Speed Reads

zero tolerance

Will the child-separation fiasco take down Stephen Miller?

White House senior policy adviser Stephen Miller is the main architect of President Trump's hard-line immigration policy, and according to several accounts — including his own — he reveled in the incarceration of migrant children separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border, viewing it as a tactical policy success. The public was so repulsed by the policy, however, that Trump folded.

"The backlash over the policy has opened cracks in Miller's support network on Capitol Hill and among Republicans both inside and outside the White House, who have viewed the separation of migrant families as a huge political and policy misstep for the White House — and, for some, as a moral lapse," Politico reports. One outside White House adviser has called Miller a Nazi and Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.) urged Trump to fire him on Thursday.

So, will Miller be the scapegoat for Trump's babies-in-cages fiasco? Probably not.

First, Miller managed to keep a low profile while his "zero tolerance" policy became intolerable, and while he's the brains of the policy, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen became its public face.

Second, the 32-year-old adviser has "proved himself to be a deft operator in a White House known for backbiting," and he's "also well-liked inside the White House," Politico says, citing staffers. "Chief of Staff John Kelly, a like-minded immigration hawk, even had Miller over to his house for Thanksgiving last fall." Trump likes him, too, in part because Miller puts in 18-hour work days and flatters Trump effusively.

Third, Trump agrees with Miller on immigration, and despite his embarrassing cave, locking up children "succeeded in shifting public debate so that the administration's fallback position — jailing migrant kids indefinitely with their parents while they wait for court dates — now seems like a more humane option," Politico notes.

Finally, EPA chief Scott Pruitt still has a job, so there's clearly a limit to Trump's responsiveness to public opinion.