The Southern Poverty Law Center’s Hatewatch report on the leaked emails of Trump senior policy adviser Stephen Miller shows the deep connections he has to racist white nationalists.
MARC STEINER: Welcome, everybody, to The Real News Network. I’m Marc Steiner. Good to have you with us.
Stephen Miller is a leading policy advisor to Donald Trump. He may also be the direct link between the White House and the white nationalist movement in this country. The Southern Poverty Law Center’s Hate Watch reviewed over 900 emails between Miller and the editors of the right-wing news organization, Breitbart. They were leaked by their former editor, Katie McHugh, who they fired. So I guess you have to be aware of who you fire. In those emails, he pushed a white nationalist agenda, like setting up camps that separate children from families, banning Muslims from certain countries, selling arrest quotas for the undocumented in our country, and more. Now, the white nationalist influence, if not in control of the White House, may be much more real than we admit. And we will explore some of that.
We are joined by Michael Edison Hayden, who is Senior Investigative Reporter for the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Hate Watch. In addition to investigating the Stephen Miller emails, he exposed the identity of a white nationalist organizer working within the State Department in August and published A Guide to Open Source Intelligence reporting for Columbia University’s Tow Center in June. And Jared Holt joins us. He’s an investigative reporter with Right Wing Watch. He wrote our article on this investigation, called Leaked Information Reveals the Extent of Stephen Miller’s Extremism and the Grand Old Party’s Moral Rot.” Right Wing Watch is part of the advocacy group People for the American Way, and he specializes there in researching and reporting extremist right-wing movements in our country. And good to have you both with us. So welcome.
So let me start, Michael, with you, and the background to this just very quickly–how this began. And this was true, right, that the woman who he initially had the email conversations with at Breitbart… Stephen Miller, the woman he talked with, quit, or was fired, I should say, and leaked these emails to you all. Is that right?
MICHAEL EDISON HAYDEN: Well there was a significant amount of time between when McHugh was let go by Breitbart and when I received the emails. I mean, she was let go in the spring of 2017 after publishing some tweets that were widely perceived to be Islamophobic. And McHugh went into a period of self-examination, I guess is the way she portrayed it to me. And she passed along emails to me in June of this year, and I was pretty shocked about what I saw.
MARC STEINER: So I mean, I’m just very curious–we’ll return to Jared here in a moment–when you said you were shocked. I mean, talk a bit about when you first received these emails; you saw this unfolding. What do you mean, shocked? Shocked how?
MICHAEL EDISON HAYDEN: Well, I mean, my main focus is not to cover the administration. My main focus is to cover white nationalism, to cover the Neo-Nazi movement, particularly the online sectors of extremism. That’s where my background lies. And I didn’t go into it saying, “Oh, I’m going to do something about Stephen Miller. Stephen Miller is a white nationalist,” or anything like that. I was handed this material. The first thing I was shown was that he shared a link to a white nationalist website, and said, “Does that interest you?”
And I said, “Yes, it does, because this is very familiar to me.” And when I began to look at it, there’s a level of shock in seeing patterns that were very familiar to me, having covered extremists who are the type of extremists that are not welcome to have a voice almost in polite society, I mean, people who are frequently suspended from social media and things like that, to see those types of patterns of language being used by somebody who is widely regarded to be the most influential advisor the president has.
MARC STEINER: So Jared, how shocked were you by this when you first read it? What was your take?
JARED HOLT: My take is that we’ve known Stephen Miller has had past interactions with this movement before. He’s certainly advocated for policies that many people would perceive to be racist and unfair to immigrants trying to enter this country. But what Michael’s reporting showed was him in his own words, and I think that carries a lot of weight on itself. It’s one of those situations where you could listen to experts, you could listen to people making allegations, or you could just see him, in his own words, expressing what he believes. And I think that is crucial reporting that Michael was able to bring to the public’s attention.
