As President Trump roils Washington over illegal immigration, his aide Stephen Miller is playing a more aggressive behind-the-scenes role in a wider administration shakeup, reports Politico.
Frustrated by the lack of headway on a signature Trump campaign issue, the senior White House adviser has been arguing for personnel changes to bring in more like-minded hardliners, including the ouster of a key immigration official at the Department of Homeland Security, whose secretary, Kirstjen Nielsen, announced on Sunday that she is resigning.
Miller has been telephoning mid-level officials at several federal departments and agencies to demand angrily that they do more to stem the flow of immigrants into the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan will serve as acting DHS secretary but is unlikely to become the permanent chief, CBS News reports.
The pressure comes as Trump, who forced a government shutdown over his demand for a Mexican border wall, is again making immigration the central theme of his presidency; last week, Trump backed off his threats to shut down the border entirely. Officials at the Departments of Homeland Security, Justice and State, who each handle parts of the immigration process, were initially surprised that a high-ranking White House official like Miller would call them directly, rather than contact their bosses.
“It’s intimidation,” said someone who was briefed on the calls. “Anytime you get a call like this from the White House it’s intimidation … Under normal circumstances, if you were a deputy in one of these agencies, it would be very unusual.”
“There’s definitely a larger shakeup abreast being led by Stephen Miller and the staunch right wing within the administration,” said a person close to Nielsen. “They failed with the courts and with Congress and now they’re eating their own.”
Before Nielsen’s abrupt resignation, Miller was reportedly handed total control of border policy, Business Insider reports.
Nielsen’s approach to border enforcement often exasperated Miller and other hardline immigration reform advocates, who saw her as insufficiently bold. Miller also has been pushing for Trump to fire Lee Francis Cissna, director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, who has overseen implementation of some of the administration’s lesser-known immigration policies, including green card reforms and changes to how the federal government processes and admits refugees.
Miller also appears to have played a role in Trump’s surprise move to withdraw his nomination of acting U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director Ronald Vitiello, saying he wanted to take the agency in a “tougher direction.”
Additional Reading: How Stephen Miller Rode White Rage from Duke’s Campus to Trump’s West Wing