Stephen Miller, a top adviser to Donald Trump on the campaign trail and a self-described “practicing Jew,” is the president-elect’s latest West Wing hire.
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Miller, who joined the Trump campaign in January, has been named senior adviser to the president for policy. The 30-year-old, who grew up in a liberal home in Santa Monica, California, was Trump’s chief speechwriter and often served as the warm-up act for the presidential candidate at election rallies. He was known for invoking anti-immigrant slogans to fire up the crowds before Trump would make his appearance on stage.
Miller is an old friend of the controversial white nationalist leader Richard Spencer, Mother Jones reported on Wednesday. The two met while they were students at Duke University, both of them members of the conservative student union. Spencer told the magazine that Miller “is not alt-right or a white nationalist or an identitarian.” But he added: “Could Miller and Trump do good things for white Americans? The answer is yes.”
In announcing his latest appointment, Trump noted that Miller had played a “central and wide-ranging role” in the campaign. “He is deeply committed to the America First agenda, and understands the policies and actions necessary to put that agenda into effect,” the president-elect said in a statement.
Although Trump’s Jewish son-in-law Jared Kushner is expected to serve as a key adviser when the president-elect takes office, whether in an official capacity or not, Miller is the first Jew to be formally appointed to the White House staff.
Before joining the campaign, Miller worked as communications director for Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions, one of the first Republicans to come out in support of Trump. A staunch conservative, Sessions has been tapped to become attorney general in the new administration. As an aide to Sessions, Miller was instrumental in defeating a proposed bill for immigration reform.
In a lengthy profile of Miller published in Politico last June, his old boss compared him to Karl Rove, the legendary political adviser of former U.S. President George W. Bush.
Prior to his stint with Sessions, Miller worked as a press secretary for two other Republicans – Congresswoman Michele Bachmann and Congressman John Shadegg.
The events of 9/11 are thought to have been a major influence on Miller’s political ideas – in particular his views on Islam and immigration. A few months after the attacks, while he was still a high school junior, Miller wrote a letter to his local newspaper complaining that political correctness had gone awry at his southern California school.
“That is why we do nothing for American holidays but everything for Mexican holidays,” he wrote. “That is why history teachers denounce the U.S. as wickedly imperialistic, some supplementing standard history texts with something comfortably more liberal.
"That is why teachers insult and demean the president. That is why we invited a Muslim leader to the school to explain the splendor of Islam, but no such proclamation was ever made about America.”
Later, as a columnist for the student newspaper at Duke University, Miller would continue to espouse many of these same ideas, which would eventually find their way into speeches he wrote for the man who would become America’s next president.
Despite his Jewish background, Miller saw no reason to separate religion (that is, Christianity) and state. In a column he penned for the Duke student newspaper titled “The Case for Christmas,” Miller condemned the administration for banning Christmas trees and other religious symbols from the campus during the holiday season, noting that “Christianity is embedded in the very soul of our nation.”
“I urge every group of Christian faith on campus to do whatever it can to bring the Christmas spirit publicly and passionately to Duke,” he wrote.
“There are sure to be many roadblocks, and I know the secular left has tried very hard to make you feel ashamed to broadcast your beliefs (while they so irritatingly broadcast theirs), but bringing Christmas to our campus is something that desperately needs to be done.”
At Duke, Miller also drew attention for defending the lacrosse team players at his school who had been accused of raping a black woman in a story that took America by storm. The athletes were ultimately exonerated.
One of his key mentors during his college years was arch-conservative David Horowitz, author of “The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America.” Horowitz eventually started Miller out on his political career by introducing him to Sessions.
Disgusted with Miller’s anti-immigrant rhetoric, the Jewish Journal of Los Angeles earlier this year decided to investigate his family roots. On his mother’s side, the newspaper discovered, Miller is a descendant of Pennsylvania’s first family of retail, the Glossers. His great-grandparents, Wolf Lieb and Bessy Glotzer had been penniless immigrants who fled Belarus in 1903.