Stephen Miller, the hardline anti-immigration White House adviser, has been calling mid-level officials in several federal agencies to deliver angry tirades about their failures to stop immigrants from crossing the border.
The senior adviser to President Donald Trump has been pushing for changes to bring in more hardliners like himself, and three sources familiar with the situation suggested Miller was behind the ouster of Homeland Security secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, reported Politico.
“There’s definitely a larger shakeup abreast being led by Stephen Miller and the staunch right wing within the administration,” a person close to Nielsen told the website. “They failed with the courts and with Congress and now they’re eating their own.”
Miller has been skipping over department and agency heads, according to a source briefed on the situation, to directly telephone certain officials — including Craig Symons, chief counsel at Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS); Carl Risch, assistant secretary of state for consular affairs; ICE deputy director Matthew Albence; and Kathy Nuebel, policy and strategy chief at USCIS — and lecture them about poor work performance by their colleagues.
“It’s intimidation,” said one of the people briefed on the calls. “Anytime you get a call like this from the White House it’s intimidation.”
The 33-year-old Miller has reportedly been pushing the president to fire USCIS director Lee Francis Cissna, and he appears to have played a role in Trump’s surprising withdrawal of the nomination of acting U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director Ronald Vitiello, saying he wanted to push the agency in a “tougher direction.”
“He thinks we can be tougher — that if we only can do more tough talk this may stop,” said a source close to DHS.
Nielsen protested the Vitiello withdrawal and shocked congressional Republicans, and one congressional aide and a source close to DHS wondered where the president would find qualified candidates to fill the roles opened up by Miller’s purge.
“There’s a worry now that there’s an erosion of people that actually have operational judgment that can at least provide the president with counsel about what will be some of the negative consequences for some of these ideas,” said a person close to DHS.