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Make America White Again: Stephen Miller’s Assault on Immigration & His Quest to Change the Country

Web ExclusiveAugust 26, 2020
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We continue our in-depth interview with Jean Guerrero, author of the new book, “Hatemonger,” which profiles Stephen Miller, the anti-immigrant policy adviser President Trump sees as key to his 2016 victory and winning again in 2020. Guerrero is an award-winning investigative journalist who details Miller’s formative years, his relationships with the white nationalist Richard Spencer and others, and his influence on a broad range of Trump policies.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org. We are breaking with convention. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González, as we bring you Part 2 of our conversation with Jean Guerrero, the award-winning investigative journalist and author of the new book, Hatemonger: Stephen Miller, Donald Trump, and the White Nationalist Agenda.

If you can talk, Jean Guerrero, more about how central Stephen Miller is to the entire Trump agenda, not that Donald Trump didn’t have these ideas before, but formulating them, turning them into policy, really weaponizing them? President Trump taking on Stephen Miller, this is really significant now, because Kellyanne Conway was one of the three of the longest-surviving advisers. You have Stephen Miller, Kellyanne Conway and Jared Kushner. Now Kellyanne Conway has stepped back, because she is having family problems. So that gives Stephen Miller even more power. He clearly is not very successful when he’s on TV, so they’ve pulled him back from being a kind of spokesperson. But that’s not really where he started. When President Trump was running for president, it was Stephen Miller who was the warm-up act, coming from Jeff Sessions, where he led his anti-immigrant agenda. Give us the history, even back to where he grew up in Santa Monica, Jean.

JEAN GUERRERO: Yeah, I mean, officially, Stephen Miller is now the longest-lasting adviser in the White House, outside of the president’s own family.

And he is someone who — he grew up in Southern California, in Santa Monica, California. You know, some people are surprised to learn that the architect of Trump’s anti-immigration agenda comes from California, which is such a deep blue state these days. But, you know, one of the reasons I was interested in telling Stephen Miller’s story is because I grew up in Southern California during the same time period, and I remember, you know, there was this intense anti-immigrant hostility at the time. There were, you know, statewide bipartisan attacks on bilingual education, on affirmative action, on social services for children of undocumented migrants. You had the governor of the time, Pete Wilson, blaming all of the state’s fiscal and crime problems on what he called the migrant invasion.

So, a lot of the rhetoric that we’re seeing coming out of the Trump administration was very common in the California of Stephen Miller’s youth, and I truly see Stephen Miller as being a product of that environment. And, you know, he, from a very young age, was expressing these racist viewpoints, internalizing the rhetoric of the state, going around his very diverse high school, you know, telling his Mexican classmates to go back to their countries if they can’t learn the American way, telling them to speak English, going to school board meetings to argue against measures to improve racial equity — you know, not the kind of stuff that you normally see out out of a young teenager.

AMY GOODMAN: While you’re talking about Stephen Miller in high school, Jean, I wanted to go back to a clip of him in 2002 at a high school pep rally in Santa Monica, California. Univision obtained a video made by four of his high school classmates for an audio-visual production class at the time.

STEPHEN MILLER: I’m Stephen Miller. Some of you may or may not know who I am. We don’t have time to get into that right now. … I’m the only candidate up here who really stands out. … I will say and I will do things that no one else in their right mind would say or do. … 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?

JEAN GUERRERO: You know, Stephen Miller, at this time, had met these extremists, like a former Marxist named David Horowitz, who had introduced him to this idea that — this false idea that everything that we hold dear as Americans is a result of white men, that, you know, white men created liberty, white men created equality, and that we need to, you know, preserve those things by maintaining a white majority. Although David Horowitz always says he’s not a racist and that for him it’s not about race, when you look at his writings, they’re very much steeped in race.

And one critical thing about Horowitz is that when Stephen Miller — you know, he goes to college. He graduates. He’s kind of seen as a pariah. You know, people are offended by the things that he says out loud. But they kind of just roll their eyes. They think he’s just too out there to ever, you know, do anything to really harm people. But David Horowitz gets him a job in Congress with tea party Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, and eventually with Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions.

