Miller and Trump

Donald Trump’s term as president was chaotic, with an ever-changing cast of characters installed in top positions. But, amidst the mayhem, senior advisor Stephen Miller was a constant. Miller, an anti-immigrant hardliner, started out advising Trump on the 2016 campaign and remained in the White House for Trump’s entire tenure. He was the architect of many of Trump’s most controversial policies, including the initiative to separate migrant children from their parents.

Miller has also remained a close advisor to Trump. In November, when the New York Times sought comment about Trump’s immigration agenda in a potential second term, the campaign “referred questions… to Stephen Miller.” Should Trump prevail in 2024, Miller is expected to be installed in an even more powerful position, perhaps Attorney General. (Miller is not a lawyer, but that is not technically a requirement for the job.)

After Trump was defeated in 2020, Miller started a non-profit dedicated to advancing Trump’s priorities, America First Legal. Through America First Legal, Miller has initiated dozens of legal actions, accusing various entities of discriminating against white people. For example, Miller filed a complaint against NASCAR — a sport with just a handful of non-white competitors — for “ongoing, deliberate, and illegal discrimination against white, male Americans.”

Miller has a history of promoting explicitly white nationalist texts. In a 2015 email to an editor at Breitbart, a far-right website, Miller recommended promoting the racist French novel The Camp of the Saints. The book, published in 1973, depicts the destruction of Western civilization due to an influx of dark-skinned migrants. The migrants “are portrayed as diseased people who eat human feces.” The title is a Biblical reference “to the army gathered by Satan who overrun the earth, including the camp of the saints.” The Camp of the Saints helped popularize the racist “Great Replacement” theory, which posits that there is an intentional effort to “replace” white populations with non-white migrants. It has been “a must-read within white supremacist circles for decades.”

In recent weeks, Trump has featured these racist concepts in his campaign rallies, claiming immigrants are “poisoning the blood of our country.” Trump featured this rhetoric during a December 16 rally in New Hampshire:

They’re poisoning the blood of our country. That’s what they’ve done… They’re coming into our country, from Africa, from Asia, all over the world. They’re pouring into our country. Nobody’s even looking at them. They just come in. The crime is going to be tremendous.

Hitler made very similar arguments to justify genocide in his autobiography, Mein Kampf. “All great cultures of the past perished only because the originally creative race died out from blood poisoning,” Hitler wrote. Hitler also argued that Germanic people were successful because they “racial stock pure and did not mix it with any other racial stock.” The dominance of Germanic people would continue, Hitler argued, “as long as that element does not fall a victim to the habit of adulterating its blood.” Ruth Ben-Ghiat, a professor at NYU and an expert in fascism, noted that “Nazis made the fear of blood pollution of their master race and their civilization a foundation of their state.”

Spoiler: dehumanize immigrants now so the public will accept your repression of them when you return to office.

Trump has been speaking about the dangers of “blood poisoning” since September. People quickly noted the parallels to Hitler, but Trump has continued to use the phrase. In a December 22 radio interview with Hugh Hewitt, Trump maintained that he “never knew that Hitler said it” and “never read Mein Kampf.” Trump went on to say that he knows “nothing about Hitler” and is “not a student of Hilter.”

Despite his stated ignorance of Hitler, Trump maintained that Hitler “didn’t say [blood poisoning] the way I said it.” Trump says his use of the phrase “blood poisoning” is “very different” because Trump is talking about “people coming into our country [and]… destroying our country.” This is, of course, exactly how Hitler and other racists have used the phrase. 

In November, Trump also promised to “root out the communists, Marxists, fascists and the radical left thugs that live like vermin within the confines of our country.” Mein Kampf also describes Jews as “vermin.”

“By this time next year, American democracy will either be ending or will have dealt a dramatic blow to its foes. It’s Götterdämmerung in Trump’s war against the world’s most powerful office.”

~Ben Wittes

Trump has repeatedly claimed ignorance to excuse ties to racists. For example, when former KKK grand wizard David Duke endorsed his candidacy in 2016, Trump said he didn’t “know anything about David Duke” and didn’t “know anything” about “white supremacy or white supremacists.” In a 2020 debate with Joe Biden, Trump claimed to be unfamiliar with the Proud Boys, a violent hate group.

Why it matters

Ben-Ghiat warns that Trump’s rhetoric is not just idle chatter. Rather, Trump is “dehumanizing” immigrants and others now “to get Americans used to the idea that they should be persecuted.”

Miller, on behalf of Trump’s campaign, pledged that “Trump will unleash the vast arsenal of federal powers to implement the most spectacular migration crackdown.” Miller described plans to “deport people by the millions per year” with a “blitz” intended “to overwhelm immigrant-rights lawyers.”

New tactics will include “workplace raids and other sweeps in public places aimed at arresting scores of unauthorized immigrants at once.” The scope of these raids would exceed the current capacity of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, so the effort would enlist personnel from the National Guard and other law enforcement agencies. Arrested migrants would be shuttled to “vast holding facilities that would function as staging centers.” These tent cities would be built by the military “on open land in Texas near the border,” according to Miller.

The facilities would initially be “focused more on single adults because the government cannot indefinitely hold children under a longstanding court order known as the Flores settlement.” Miller said a second Trump administration would renew its efforts to overturn the Flores settlement. Reimplementing the child separation policy is also a possibility.

Mildly objecting to copying Hilter

Trump is in the middle of a campaign to secure the Republican presidential nomination. According to polls, Trump holds a wide lead and the Iowa caucus takes place in just two weeks.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R), once considered Trump’s chief competition, passed on an opportunity to criticize Trump.

“I don’t know what this means with the blood stuff,” DeSantis said on Fox News. “I know people are trying to draw historical allusions. I don’t know if that’s what he meant.” The best DeSantis could manage was saying that he did not think Trump’s rhetoric would “move the ball forward.”
Nikki Haley
Former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley (R), who has gained some momentum in recent weeks, offered only tepid criticism of Trump in an interview with the Des Moines Register. Haley called Trump’s comments “not constructive” and “not necessary.” She then listed a series of actions she would take to deport migrants.