SPLC was an “utterly discredited, long-debunked far-left smear organization”. Hogan Gidley, her deputy, claimed the criticism was related to Miller’s Jewish identity.

“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,” Gidley told the New York Times.

On Friday morning, a coalition of Jewish groups called on Trump to fire Miller, in order “to make clear that white supremacy has no place in the White House or the United States of America”.


Amanda Holpuch in New York

The GuardianTramp

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