And this is where, you know, he meets Donald Trump. He goes on to shape his campaign. Meanwhile, Horowitz is feeding him talking points and policy goals, including a strategy paper that talks about how the Republican Party needs to remake itself around demonization, and specifically inciting base emotions, fear instead of hope, and other hostile emotions. And you see Stephen Miller just running with this and, you know, inserting very graphic, gory descriptions of alleged migrant crimes into Trump’s speeches, creating an immigration policy that is aimed at reengineering the ethnic flows into this country to keep Brown and Black people out.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And in terms of Miller’s influence, even before he hooked up with Trump, during his period with Sessions, he was instrumental — wasn’t he? — in preventing comprehensive immigration reform from being enacted back in 2013 or so, when it looked like there was a compromise being developed between Republicans and Democrats in the Senate around immigration reform?

JEAN GUERRERO: Exactly. This is critical. I mean, Stephen Miller came to power during a time when the Republican Party was really moving towards becoming a more diverse and more inclusive party. You know, they had had their autopsy report in 2012, where they talked about how they needed to reach out to minority communities that they don’t normally reach out to.

And Stephen Miller, meanwhile, was meeting with Jeff Sessions, was meeting with Steve Bannon, who eventually became the chief strategist for a while for Trump, and looking at analyses about the, quote, “missing white voter,” and deciding that there was this missing white voter in the 2012 election that they were really going to double down and triple down on targeting, through the use of fear, through the use of demonization, as I talked about earlier.

But, you know — and this is when you see, you know, there’s this historic bipartisan immigration compromise between Republicans and Democrats, that further militarizes the border, provides a legal pathway for people who are already here legally — a true compromise. And Stephen Miller goes to work with right-wing media outlets to completely smear this bill as something that was going to, quote, “decimate America” through the limitless importation of cheap labor — again, this apocalyptic language that is very common to Stephen Miller. And it ended up derailing the bill very successfully.

And this is also when Stephen Miller was, you know, working with Breitbart to pump white nationalist and white supremacist literature onto its writers, to mainstream these ideas, you know, laundering them through these other narratives about national identity, about heritage, about national security and economics.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: You also talk in your book about how right-wing radio helped shape the ideas of Stephen Miller, or — could you talk about that, as well?

JEAN GUERRERO: Yeah. So, Stephen Miller, when he was a teenager in high school, he calls into this local talk show host called The Larry Elder Show, and, you know, starts to complain about the multiculturalism at his school, starts to complain about the alleged lack of patriotism at his school.

And Larry Elder, who is a Black man who at the time was saying that there is no such thing as systemic racism against Black and Brown people, that the problems of the Black communities are due to problems of self-determination in the Black communities — you know, these very racist ideas that allowed people white listeners to perceive themselves as not racist because of the fact that the host was a Black man. This man, Larry Elder, ended up being very impressed with Stephen Miller, you know, how articulate he was, how passionate he was at a young age, and decided to give him a platform throughout his — you know, multiple times. He came on 69 times, according to Larry Elder.

And this is when, at a very young age, Stephen Miller’s voice was being listened to by other key figures in the Trump administration who were in Los Angeles at the time — you know, Steve Bannon; Andrew Breitbart, the founder of Breitbart; Alex Marlow. You know, all these people were listening to Stephen Miller and impressed by him. And when they met him again later, it, you know, rung a bell.

AMY GOODMAN: You mentioned Breitbart, and I wanted to go to what happened last year with reporter Katie McHugh, who gave her private emails with Stephen Miller to the Southern Poverty Law Center. Can you talk about what was contained in those emails and what happened?

JEAN GUERRERO: Yeah. So, those are the emails that revealed that Stephen Miller has this affinity for white nationalist, white supremacist literature. I mean, he was sending over links to websites like American Renaissance, which is a white supremacist website that pumps out false crime statistics about Black and Brown people to paint them as more violent than white people — you know, sending over these kinds of websites and stories and urging Breitbart writers to write articles about them.

