WASHINGTON — Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., called for the ouster of key White House adviser Stephen Miller after the release of emails that she says establish him as a “white supremacist” — a mindset she suggested President Trump shares.
The progressive congresswoman brought up Miller in an interview with Yahoo News Tuesday about the ongoing impeachment hearings. Ocasio-Cortez described Miller’s presence as one of the more “disturbing” aspects of the Trump administration.
“Stephen Miller has just been exposed as, frankly, a neo-Nazi and a white supremacist,” she said.
Miller, who did not respond to requests for comment, is one of the most influential advisers in the White House. He joined Trump’s presidential campaign in 2016 after working as an aide to former Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions.
The 34-year-old Miller, who first dabbled in conservative politics as a high school student, has long been a staunch advocate of curbing immigration. On Nov. 12, the Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights and anti-discrimination organization, published an article based on hundreds of emails that Miller exchanged with a former staffer at the right-wing website Breitbart. Those messages, written when Miller worked for Sessions, showed that he read white nationalist websites and was opposed to the removal of Confederate flags and monuments. In the messages, which were overwhelmingly focused on issues related to race and immigration, Miller expressed admiration for the 1924 immigration act advocated by President Calvin Coolidge, which put strict limits on immigration from countries outside northern Europe, based on the discredited theories of eugenics, also known as scientific racism.
Based on that, Ocasio-Cortez accused Miller of “citing eugenics as the rationale for our policy on the southern border.” She said the fact that Trump kept Miller in his post after the publication of the emails indicates the president shares these views.
“Donald Trump ... clearly believes in eugenics, given the fact he has put and maintained Stephen Miller in a position of power after these revelations,” she said.
Ocasio-Cortez is among many Democrats who have called for Miller’s removal. On Nov. 15, she launched an online petition at the website MillerMustGo.com. She suggested her fellow Democratic House members could address the situation by holding hearings in relevant committees to investigate whether Trump administration immigration policy is “inspired by eugenics or white nationalism directly.”
“Certainly through Stephen Miller’s emails it seems like that was the case. I think we can hold congressional hearings to see if U.S. policy was, in fact, guided by white supremacist organizations,” she said. “I think that’s a very severe question that we need to get to the bottom of.”
Rep. Al Green, D-Texas, who has repeatedly suggested Trump could be impeached due to “bigotry,” also brought up Miller as he discussed the impeachment hearings on Tuesday.
“The de facto vice president, Stephen Miller, is infusing this white nationalist ideology into policy,” Green said.
And Green had his own solution for addressing Miller’s influence at the White House.
“Of course there’s something that we can do,” he said. “Impeach and remove this president, and you then take along all of the other elements that are there.”
The White House initially responded to the email leak in part through an unnamed official, who told Axios on background that it was an anti-Semitic attack against Miller, who is Jewish.
“This is clearly a form of anti-Semitism to levy these attacks against a Jewish staffer,” the official said.
White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham responded to Ocasio-Cortez’s remarks on Tuesday with a vigorous defense of Miller in an email to Yahoo News.
“Unlike AOC, Stephen Miller is dedicated to this country and I am proud to work alongside him every single day with the goal of making our nation even greater. He is a friend and colleague, and we are lucky to have him in the White House,” Grisham said.
White House principal deputy press secretary Hogan GIdley also emailed statements echoing the argument that attacks on Miller are anti-Semitic.
“Mr. Miller condemns racism and bigotry in all forms, while those defaming him are trying to deny his Jewish identity which is a pernicious form of anti-Semitism and this outrageous smear dishonors the memories of Jewish victims of anti-Semitic persecution across the globe,” Gidley said.
He went on to suggest that Ocasio-Cortez’s opposition to policies of the Israeli government indicated an inclination to “anti-Semitic behavior.”
“Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez has a well-documented history of anti-Semitic comments, social media posts, and relationships, and she even proudly co-sponsored a vile, hateful resolution in support of the Anti-Semitic BDS movement — so it’s not surprising that she would wildly attack a Jewish member of the Administration,” Gidley said.
Ocasio-Cortez has criticized Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories, but she says it’s disingenuous for conservatives to paint that policy disagreement as anti-Semitic. In July, she was one of 17 House members who refused to sign onto a resolution that condemned calls to boycott Israel. That same month, Ocasio-Cortez co-sponsored a House resolution that was widely seen as supportive of the BDS — Boycott, Divest, Sanction — movement aimed at forcing a change in Israeli policies. The congresswoman argued that legislation was about “protecting free speech.”
Ocasio-Cortez said she “absolutely” considers Miller a white nationalist and doesn’t think his being Jewish is a defense to that accusation.
“Some folks on the right tried to weaponize his identity as a rationale. … But it doesn’t matter what color your skin is,” she said, adding, “If you are citing white nationalist and neo-Nazi texts, if you believe in eugenics, if you have the values of a white nationalist, the color of your skin or your last name doesn’t absolve you of that. That is who you are and what you’ve chosen to embrace.”
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