MARC STEINER: All right. Let’s get to the heart of what happens in some of these. There’s just one email I’m going to pull out here from the report that I read from the Southern Poverty Law. And I understand, just to be clear, Michael, there are other reports, as you alluded to in the article, at the end, there’s more coming out. So this is just the beginning, and we will be covering this with some intensity here. So in this one email, Breitbart is saying that they are going to do a series of stories on non-white SAT scores, to break it down. It says, “It’s easier for people to digest it that way and change their minds.” Miller writes back, “On the education angle? Makes sense. Also, you see the Pope saying West must, in effect, get rid of borders. Someone should point out the parallels to the Camp of the Saints.”
Let me stop there for a moment. So when I read that line in your article, Michael… First of all, let’s talk about the Camp of the Saints, what this book was. And there’s more about this as it’s unfolding, as I read the other emails. This is not like some sci-fi novel that we all love to read. This is a book that was a cornerstone of some of the most right-wing racist movements in Europe.
MICHAEL EDISON HAYDEN: Yeah. This book is… From my perspective, you put this thing on your bookshelf, you’re generally making a statement. Either you’re an extremism reporter or, more often than not, you’re an extremist. It’s not the type of thing that you see people reading in public, on a public transit or whatever. The book is scathingly racist and dehumanizes non-whites in a way that is truly grotesque. There is an Indian character, and he sort of leads a flotilla of refugees into France, and he’s called a “turd eater,” and he eats literal human feces. And basically, he and the rest of these brown-skinned refugees come into France, and when they get there, they overtake the population gradually. There’s a part in the book where a white woman is raped to death basically, by refugees. The refugees are depicted as inherently savage and subhuman.
And it’s dystopian in the same way that the 1987 film Robocop is dystopian, but the message of that is the one about public works being privatized. This is a message that refugees, or people from the developing world, are going to come here and completely destroy your country and destroy what you perceive to be your homeland. And it’s not surprising that it has been … It was immediately picked up by white nationalists. I mean, the publisher who issues the book in the United States is a white nationalist publisher who we list, Hate Watch lists in that respect on our website.
MARC STEINER: So pick up on that, Jared. I mean, when you look at someone like Stephen Miller, who is clearly creating some of the most significant policies around immigration and more in our country and is at the right hand of Donald Trump… So talk a bit about what you think; how deep this goes and what that means.
JARED HOLT: Well, as far as the Camp of the Saints thing goes, I have seen some pushback from people who would like to defend Miller. They’ve said, “It’s not a crime to read a book.” But I think that sort of misses the point here. What Stephen Miller was doing was indicating that he was familiar with the contents of the book, and then suggesting a right-wing publisher to further the contents of that book to a right-wing audience, under the guise of some sort of political analysis. So that is indicative to me of a pattern that represents what is likely Steven Miller’s agenda, which is to be a part of the Republican movement under Trump and to usher in policies that are adjacent, in the very least, to the goals of white nationalism.
MARC STEINER: Let’s wrestle with this one question for a moment. Racism and antisemitism run very deep in our world. And racism in this country is one of our greatest social diseases and most everybody is infected by it at some level. So we’re not talking about somebody who may have some racist ideas who works in the government. We’re talking here, Michael, about people who are part of a white nationalist movement who are virulent racists, who live by their racism. And they’re at the heart of the White House here. This is a pretty frightening scenario. I mean, this is different than having a conservative or a liberal deciding what policy is. We’re talking about people who–for want of a better term–in the old days might’ve been called a fascist, at the top.
MICHAEL EDISON HAYDEN: Yeah. I think the best way to frame this–the best way to look at it, in my opinion–is to understand that, yeah, there’s garden variety racism. There’s the stereotype of your uncle or whatever at the Thanksgiving table, this sort of thing, right, that people bat around. And then there’s a difference between organized racism and trying to organize society around racist ideas. And that’s a huge difference. It makes a huge difference to us because we’re not interested policing people based upon the fact that they use slurs. We are interested in people who want to restructure society and have ambitions to restructure society in broad ways. And then if you look at some of the policies that the Trump administration has enacted, I’ll give you one example here, in the emails, there’s one where he shares a link to VDARE, which is a white nationalist website. And they sort of support the sort of white genocide myth, this idea that whites are being systematically eliminated or whatever.