One of the most telling ones was Stephen Miller urging them to write about the parallels between real life and this book called The Camp of the Saints, which is a very racist, white supremacist book about the end of the white world after it is destroyed by this horde of refugees who are described in very animalistic and bestial — you know, talked about as beasts and monsters, language that is supposed to get you to feel a sense of fear and hatred and disgust towards people of color. And the book explicitly endorses violence and hatred towards people of color, as well as towards their antiracist allies, which it characterized as “agitators” and “anarchists” and “mobs” — the exact same language that you see Stephen Miller inserting into the speeches of Donald Trump, especially now, during 2020, when he is trying to distract from, you know, the crises on his hands, such as his disastrous response to the coronavirus crisis.

But yeah, these emails really showed Stephen Miller’s affinity for white nationalism. And you saw calls for his resignation, you know, throughout the country. But Donald Trump doubled down on this adviser, who he’s very close with, perceives as a son, and you know, even attended his wedding in February as the coronavirus was spreading.

AMY GOODMAN: And you have The Hill reporting that something like 25 Jewish House members — now, Stephen Miller is Jewish, though he’s been fiercely condemned, for example, by his uncle, David Glosser, his mother’s brother, for his anti-immigrant views, and said, “Our family wouldn’t even be here if they didn’t accept immigrants in this country.” But you have 25 Jewish House members calling on Trump to fire Stephen Miller over those leaked emails because of how, well, anti-Semitic they are, as well as hate-filled and racist, Jean.

JEAN GUERRERO: Exactly, exactly. I mean, he’s not — he’s doubling down on having him there because he trusts him so much.

But you’re right. I mean, in the book, I delve into, you know, his family members. His maternal grandmother Ruth spent her entire retirement compiling the family history for her grandchildren. She writes that she sees herself as a bridge between the ancestors who came here fleeing persecution, fleeing nationalist agitators, and grandchildren, like Stephen Miller, and, you know, trying to record for them the stories and the dangers of demonization, so that her grandchildren will never forget the value of people who come to this country with nothing but the clothes on their back and speaking no English, as Stephen Miller’s great-grandparents came to this country. But this is a lesson that, you know, Stephen Miller directly assaulted throughout his life, completely ignored.

And this has had broad national security consequences, outside of the immigration issue. People often think that Stephen Miller’s story is all about immigration, but one of the most surprising things when I was researching this book is, you know, Stephen Miller is a public relations flack who was put in charge of policies for this country at the age of 31, with no policy experience, and repeatedly disregarded the input of national security experts, bypassed the bureaucracy, you know, to ram his white nationalist agenda through. And this has left Americans more vulnerable to a range of real threats, such as the pandemic that we’re seeing today, according to White House officials that I interviewed for the book.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: I wanted to ask you in terms of the unfinished agenda for Stephen Miller, because many people were surprised not only at the vehemence of the Trump — the first four years of the Trump administration’s attacks on the undocumented, but also on legal immigration and the restricting of even legal immigration, refugees and so forth. If Trump is reelected in November, what would you envision as what a Miller would push him to do?

JEAN GUERRERO: Well, you’re absolutely right. I mean, the disproportionate impact so far has been on people who have broken no laws, with the exception being, in some cases, the misdemeanor of illegal entry, but mostly, you know, slashing refugee admissions to record lows and completely obliterating the asylum system at the U.S.-Mexico border.

And in a second term, Stephen Miller, you know, has pretty much adopted most of the policies that were recommended by these eugenics-funded groups that advocate for population control for nonwhite people. One of the things he has not been able to get through, which I think we would absolutely see in a second term, is ending birthright citizenship. This idea that if you are born here, you have a right to become a citizen, it is in our Constitution, it is in our 14th Amendment. And Stephen Miller has been wanting to attack that from day one. And, you know, he’s brought it up. He’s brought it up to Trump. Trump has brought it up. But this is not something that they’ve really focused on, because it would be so difficult to do, and probably impossible, and faced with intense opposition. But I absolutely believe that if we see a second term, that this is going to be one of their priorities, to eliminate this constitutional right of people to become citizens if they are born in this country.

