Julia Ioffe writes an extensive profile in Politico of Stephen Miller, the senior policy advisor to Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump. In Ioffe’s telling, Miller and media sites like Breitbart comprise the intellectual vanguard of the insurgent populist nationalist movement shaping the 2016 election.
Miller is 30 years old, and in some ways a quintessential member of the Trump 2016 menagerie: an obscure character suddenly elevated to a national role by dint of hard work, loyalty, and the boss’s favor. He’s often overshadowed by the campaign’s more flamboyant figures, even as he’s begun appearing on CNN and Fox to defend Trump and explain his policies in strikingly complete and adamant sentences. But among this roster of political outsiders, Miller stands out, especially for people who understand the new forces afoot in Republican politics. He’s deeply connected to some of the most powerful insurgent threads in the Washington GOP, most notably Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions and the Breitbart media machine. As an aide on Capitol Hill, he was a behind-the-scenes architect of the successful effort to kill comprehensive immigration reform in 2014. And while it’s hard to gauge how much Trump is amenable to influence by anyone—at least, by anyone that he didn’t beget—there is no question that Miller is deep, and serious, on the one question that most drives Donald Trump’s unlikely campaign.
Miller quickly rose through the ranks of the Senate office to become the Senator’s chief of communications. Those who worked with them say Sessions and Miller had a “mind meld.” Within a short period of time, Miller mastered Sessions’ voice. “It’s very rare that you’ll find a Senate staffer that can capture their member’s voice,” says Rick Dearborn, who is still Sessions’ chief of staff. “But Stephen listened and was able to capture his voice. He was able to anticipate what he needed for an interview or a speech.” The Senator and Miller were often in different buildings, but Peacock, who worked in Sessions’ office with Miller, says that being around Miller was “like having the Senator right there.” “The two of them just really connect, in their worldview especially,” says Garrett Murch, who still works for Sessions.
Miller was crucial to Sessions on many controversial issues—the debt ceiling, the budget—but the thing he was most passionate about was immigration. “Stephen was very instrumental in helping [Sessions] articulate his beliefs on immigration,” says Peacock. “He’s not a hired gun. He has a good amount of this in his bones.” Miller was a true believer. “You don’t stay with someone for a long period of time on the Hill if you don’t share your world view,” says Dearborn. And Miller stayed on for nearly seven years.
Miller’s talent for combining operational zeal with the ability to effectively frame an idea into one devastating laser beam made him a prized Sessions lieutenant. “When it comes to issues and messaging and policy, there isn’t anybody else that I’ve known that would be as valuable to a presidential campaign as he,” Sessions told me. “Maybe other than Karl Rove.”
Miller was also spreading Sessions’ gospel on immigration and trade by courting other influential conservative voices—Ann Coulter, Laura Ingraham, Lou Dobbs, and Andrew Breitbart before his sudden death in 2012. When Breitbart launched his website, Miller organized a meeting for him with Congressional staffers. (Breitbart told Miller he’d first heard of him during the Duke lacrosse scandal.)
To the people who worked with him then, it’s no surprise that Miller ended up on the Trump campaign. “Whether the issue was trade or immigration or radical Islam, for many years before Donald Trump came on the scene, Senator Sessions was the leader of the movement and Stephen was his right-hand man,” says Steve Bannon, who is now CEO of Breitbart [sic]. To Bannon and advocates of slowing down both legal and illegal immigration, Sessions’ work to kill immigration reform in 2014 was akin “to the civil rights movement in the 1960s,” Bannon told me. “It’s only happened a few times in American politics, and Sessions did it with a cadre of talented staff.”
Sessions and Miller were the radical vanguard of a cause that, in the year of Trump, has grown into something bigger. “When I was in Sessions’ office, this movement for nation-state populism, the intellectual framework for that was being formed,” Miller told me. “A big part of my day was being in touch with the people who were the key players in that.” He would send information blasts to a list of a couple hundred Hill staffers with data on the negative impact on immigration on wages, national security, and on what Miller refers to as “criminal aliens.” “We saw ourselves as a kind of think tank for immigration issues and linking that to the larger questions of globalism and populism,” Miller says of that time.
“You could not get where we are today with this movement if it didn’t have a center of gravity that was intellectually coherent,” says Bannon. “And I think a ton of that was done by Senator Sessions’ staff, and Stephen Miller was at the cutting edge of that.” Says Carlson: “Miller is providing the intellectual architecture for an insurgency against the Republican party.”
Breitbart is Miller’s preferred media ally. “Every movement needs a dialogue,” Miller says. “Breitbart was a big part of that.” Miller worked tirelessly to make sure the dialogue kept going, and in the right direction…. The truth is, the influence goes both ways. As part of his warm-up act, Miller has taken to reading from Clinton Cash, the book on Clinton family corruption by Breitbart editor-at-large Peter Schweitzer [sic]. He holds up the book and reads passages from it, like a teacher reading to his really rambunctious kindergarten class. Other times he references it as proof that “Hillary Clinton is a career criminal, folks.” “All you have to do is read Clinton Cash,” he said at a recent rally. “Man, it’ll turn your hair white.” Sections of the book also found their way into Trump’s June speech attacking Clinton for her crookedness. “The book Clinton Cash, by Peter Schweitzer [sic], documents how Bill and Hillary used the State Department to enrich their family at America’s expense,” Trump said in his June 22 speech. “She gets rich making you poor.” He then proceeded to quote directly from the book, just like Miller.
Read the rest at Politico.