Readers like you keep news free for everyone.

More than 5,000 readers have already pitched in to keep free access to The Journal.

For the price of one cup of coffee each week you can help keep paywalls away.

Support us today
Not now

Who are the Trump advisors at the heart of the child separation scandal?

The policy has dominated the headlines this week.

THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION has been notable for a number of things since the businessman came to power.

But one thing in particular is the focus on his advisors and inner circle. While very few people here could tell you who Barack Obama’s press secretary was, Sean Spicer and Sarah Huckabee Sanders are practically household names.

This week, in light of the controversy surrounding a Trump administration policy which saw immigrant children separated from their parents at the US-Mexican border, some more of those advisors came into focus.

Here’s who’s who.

Kirstjen Nielsen

UPI 20180621 Source: UPI/PA Images

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen is a 46-year-old former Bush administration official who this week became known as the Cabinet member who skewed the facts at a combative press conference in defense of Trump’s “zero-tolerance” policy, and who convened a “working dinner” at a Mexican restaurant while audio of hysterical Spanish-speaking children circulated on social media.

That dinner was interrupted by protesters who asked her “how do you sleep at night?” before she left the restaurant.

The path Nielsen has taken is somewhat surprising for a government bureaucrat and policy wonk known more for her loyalty to White House chief of staff John Kelly and her expertise in cybersecurity than the hardline immigration views espoused by Attorney General Jeff Sessions and White House adviser Stephen Miller.

Following Trump’s election, Nielsen joined the transition team, on the recommendation of several former co-workers, to help guide Kelly through the confirmation process to become Trump’s secretary of homeland security. Nielsen quickly won the retired general’s trust, impressing him with her work ethic and command of the issues.

A constant presence in Kelly’s orbit, Nielsen followed the retired general to the White House and quickly established herself as the West Wing “enforcer.” But, people inside and outside the White House also complained she was controlling access to Kelly, alienating staffers and failing to return phone calls — criticism that often comes with any chief of staff job.

Trump eventually tapped Nielsen to take over as head of the sprawling Department of Homeland Security.

Jeff Sessions

UPI 20180618 Source: UPI/PA Images

Attorney General Sessions, who like the president is 70, was an early loyal Trump supporter who became a pivotal figure in his campaign and his transition team.

Sessions grew up in Alabama, in the segregated South. He was a US prosecutor from 1981 to 1993, before serving as the state’s attorney general. He won a seat in the US Senate in 1996.

His career was almost derailed when the Senate panel rejected him for a federal judgeship amid concerns over past comments he had made about blacks, and voter rights.

He has recused himself from inquiries into US president Donald Trump’s dealings with Russia but has continued his work as Trump’s top lawyer.

Stephen Miller

Trump Stephen Miller Source: Evan Vucci

Senior policy advisor Miller is a 32-year-old political operative who worked as press secretary for two members of Congress before beginning his work with Jeff Sessions.

He would join the Trump campaign in 2016 and declared an “ideological kinship” with ousted Trump advisor Steve Bannon. Miller is seen to have embraced the alt-right and was described as the chief architect of this week’s policy.

Making a difference

A mix of advertising and supporting contributions helps keep paywalls away from valuable information like this article.

Over 5,000 readers like you have already stepped up and support us with a monthly payment or a once-off donation.

For the price of one cup of coffee each week you can make sure we can keep reliable, meaningful news open to everyone regardless of their ability to pay.

A recent profile of Miller for The Atlantic called him Trump’s “Right-Hand Troll”, with the advisor admitting he likes to use provocative policies to cause outrage.

He insists that he believes every word he says, and that he is not a fan of “provocation for its own sake.” But after some reflection, he admits that he has long found value in doing things that generate what he calls “constructive controversy—with the purpose of enlightenment.”

The writer of that profile, McKay Coppins, followed up the piece with an article entitled “The Outrage Over Family Separation Is Exactly What Stephen Miller Wants“.

“As public backlash has intensified in recent days against the new border policy, Trump administration officials have predictably struggled to formulate a coherent, unified defense. Amid all the bumbling recriminations and shifting talking points, one can sense in some of these officials a natural response to the situation developing at the border—if not shame, then at least chagrin.

“But for Miller, it seems, all is going according to plan—another “constructive controversy” unfolding with great potential for enlightenment. His bet appears to be that voters will witness this showdown between Trump and his angry antagonists, and ultimately side with the president.”

Miller’s provocation has already made him a target for liberals and conservatives alike. Last year the American Civil Liberties Union said:

“The White House ‘principles’ amount to nothing more than Trump senior adviser Stephen Miller’s Dreamer deportation outline.

“Miller’s wish list of anti-immigrant policies is designed to scuttle progress for Dreamers and is afoul with unconstitutional ‘reforms.’”

On Thursday, Colorado congressman Mike Coffman, a moderate Republican, wrote on Twitter that Trump should install someone to oversee the reunification of migrant families.

“And the President should fire Stephen Miller now,” Coffman added. “This is a human rights mess. It is on the President to clean it up and fire the people responsible for making it.”

Read next:


This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
write a comment

    Leave a commentcancel