AMY GOODMAN: Which particularly goes to the issue of, again, developing a birther theory — a birther attack — on Kamala Harris, saying her parents weren’t born here — the very thing that they did, of course, with President Obama — but that was Trump without the help of Stephen Miller — because President Obama’s father was born in Kenya.

I wanted to turn, though, to Stephen Miller speaking to Tucker Carlson last month about the demonstrations in Portland, Oregon, against police brutality and racism, as well as the deployment of federal forces there. Miller said the police are responsible for dealing with violent crime, but federal agents could also be called upon.

STEPHEN MILLER: That responsibility still falls mostly on the shoulders of police departments in our local communities, but this government is still going to step up and use DEA, FBI, ATF and DHS to try to keep our citizens safe.

TUCKER CARLSON: Good luck. A lot of people are rooting for you in that, for sure. Stephen Miller —

STEPHEN MILLER: This is about the survival of this country, and we will not back down.

AMY GOODMAN: “This is about the survival of this country,” says Stephen Miller, “and we will not back down,” he says. Jean Guerrero, can you respond? And also, the weaponization of the DHS, that is really the — well, that’s Stephen Miller.

JEAN GUERRERO: Yeah. I mean, it speaks to two things for me. I mean, one of them is just this — you know, the fact that he is a case study in radicalization, a case study in indoctrination, a person who at a vulnerable age, when they were going through a hard time, when his father had lost a lot of money, you know, was radicalized in these very extremist ideas that, you know, there’s some kind of existential threat facing the country in the form of Brown and Black people and the Democratic Party partnering up with them, which is a very white supremacist idea that Stephen Miller ran with throughout his life.

The other thing is, like, Stephen Miller, as I show in the book, he’s very obsessed with mobsters and mobster movies. You know, throughout his life, he would dress up as Robert De Niro’s mobster character in the movie Casino and go to Las Vegas for celebrations, for birthdays and things like that, with his friends and family, up until into his thirties. And this idea that there is no law and order, apart from “might makes right,” really defines Stephen Miller and really defines Donald Trump and, you know, speaks to how they’re using federal forces, using DHS, to push through their political agenda and demonize antiracist protesters who are trying to protest police brutality, you know, Black Lives Matter being painted as some kind of threat to civilization. And this is just — it speaks to the way that Stephen Miller was radicalized at a very young age.

You know, just a couple days after that interview with Tucker Carlson, he started — Stephen Miller talked to the Washington Examiner about how this is about a war on cancel culture. They are prioritizing battling cancel culture as one of the gravest threats facing American civilization, essentially lumping together any critics of white male supremacy under this banner of cancel culture, in order to cancel them and, you know, silence their voices, using federal forces in addition to the White House platform.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Could you talk somewhat about the relationship between Stephen Miller and the white nationalist Richard Spencer at Duke, how it began?

JEAN GUERRERO: Yes. So, that was a very — a critical turning point for Stephen Miller, when he starts to think about the immigration system and how to use the immigration system to filter out Brown and Black people. He met Richard Spencer at Duke University. They were friends, according to Richard Spencer. They worked together to organize an event that brought the white nationalist Peter Brimelow onto campus to speak about his book called Alien Nation, which talks about the need to pause immigration completely because of the racial character of the people who are coming to this country, mostly people from what he calls the Third World, which, again, you know, he talks about as some kind of apocalyptic threat to civilization.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Peter Brimelow, who himself was an immigrant, right? I think he was from Great Britain, wasn’t he?

