Stephen Miller, a senior adviser to US President Donald Trump, was likened to a Nazi by a White House adviser, according to a report Wednesday in Vanity Fair.
“Stephen actually enjoys seeing those pictures at the border,” the outside adviser told the magazine. “He’s a twisted guy, the way he was raised and picked on. There’s always been a way he’s gone about this. He’s Waffen-SS.”
Miller has been among the biggest cheerleaders for a policy that some people compared to the actions of Nazis and supporters said was an essential tool in securing America’s borders.
Other West Wing personnel are concerned that the policy of criminally prosecuting all illegal immigrants may become a crisis from which the White House cannot recover, Vanity Fair reported. “This is brutal,” a Republican close to the president was quoted as saying. “Trump is riding high in the polls, and it’s playing into his mental state that he’s invincible.”
A New York Times article published Saturday called Miller “instrumental” to the policy, which Trump halted Wednesday after weeks of mounting bipartisan outrage.
“No nation can have the policy that whole classes of people are immune from immigration law or enforcement,” Miller told the Times. “It was a simple decision by the administration to have a zero tolerance policy for illegal entry, period. The message is that no one is exempt from immigration law.”
The “simple decision” led to a policy that drew broad rebuke from across the political and religious spectrum. The policy, which was instituted in May, said anyone who crosses the border illegally will be detained and prosecuted. That means children, who cannot be prosecuted and detained like adults, were forcibly separated from their parents for an undetermined period.
More than 2,300 children were stripped from their parents and adult relatives after illegally crossing the border since May 5 and placed in tent camps and other facilities, with no way to contact their relatives.
Despite the presidential order, there was no plan in place to reunite the thousands of children already separated from their families, according to multiple US media reports citing officials from the Health and Human Services Department (HHS).
Those youngsters would remain separated while their parents were under federal custody during immigration proceedings, according to the Times, before officials backed off those comments late Wednesday.
“It is still very early and we are awaiting further guidance on the matter,” said Brian Marriott, senior director of communications at HHS’s Administration of Children and Families.
“Reunification is always the ultimate goal,” he said.
Pictures and accounts of the separations sparked outrage and a rebellion among Republicans in Trump’s own party, as well as international accusation that the US was committing human rights violations.
“What we have done today is we are keeping families together,” Trump said as he signed the executive order. “I didn’t like the sight or the feeling of families being separated.”
At a later campaign-style rally of supporters in the northern state of Minnesota, he reiterated that the change does not mean a softening at the border.
“We will keep families together, but the border is going to be just as tough,” he said.
Trump then accused rival Democrats of putting “illegal immigrants before they put American citizens.”
For weeks, Trump had insisted he was bound by law to split the children from their parents and that only Congress could resolve the problem — before he radically shifted gears.
His daughter and adviser Ivanka had reportedly urged her father to end the separations, while First Lady Melania Trump made a rare political plea, saying the country needs to govern “with heart.”
“We want security for our country,” the president said Wednesday. “And we will have that — at the same time, we have compassion.”
Some Republicans criticized the zero tolerance policy. Nearly all Democrats lambasted it. Protestant, Catholic and Jewish groups, liberal and conservative, came out against it. Two-thirds of Americans disapprove of it.
But Miller, speaking to The Atlantic earlier this year, made clear that he sees an immigration crackdown as a feature of the Trump presidency, not a bug.
“The American people were warned — let me [be] sarcastic when I remark on that — [they] were quote-unquote warned by Hillary Clinton that if they elected Donald Trump, he would enforce an extremely tough immigration policy, crack down on illegal immigration, deport people who were here illegally, improve our vetting and screening, and all these other things,” Miller said. “And many people replied to that by voting for Donald Trump.”
Miller grew up in a liberal Jewish family in Santa Monica, California, where even as a high school student he gained a reputation for relishing policies that irked the left. Following his studies at Duke University, her served as an aide to then-Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota and later with Jeff Sessions, the Alabama senator who is now attorney general.
An uncle, David Glosser, posted Sunday on Facebook: “With all familial affection I wish Stephen career success and personal happiness, however I cannot endorse his political preferences.”
Agencies contributed to this report.