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Investigative Journalist Jean Guerrero Talks 'Hatemonger: Stephen Miller, Donald Trump, and the White Nationalist Agenda'

Jean Guerrero - author photo (credits, Stacy Keck).JPG
Courtesy Jean Guerrero
Jean Guerrero is the author of “Hatemonger: Stephen Miller, Donald Trump, and the White Nationalist Agenda.”

Stephen Miller has helped craft some of President Trump’s toughest immigration policies like the separation of children from their parents at the border and the travel ban.

He's also inserted divisive language into the president’s speeches and he is seen as one of Trump’s most influential advisors. Miller is also one of the few to make it through Trump’s first term.

Miller’s rise to the White House is the subject of a new book by investigative journalist Jean Guerrero called, Hatemonger: Stephen Miller, Donald Trump, and the White Nationalist Agenda.

Texas Public Radio’s Reynaldo Leaños Jr. spoke with Guerrero about Miller’s early days, how he made his way to the White House, his influence on the Department of Homeland Security and what Guerrero thinks the next four years might look like if President Trump is reelected.

HATEMONGER - Jacket Image.jpg
Courtesy Jean Guerrero
The book cover of, “Hatemonger: Stephen Miller, Donald Trump, and the White Nationalist Agenda.”

RL: In your reporting for this book, you conducted more than 150 interviews. Basically, people who know or who have come into contact with Steven Miller at some point during his life. And I was hoping you can tell us what Steven Miller was like growing up and can tell us a little bit about his family history because they, too, were immigrants, right?

JG: Exactly. Steven Miller is the defendant as refugees. Jewish refugees who came to this country fleeing persecution in Eastern Europe. And he has a family that for the most part is very pro immigrant. My reporting shows that his father expressed conservative viewpoints early on in Stephen's childhood. And as a teenager, Steven Miller began to express very conservative and contrarian viewpoints. He was growing up in a very progressive city in Santa Monica, California. And, you know, began to call into his local conservative talk radio to talk about how multiculturalism is a threat to civilization and to complain about measures to improve racial equity in high school. So very, very opinionated from a young age going around his high school, telling his Mexican classmates to speak English or to go back to their countries. He would go into school board meetings in his high school to argue against measures to improve racial equity. And from my reporting it's clear that Steven Miller became radicalized at a very young age from, first of all, listening to a lot of Rush Limbaugh. And secondly his interactions with this man named David Horowitz, who is a former Marxist, turned to a right wing radical who introduced Steven Miller to this idea that the United States faces an existential threat in the form of the Democratic Party's partnering with Muslims and other people of color. So this very racist white supremacist idea that Steven Miller internalized at a young age and and became radicalized by it.

RL: And in your book, you talk about how there was essentially kind of like a tipping point where Steven Miller really flung onto the national audience. And this is when he was at Duke. And I was hoping you could talk a little bit about that and also give us kind of a brief timeline of his career and how he eventually ended up working at the White House because he also worked for Michele Bachmann and Jeff Sessions.

JG: Steven Miller was sort of an outlier. You know, people saw him as a fringe character who would never really do much harm because they just thought he was so out there. You know, he had this column in the Duke University newspaper where he would express very offensive beliefs about how systemic racism is a figment of your imagination. He would call it racial paranoia and he would single out his his black classmates in the pages. And, you know, would occasionally appear on Fox News and other national shows these offensive beliefs. And so it's interesting because early on, he found a platform and a way to use the media to elevate his voice. People still sort of rolled his eyes and thought, well, he's just so out there that there's just no way that he's ever going to be able to do any real harm. But his mentor from his childhood, David Horowitz got him his first job in Congress. David Horowitz got him a job with Michele Bachmann, the Tea Party congresswoman from Minnesota. And from there he got him a job with the John Shadegg, the congressman from Arizona. And then he got him a job, as you know, and later communications director for Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions. It's during his time with Sessions that Stephen Miller, you know, begins to build these alliances with the national conservative outlets like Tucker Carlson, like Ann Coulter, combative media personalities that he allied with to get really anti-immigrant talking points out into the world. And this is also when you meet Donald Trump.

RL: Once in the White House, and I guess a little bit before that to how and why was Stephen Miller able to connect so well with President Trump?

JG: So Steven Miller is officially the longest lasting adviser in the White House and arguably the most powerful adviser in the White House. And the reason is he has this very special relationship with Donald Trump. He gets Donald Trump emotionally, psychologically and spiritually. Stephen Miller's father is a real estate investor like Donald Trump and who is described to me as being very similar to Trump. You know, he was described to me as being very combative. Court documents describe him as a quote, masterpiece of evasion. He was tangled up in numerous legal disputes and bankruptcies related to his real estate company. People who've known Stephen Miller for a long time believed that one of the reasons to get along so well with Trump is that he grew up with a man who is very similar to Trump. He grew up in a family that had very similar values. And so he just gets Donald Trump and he's able to manage that relationship in a way that makes him almost like family ties to Trump. It's clear that Trump sees Stephen Miller as like a son. And part of it also is rooted in the fact that Stephen Miller cemented his status as a key player for the Trump campaign early on. You know, long before Bannon had joined the campaign, Steven Miller had done things for Trump that Trump believed ultimately helped him win in 2016. So, you know, Stephen Miller is the one who brought real immigration policy proposals to the table. Before Stephen Miller joined, Trump's only immigration plan was the border wall and people kind of rolled their eyes at that. People knew we've been building border barriers for decades and all it's really done is reroute traffic into the airports, into the ports of entry underground, into the ocean and so on. But Steven Miller began to pull policies directly from these think tanks that were created by eugenicists, particularly a eugenicist named John Tanton, who believed in population control for nonwhite people. And that primarily targeting family based immigration. And so this is why you see now in the White House, most of the immigration policies target families who have broken no laws. You know, refugees, asylum seekers who are trying to enter legally through ports of entry. You know, the suspension of green cards and all of this is Stephen Miller trying to reengineer the demographic flows into this country because of the fact that he was radicalized at such a young age to believe that people of color pose an existential threat to this country. You know, because he had been consuming false statistics, false migrant crimes, false black crime statistics from white supremacists and white nationalists Web sites.

To learn more about the conversation, click on the audio above.

Reynaldo Leaños Jr. can be reached at reynaldo@tpr.org and on Twitter at @ReynaldoLeanos