White House senior policy adviser Stephen Miller speaks during the daily briefing at the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Aug. 2, 2017. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
I think the best way of describing the tell-all expose of the Trump White House, “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,” by Michael Wolff, is that he has let anyone who has a score to settle do so using his book as a vehicle. Wolff even says:
“Many of the accounts of what has happened in the Trump White House are in conflict with one another; many, in Trumpian fashion, are baldly untrue. These conflicts, and that looseness with the truth, if not with reality itself, are an elemental thread of the book.
“Sometimes I have let the players offer their versions, in turn allowing the reader to judge them. In other instances I have, through a consistency in the accounts and through sources I have come to trust, settled on a version of events I believe to be true.”
This brings us to one particularly strange episode. The treatment of Stephen Miller. This is the quote via NBC’s Katy Tur:
Fire and Fury, in describing how the travel ban EO was drafted and bungled, has this description of Trump side Stephen Miller. pic.twitter.com/ssxWWpC5sw
— Katy Tur (@KatyTurNBC) January 4, 2018
First and foremost, regardless of your opinion of Miller’s intellect, the process described here is simply false. Via Politico from January 30, 2017. This would be ten days after the inauguration.
Senior staffers on the House Judiciary Committee helped Donald Trump’s top aides draft the executive order curbing immigration from seven Muslim-majority nations, but the Republican committee chairman and party leadership were not informed, according to multiple sources involved in the process.
The news of their involvement helps unlock the mystery of whether the White House consulted Capitol Hill about the executive order, one of many questions raised in the days after it was unveiled on Friday. It confirms that the small group of staffers were among the only people on Capitol Hill who knew of the looming controversial policy.
Kathryn Rexrode, the House Judiciary Committee’s communications director, declined to comment about the aides’ work. A Judiciary Committee aide said Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) was not “consulted by the administration on the executive order.”
“Like other congressional committees, some staff of the House Judiciary Committee were permitted to offer their policy expertise to the Trump transition team about immigration law,” a House Judiciary Committee aide said in a statement. “However, the Trump Administration is responsible for the final policy decisions contained in the executive order and its subsequent roll-out and implementation.”
The work of the committee aides began during the transition period after the election and before Donald Trump was sworn in. The staffers signed nondisclosure agreements, according to two sources familiar with the matter. Trump’s transition operation forced its staff to sign these agreements, but it would be unusual to extend that requirement to congressional employees. Rexrode declined to comment on the nondisclosure pacts.
We know that the Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel reviewed and signed off on the travel executive order. We know there is a cadre of professional civil service people in the White House who know how to process an executive order, there is no need to “google” for a DIY guide on writing executive orders.
That is just one process. As to Miller’s knowledge of immigration coming from Wikipedia or whatever, that also seems to be false:
I'm no Miller fan but the idea that he didn't know anything about immigration policy is absurd–he worked on it with Sessions for years. This is why you can't trust Wolff's assertions, which often demonstrate his own blithe ignorance. https://t.co/kn8vmcSxhq
— John Podhoretz (@jpodhoretz) January 4, 2018
The idea, per Michael Wolff, that Stephen Miller has to go to the internet to research immigration and can’t write sentences is too stupid and malicious for words https://t.co/OnUERc4XjV
— Rich Lowry (@RichLowry) January 5, 2018
Say what you will about Stephen Miller, but he's actually a very bright policy wonk with a deep understanding of the immigration issue. This is either Michael Wolff making stuff up or it is Steve Bannon lying about Miller. https://t.co/0ffrayVONP
— Erick Erickson (@EWErickson) January 4, 2018
To be clear (and thank you person who helpfully noted something can be both true and absurd): Plenty of room to disagree with his views and conclusions, but Stephen Miller can write and Stephen Miller knows immigration policy.
— Eliana Johnson (@elianayjohnson) January 5, 2018
I really disagree. The first-week immigration EOs we’re legally sloppy but displayed a comprehensiveness and imagination that you can only have if you know the existing system pretty damn well.
— Dara Lind (@DLind) January 5, 2018
There has been a fascinating mini twitter kerfluffle over Wolff describing Stephen Miller as clueless on policy.
Miller is no idiot. He understands immigration policy better than your average bear. But some people seem to believe that he must be dumb since he works for Trump. https://t.co/WjQ77cp7Pv
— Nick Riccardi (@NickRiccardi) January 5, 2018
Unlike folks like Erick and Podhoretz and Lowry, I’ve never met Miller but to claim the guy is unread is simply ridiculous. He has a degree from Duke. You don’t leave a school like Duke with a degree in political science and not read a ton of books. More to the point, we’ve seen Miller in action with the White House press corps.
Jim Acosta will be late getting back to the office. He's stopping by the doctor to have Stephen Miller's foot removed from his ass
— Sean Spicier (@sean_spicier) August 2, 2017
He obviously isn’t dumb and he has a total command of the material. And if he is dumb, what does that make Jim Acosta? A cabbage?
Here is pretty solid proof that Wolff's depiction of Stephen Miller as clueless about immigration policy is maliciously false. After Miler gave his press conference in AUG, Dave Weigel tweeted out this immigration policy email Miller sent as a senate aide in 2015: pic.twitter.com/lpgDbNQIyY
— James Hasson (@JamesHasson20) January 5, 2018
Now it isn’t hard to understand why a fairly progressive guy like Wolff would want to take some shots at Miller. The real mystery here is why Wolff chose to go after Miller on his technical knowledge of immigration and totally misrepresent a process issue when there was a lot of fertile ground for criticism on Miller’s association with some of the unsavory parts of the anti-illegal-immigration movement?
Is Wolff taking the shots, or was it Bannon taking the shots and Wolff transcribing them? Either way, they are demonstrably and provably false and underline Wolff’s caution that not everything in the book is true.