JEAN GUERRERO: Yes, exactly. He came from Great Britain and is also an immigrant, but, you know, believes that the whiteness of America needs to be preserved. And this is how Stephen Miller — you know, he had been exposed to white supremacist ideas laundered through the language of heritage and national security previously, you know, through his mentors, like David Horowitz, but this is when he starts to read about them in a much more explicit fashion, be introduced to white nationalist websites like VDARE, which is run by Peter Brimelow. And this is a real turning point in Stephen Miller’s thinking. And, you know, Stephen Miller says that he wasn’t friends with Richard Spencer, but it’s documented that they worked together on bringing Peter Brimelow to campus.

AMY GOODMAN: And I wanted to talk — follow up on what Juan just asked you about Richard Spencer, go to Charlottesville and what happened there, and now Spencer endorsing Joe Biden. At first I thought it was some kind of dirty trick, where he said, “I plan to vote for Biden and a straight democratic ticket.” He tweeted this on Sunday. “It’s not based on 'accelerationism' or anything like that; the liberals are clearly more competent people.” He said, ”MAGA and the GOP are 'collectivist' now, in the sense that the party messages to 'normal white people,' with heavy Southern evangelical inflection. I simply recognize how ineffective, useless, and traitorous the GOP is.” And he goes on to tweet, you know, it will allow us to lay low for now and, something like, you know, rise up later.

JEAN GUERRERO: Exactly. I haven’t heard back from Richard Spencer. I’ve tried to — I mean, I interviewed him for the book, but I tried to reach out to him to ask him about this latest endorsement of Biden. So, I can’t speak to how he would explain it to me. But what I can say is that, you know, Richard Spencer, he’s been a little bit hurt by the fact that he’s been cast aside by people like Stephen Miller, who says that he was never friends with him, completely renounces his ideas, pretends that they’re completely different ideologies. And I think that — you know, I think it’s more of a PR stunt than anything else, you know, Richard Spencer just trying to remake his reputation and start to try to come back into the limelight, and this is the most provocative way to do it.

AMY GOODMAN: And, Jean Guerrero, if you can talk about what surprised you most in your research? Did Stephen Miller respond to you? Has he responded to the book, Hatemonger?

JEAN GUERRERO: No. So, I tried to reach out to Stephen Miller. I reached out to Stephen Miller from the moment that I got the book contract, reached out to the White House, told them I wanted them to be a part of the process of the reporting and, you know, offer them an opportunity to speak. But, you know, ultimately, they decided not to participate.

As far as the thing that most surprised me about my reporting, it was probably — you know, I came up as an immigration reporter, as someone who had been covering the human cost, the consequences of Stephen Miller’s policies from the busiest border crossing in the United States. And I was looking at it as an immigration reporter, as someone trying to understand Stephen Miller’s impact on the immigration system and on immigrant and asylum seekers and refugees’ lives. And what surprised me was to realize and discover through my reporting how much bigger this was than the immigration system.

Stephen Miller has had an impact on your life, regardless of whether you care about immigration or not, because of the demonization that he’s brought to Trump’s rhetoric, because of the radicalization of the Republican Party that he has contributed to and how he has weaponized the Department of Homeland Security. So, he demonizes not only immigrants, but also the Democratic Party, you know, Black Lives Matter, and is really behind this demonization. And if you want to understand the era of polarization that we are living today, you have to understand Stephen Miller, and not only that, but the era of crises that we are living because of the fact that Stephen Miller was given so much power in the White House despite his lack of experience and his complete disregard for the input of experts, that instead — you know, the coronavirus response, instead of being focused on masks and medical equipment, it was focused on suspending green card access, targeting international students, shutting down the border to asylum seekers — you know, ramming through all of the things that Stephen Miller wanted to do that he hadn’t gotten to do yet. And this has consequences for everybody, not just immigrants.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Jean Guerrero, I want to thank you so much for being with us, award-winning investigative journalist, author of the new book, Hatemonger: Stephen Miller, Donald Trump, and the White Nationalist Agenda.

To see Part 1 of our discussion, go to democracynow.org. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González. We are breaking with convention. Stay safe. Wear a mask.

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