He shares that in the context of temporary protective status for refugees. He’s like, “Here, read this,” and to a very young reporter, who was only 10 months out of college, he says, “Read this. Why don’t you read this as your guide?” And I think that that says volumes about our changing policies around temporary protective status, because we have, the United States has removed the ability to protect refugees from, after natural disasters, from a number of countries that are predominantly non-white. And in doing that, you can see a connection between Miller sharing this email, “This is my reference point,” and then, here we are, and the president of the United States and the people around him are acting on it.
MARC STEINER: And I’m not one who tries to be an alarmist all the time, and I try to look at things kind of objectively and analytically, but Jared, when you heard what Michael just said, and you look at, there’s one quote that came out of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which was, when they talked to Katie McHugh, the woman who released these emails, who was the editor of Breitbart before, and the quote was, “What Stephen Miller sent to me in those emails has become policy at the Trump administration,” which is what Michael was just describing here. But I mean, this is, I think, politically, when you look at what could be unfolding here, I mean, this is where the danger lives, that the–go ahead.
JARED HOLT: I totally agree. I mean, in 2016, when the alt right, as it would come to be known, essentially a reboot of the white nationalist movement, was gaining foothold in the United States and galvanizing around Trump’s campaign, the biggest hope that they had was that one day they would have government officials, people at the highest levels, that read their podcasts, that read their blogs, that thought the way that they do. And these emails from around that era of the alt-right indicate that Stephen Miller was one of those people. And now Stephen Miller is one of the most, probably, if not the most influential policy voice in the Trump White House. And that is reason for huge alarm, in my opinion.
MARC STEINER: If you look at what Miller is doing; he’s playing this very close to the vest. He’s really very shrewd and smart, cutting off all contacts with so many people because he was afraid to be exposed, not phone calls and writing again so he wouldn’t be exposed. So unearthing this, I wonder, has there been any reaction yet to your report, Michael, from the White House, from any folks in Republican Party around this?
MICHAEL EDISON HAYDEN: Well, they dismissed the report outright in a statement and said that they were… They just attacked Southern Poverty Law Center, as I expected they were going to attack their credibility. Somebody from the White House apparently insinuated to an Axios reporter that this was an antisemitic attack because Miller himself is Jewish, which I think is going to be a very difficult case to make given the reporting that I have done on overt Neo-Nazis who have ambitions of killing Jews. From what I’ve seen, they don’t really have an answer to it, other than to attack the source. And I kind of expected that. I figured they would attack. Honestly, I thought the attacks would be a lot more aggressive than they have been. I thought there’d be a lot more attacks on our character, on my character, and things like that. I think that there’s just no way for them to claim that the emails are not real. They’re real. He sent them.
MARC STEINER: Exactly. And I’m sure the attacks will become more forceful in the coming week. But as we conclude here, one of the things, Jared, that you wrote in the end of your article; your quote was, “That a figure like Miller could rise in the ranks of the GOP and be normalized in the American press is indicative of the moral rot of the Republican Party and a failure of the nation’s largest mass media networks to address Miller as what he is, a white nationalist at the heart of power in a GOP administration.” Well, let me just ask you both to wrestle with that comment, and let you start since you wrote that, Jared. I mean, we’ve talked about this on the air before. The number of people who are virulently racist and part of this national movement are in the White House. They’re in the executive branch. How deep does it go? How worried should America be about what we’re looking at, or are we being overly concerned?
