The hit TV show “Survivor” focused on people who could “outwit, outplay and outlast” the others. This isn’t a game, but Stephen Miller is a survivor in President Trump’s White House. He has broadened his influence while others like Stephen Bannon have been forced off of the island…or out of the White House.
The young policy aide has played a key role in developing the administration’s new travel ban, he has influenced the ending of an Obama era program for young immigrants living illegally in America, and he has championed a historically low refugee cap.
Miller has also helped write Trump’s most important speeches, including his inaugural address and the president’s response to the mass shooting in Las Vegas. He is often one of the aides that travels with Trump on Air Force One. A White House official said that he is involved in “a wide variety of issues.”
People close to the inner circle in the White House indicate that the 32-year-old who was obscure just two years ago has become a solid part of the team because he shares similar views with the president. He is able to not only make himself heard, but also navigate the internal dramas. One former aide said Miller has “figured out how to survive Red Weddings,” a reference to an infamous massacre in the HBO series “Game of Thrones.”
Since Trump’s inauguration, six senior advisers have left or been forced out of the West Wing. That includes Miller’s ideological ally Bannon, who exited his post as chief strategist in August. Bannon and Miller have similar viewpoints, but the way they do their job is vastly different. Where Bannon couldn’t seem to stand down from a fight, even if it was with the president’s son-in-law, Miller’s approach is quite different.
“Stephen learned early on, having survived multiple leadership regimes on the campaign and now in the White House, don’t worry about other staffers,” said Jason Miller, another former official. “Only focus on President Trump and what he wants to get done.” His ability to internally survive has given him a platform to help advance a policy agenda he has a history of addressing: restricting the flow of immigrants and refugees to the U.S. “He keeps the president’s compass on that issue,” a former Trump adviser said.
The Trump team also rave about Miller’s speech-writing ability. “Stephen can write the populist message really well,” the former adviser said. “It is Trump through Stephen’s keyboard, and that’s important.”
The one area of concern is when Miller has spoken publicly. It has often gotten the administration in some hot water. Miller took heat for saying on Fox News that the second travel ban would produce “the same basic policy outcome” as the original.
“He got way over his skis,” said the former administration official. “He created a real problem for us.” Miller’s public speaking is considered overly combative, but it has not been to high a hurdle for the Trump team. He even earned praise from colleagues when he went toe-to-toe with CNN’s Jim Acosta over a plan to reduce legal immigration.
Miller accused Acosta, a longtime Trump enemy, of having “cosmopolitan bias” for his pointed questions about a plan to reduce legal immigration. Some even thought that this encounter would make him the next White House communications director, a move that never happened.
“The reason he has stuck around is he understands the theatrics of the issue, and he understands the president’s communications style,” the former Trump aide said. “When staffers go out, a lot of it is performance art, and Stephen is good at performance art.”
Stephen Miller is outwitting, outplaying and outlasting the others in the White House. What do you think of this “survivor?”
Credit: The Hill