Somewhat lost in the frenzy over impeachment this week was a report from the Southern Poverty Law Center on Stephen Miller, a White House speechwriter and close adviser to the president.
An analysis of more than 900 emails from Miller to editors at Breitbart News, the report shows Miller’s single-minded focus on nonwhite immigration and his immersion in an online ecosystem of virulent, unapologetic racism. The Miller of these emails isn’t just an immigration restrictionist, he’s an ideological white nationalist.
It’s tempting to dismiss this as old news. Miller is, after all, the architect behind the Trump administration’s most draconian border and immigration policies, as well as some of its harshest anti-immigrant rhetoric.
The first travel ban, rolled out within days of President Donald Trump’s inauguration? That was Miller. Family separation at the border? That was Miller too. The relentless effort to limit asylum, deport protected migrants and block refugees from entering the country? Also Miller. The president’s January address from the Oval Office, in which he spun gruesome tales of immigrant crime and violence (“In California, an Air Force veteran was raped, murdered and beaten to death with a hammer by an illegal alien with a long criminal history”)? Stephen Miller.
But suspecting Miller’s ideological allegiances is quite different than knowing them. In the absence of proof, there was room for plausible deniability. That’s how a conservative magazine editor could praise Miller as a “wunderkind” for his command of the “details” of immigration policy while dismissing evidence that Miller was once close to Richard Spencer, a prominent neo-Nazi.
With the emails — supplied by Katie McHugh, a former editor at Breitbart — we now know what Miller was reading and thinking about in the year before he joined the Trump campaign. And there’s no denying the nature of the material.
In October 2015, while still an aide to Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, Miller sent McHugh a story from VDARE, a white nationalist website named for Virginia Dare, the first English child born in North America. VDARE is preoccupied with “white genocide” — the myth that nonwhites are working to destroy white people through immigration and intermarriage — and Miller cited the website in response to McHugh’s concern that the government would grant temporary protected status to Mexican survivors of Hurricane Patricia.
“This being the worst hurricane ever recorded, what are the chances it wreaks destruction on Mexico and drives a mass migration to the U.S. border?” wrote McHugh, who identified as a white nationalist at the time. Miller replied: “100 percent. And they will all get TPS. And all the ones here will get TPS too. That needs to be the weekend’s BIG story. TPS is everything.” He then sent her a link from VDARE that focused on the prospect of protected status for victims of the hurricane.
McHugh says Miller also directed her to stories from the website American Renaissance, another white nationalist publication, this one focused on eugenics and anti-black racism. Its founder, Jared Taylor, has argued that “When blacks are left entirely to their own devices, Western civilization — any kind of civilization — disappears.” In 2013, he argued for a white ethno-state. “We want a homeland where we are a majority,” he said.
There’s more. In June 2015, after Dylann Roof murdered nine black churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina, Miller emailed McHugh with an outraged message about retailers pulling Confederate flags from their stores, pointing her toward statistics on Confederate deaths in the Civil War. He then wrote to her about efforts to remove Confederate memorials:
What do the 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?
In a September 2015 email, Miller encouraged McHugh to show “the parallels” between Pope Francis’ pro-refugee statements and “The Camp of the Saints,” a 1973 novel by French author Jean Raspail. In the book, an influx of Indian refugees — described as subhuman and led by a feces-eating demagogue — storm France, killing, stealing and rampaging until they’ve completely occupied the country. Other migrants follow and eventually overrun western Europe, turning white Europeans into a subject class. The book is popular with white nationalists and is mentioned frequently on VDARE and the Daily Stormer, a neo-Nazi website. It is also a favorite of Steve Bannon’s, the other of Trump’s “two Steves.”
The White House has pushed back against the report. “This is clearly a form of anti-Semitism to levy these attacks against a Jewish staffer,” an unnamed official told Axios. But there’s no way to spin these emails into something innocuous. The evidence is overwhelming: Miller was immersed in white power ideology. He was fluent in the language of white nationalism, attuned to its ideas. He was an obvious sympathizer who brought that sympathy to the federal government, where he has a direct hand in making immigration policy and choosing personnel.
For three years, Miller has used his perch to inflict fear and anxiety on refugees, asylum-seekers and unauthorized immigrants. Maybe, if you were charitable to Miller and sympathetic to restricting immigration, you could frame this as a misguided but good faith attempt to pull back from a more liberal status quo. No longer. These emails show that Miller’s views flow from his commitment to racist exclusion and the protection of a white demographic majority.
Breitbart fired Katie McHugh in 2017 for anti-Muslim remarks on Twitter. Since then, she says, she has left the “alt-right” and renounced her white nationalist views.
Miller, on the other hand, is still writing speeches and making policy. And while Democrats have called for his removal in the wake of this report (“Stephen Miller must resign. Now,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said on Twitter), Republicans have been silent. Perhaps they’re occupied with impeachment, struggling to defend the president’s behavior against clear evidence of his guilt. Perhaps they don’t want to confront the fact that white nationalist ideas have a privileged place in this administration. Or perhaps they just don’t care enough to be alarmed.
If that sounds unfair, consider this: Republicans stuck with Trump in 2017 when he defended the “Unite the Right” protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, and they stuck with him in 2018 when he denounced “shithole” countries. They stuck with him through family separation, and they’re sticking with him as he keeps thousands of children in detention. Now we have proof that one of the president’s key advisers is awash in white nationalism. But to a Republican Party that has stuck with that president, what difference would this actually make?
Jamelle Bouie is an Op-Ed columnist for The New York Times.