JARED HOLT: Well, I think the point of history that we’re in right now is the result of a system that has ultimately faulted. I do not think that this is indicative of a healthy, functioning democracy, that figures like Miller, figures like Trump himself even, can rise to the level of power that they have and receive institutional support from the mainline GOP, and also from an institutionalized press that pretends that this is just another side of a normal political debate. What we’re fighting for, ultimately, is our political future for the next set of decades. And I do think that it’s interesting to see if mainstream media, if our major networks, are going to wrestle with this story and treat it as seriously as I believe it is.
MARC STEINER: I think it’s a very serious story to wrestle with. Michael, how do you respond to that?
MICHAEL EDISON HAYDEN: I mean, I agree with what Jared is saying. The only thing I would add about this is it seems that Miller has gotten a tremendous amount of cover from the fact that Steve Bannon was removed. And people, I think began to turn away from the possibility that the extreme far right was influencing Trump in some way, just because Bannon went. And then Miller was always this character who was lurking in the background. And then every time he would show up on Fox and whatever else, it would come up again, people would just be like, “Oh, there’s Stephen Miller again,” in the back of their heads.
But if you remember what happened with Steve Bannon; I know Southern Poverty Law Center launched a petition, for example, and other people did, to draw attention to his beliefs and things like that. And it wasn’t until after Charlottesville, it was one week after Charlottesville that Bannon was resigned from his post, and did so, you know, just went quietly into the night. It would be a shame if we have to wait for a similar Charlottesville-like event or a mass shooting for them to respond by removing Miller. And he’s really gotten away with being there for years, whereas Bannon was removed relatively quickly.
MARC STEINER: And as I said before, Miller plays it very smart. He’s not like Bannon, he doesn’t kind of come out and be… He’s not vociferous like Bannon. He’s not a media hog like Bannon.
MICHAEL EDISON HAYDEN: I will add one detail.
MARC STEINER: Go ahead.
MICHAEL EDISON HAYDEN: I think is important to add about that. We have Bannon talking about Camp of the Saints, which I think was the big scandal which sort of unearthed like, “Wow, what does he really believe?” And the first time, I think publicly that Bannon ever mentioned Camp of the Saints was in October of 2015. And the reason why that is very significant is because the first time that Miller mentions Camp of the Saints in his emails was one month prior to that. And then Julia Hahn writes a story that adheres very similarly to the pitch that Miller was making to Katie McHugh. Julia Hahn works at the White House as an aide, by the way, now. And then a few days later, Bannon mentions Camp of the Saints in a radio interview with Jeff Sessions, who’s Miller’s boss. So if Camp of the Saints was too toxic for Bannon, where did Bannon start talking about it?
And we have another thing about Camp of the Saints as well, which is that, prior to Miller mentioning it, on VDARE, a white nationalist website, they had a literal story tag “Camp of the Saints.” So anything that was about refugees was tagged–or not anything, but most of the things were tagged with “Camp of the Saints” on it. So I mean, you just see a pathway directly… And Daily Stormer, which is a Neo-Nazi website, was writing on Camp of the Saints. So you have this pathway from these white nationalist hate sites directly to Session’s office and to Breitbart. Then it gets a megaphone to the entire country, and next thing you know, Miller, Bannon, and Julia Hahn, they’re all in the White House.
MARC STEINER: And on that note, we’ll stop and contemplate all that. And in the coming week, as more comes out, we look forward to having you both back, and to talk about this in some depth as this unfolds. It’s really important work you’re doing, Michael Edison Hayden. We appreciate the work that you’re putting out there. And Jared Holt, your investigative work in Right Wing Watch is also incredible. And it’s good to have this out there. We need to be able to wrestle with this in an honest way to see what we’re facing. Gentlemen, thank you so much for both joining us. And I look forward to talking more as this unfolds.
MICHAEL EDISON HAYDEN: Thanks, Mark.
JARED HOLT: Thanks for having us.
MARC STEINER: And I’m Marc Steiner here for The Real News Network. We will stay on top of this. Let us know what you think. Take care.
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