When are Democrats going to try to summon Stephen Miller to Capitol Hill and grill him under oath about his direct role in so much of the chaos, incompetence and increasingly malevolent extremism gripping the Trump administration right now?
Miller, as the chief architect of President Donald Trump’s immigration agenda, is a key figure behind Trump’s ongoing purge of the Department of Homeland Security and the president’s related embrace of ever-more cruel and radical policies. Miller’s views drew fresh scrutiny when Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., tweeted that Miller is a “white nationalist” whose “influence on policy and political appointments” remains an “outrage.”
But, while Miller’s worldview has obviously been important in shaping Trump’s policies, his influence should be understood in another way, too: He is one of the leading figures pushing the Trump administration toward increasing venality, corruption and lawlessness. Remarkable new revelations underscore this point - and the need for a tough Democratic reaction to it.
The Washington Post reports that White House officials “tried to pressure U.S. immigration authorities” to release detained immigrants into “sanctuary cities” to “retaliate” against Trump’s “political adversaries.”
Relying on internal emails and interviews with administration sources, The Post reports that administration officials twice proposed transporting people detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement into sanctuary cities.
While these officials claimed this would ostensibly help deal with detention constraints, they expressly considered releasing them into House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s district in California and into other Democratic strongholds. According to one DHS official. the rationale was “retaliation” against Democrats who at the time were resisting more money for ICE detention beds.
But senior ICE lawyers advised that this would have no legal basis.
You’ll be shocked to hear that Miller was apparently involved in this affair. The Post reports that Miller “discussed the proposal with ICE.” As one congressional investigator who spoke to a whistle-blower revealing the scheme notes: “It was basically an idea that Miller wanted that nobody else wanted to carry out.”
The problem with this ugly scheme, obviously, is the use of migrants and the wielding of their fates as political tools - the idea that they can just be dumped anywhere for the express purpose of pressuring public officials from the opposing party to do Trump’s bidding. The presumption that this would pressure them is itself deeply problematic. Then there’s the proposed use of public resources for this purpose, which is arguably corrupt and legally dubious.
This type of flouting of the law and unbridled contempt for basic governing procedure has also saturated Trump’s ongoing purge of DHS.
According to multiple reports, one key reason Trump grew enraged with DHS secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, and ousted her, was that she would not break the law at his command by shutting down the border to asylum seekers entirely. Miller has been deeply involved in all of this.
Miller should face deeper and tougher scrutiny from House Democrats about his involvement in all of it. They can hold hearings and demand that he testify - which could shed light on both Trump’s efforts to flout the law and on the colossal mess Trump is making of border policy right now.
Greg Sargent writes The Plum Line blog.