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Alleged Stephen Miller emails reference white nationalist and anti-immigrant perspectives

The Southern Poverty Law Center has released emails it says are from Stephen Miller, a key figure shaping immigration policy for the Trump administration. The messages show Miller's support for white nationalist websites and ideologies. KPBS reporter Jean Guerrero, who is writing a book on Miller, joins Judy Woodruff to discuss how the emails help explain our national approach to immigration.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    The Southern Poverty Law Center has made public excerpts of e-mails sent by White House senior adviser Stephen Miller, who is a key figure shaping immigration policy for President Trump.

    The e-mail messages from 2015 and 2016 show Miller's support of white nationalist Web sites and ideologies.

    Reporter Jean Guerrero with the San Diego public media station KPBS is writing a book on Stephen Miller. And she joins me now to talk about what these e-mails say and the light they appear to shed on his thinking, as he exerts influence on the president's approach to immigration.

    Jean Guerrero, welcome back to the "NewsHour."

  • Jean Guerrero:

    Great to be here.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, tell us, first of all, these e-mails were an exchange between Stephen Miller and whom?

  • Jean Guerrero:

    They were exchanges between Stephen Miller and Breitbart.

    That's about 900 of the e-mails, and they were sent when he was working for Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions and while he was on the Trump campaign.

    And, essentially, what happened is, there was a Breitbart editor named Katie McHugh who was fired in 2017. She has since renounced the far-right movement, and she decided that she was going to take these e-mails and share them with the Southern Poverty Law Center to expose the white nationalism that she says is affecting or influencing the Trump administration in its formation of immigration policies.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And just for those who might not know, Breitbart is a far-right news Web site, and that's where she worked until she was fired, we understand, a couple of years ago.

    So, go — tell us what is in — what's the content of these e-mails? They were exchanging their thoughts, their ideas on what Breitbart should be covering. I know that's part of it.

  • Jean Guerrero:

    Exactly.

    So, McHugh had been introduced to Miller as somebody who was going to be influencing the direction of her reporting and the reporting of other editors at Breitbart. So he was providing materials, often from white supremacist Web sites, white nationalist literature, and encouraging them to draw from it in their coverage, in their stories.

    What I found to be the most telling from reviewing some of these e-mails is that, at one point, Stephen Miller recommends that they do a story about this book called "Camp of the Saints."

    It's an incredibly racist book that depicts the end of the white world — that's how they put it, the — quote — "end of the white world" — as the result of an invasion of refugees.

    And it's just — it's filled with extremely degrading descriptions of migrants.

    And just to give an example of the kind of rhetoric it includes, this quote: "kinky-haired, swarthy-skinned, long-despised phantoms, all the teeming ants toiling for the white man's comfort."

    So, just these descriptions of migrants that are very degrading fill the book.

    And what happened was, Julia Hahn — he encouraged Breitbart editors to do a story showing parallels between the book and real life. So, Julia Hahn, who was an editor there as well and who is now a special assistant to the president, did a story saying that the book was prophetic and that it showed what was going to happen at the border, what was happening at the border, and that potentially immigration was going to lead to the doom of society.

    After that, Steve Bannon, who was then a Breitbart executive and who worked for Trump as chief strategist after that, he also started referencing the book repeatedly after Stephen Miller recommended it to Breitbart.

    And he said that it described the — quote — "invasion at the border," that, basically, the book had been prophetic, and that what — the doom described in the book was going to be happening now in the United States.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So the White House — and I want to ask you about the effect this has had on immigration policy — but the White House is saying, but, wait a minute, this comes from the Southern Poverty Law Center, which they say is a left-leaning organization that they know already opposes them.

    And so they're basically saying this material is suspect.

  • Jean Guerrero:

    Exactly.

    They have not explicitly denied the content of the e-mails, but they have said that the Southern Poverty Law Center is a — they have called it a left-wing smear organization.

    What the center is and has been doing for several years is exposing hate groups and trying to shed light on white supremacists and white nationalist groups.

    But, yes, the White House is essentially saying that the organization is a smear organization, and that they are — their reporting and analysis is not to be taken seriously.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Jean Guerrero, as we said, you're writing a book on Stephen Miller.

    How does what you see in these e-mail changes, how does that connect to what the administration's policies have been towards immigrants, towards refugees, and any of the policies Stephen Miller has had a hand in?

  • Jean Guerrero:

    Well, what these e-mails show is some of the white nationalism that's informing the formation of these policies.

    What's interesting is — so, Stephen Miller is the architect of the Trump administration's border and immigration policies. And President Trump has repeatedly said that he's focused on cutting off illegal immigration, that he wants to go after criminals, after drug traffickers, after rapists.

    But what we have actually seen over the course of the past — over the course of his presidency is that they have limited legal immigration. They have gone after refugees, they have gone after asylum seekers, largely from non-white countries.

    And so what the e-mails show and indicate is some of the white nationalist ideologies that may have gone into informing the formation of those policies, which largely echo some of the groups that Stephen Miller was drawing from in — that he was communicating with and sharing with to Breitbart.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, Jean Guerrero doing a lot of reporting on this.

    And I know there are, as you said, a lot of e-mails out there to examine. I know that people will want to look at the e-mails themselves. I know they're posted on the Southern Poverty Law Center site.

    Thank you very much. We appreciate it.

  • Jean Guerrero:

    Thank you.

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