The Woman Who Turned on Stephen Miller

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S1: When Donald Trump was running for president, holding rallies around the country, he had a reliable, warm up act.

S2: How are we all doing tonight? Florida, his senior policy adviser, Stephen Miller. And I believe I believe that he is going to be the state of Florida. This sends Donald J. Trump to the White House.

S3: Miller was just 30 years old at this rally the summer before Trump’s election. He manages to look utterly at ease and completely out of place at the same time with his neatly tailored suit. He doesn’t seem to have much in common with the cheering crowd, who are mostly wearing T-shirts and Magots. But Miller knows what his audience wants to hear. And he seems to relish saying it.

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S2: We’ll never really know the full extent, the full extent of Hillary’s corruption because she deleted those 30000 emails.

S4: Right.

S3: He’s telling the story about Washington insiders selling everyday Americans short and a story about a border wall that’s going to keep those Americans safe.

S5: You know, it’s going to happen when he fills that wall. The drugs are going to come in and hurt our children anymore.

S6: Because.

S5: Brick by brick.

S7: That wall is gonna get built.

S8: Now that Trump is in the White House, Stephen Miller has been turning this rhetoric into policy.

S1: He isn’t just advocating for a border wall, he said, to be the architect of Trump’s family separation plan. And he was reportedly behind the rollback of a program for migrants fleeing social unrest. His title, senior adviser for policy. It doesn’t fully articulate his power in the West Wing or his focus, which seems to be restricting immigration. But it was hard to know why Miller was advocating for these changes so forcefully until last month, more damaging emails from senior White House adviser Stephen Miller.

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S9: What you see in these emails is Stephen Miller creating an appetite for the type of anti-immigrant policies the Trump administration has enacted.

S10: We can now track policies and ideas directly from white supremacist Web sites to the White House.

S1: These emails are from years back. But reading them now feels eerie. They don’t contradict the story Miller was telling. Back on the campaign trail in 2016, they bolster it.

S11: Reading them feels like looking at the source code for Trump’s domestic policy. And the source. It’s white nationalism.

S8: Today on the show, we’re going to talk about these e-mails with the person who decided to release them. Katie McCue spent months corresponding with Steven Miller back when she was a young journalist at the time. She was committed to racist beliefs. She says Steven Miller was, too. And now Katie McHugh wants him out of the White House. I’m Mary Harris. You’re listening to what next. Stick with us.

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S1: Who is Katie McCue? This is the question I found myself asking a lot as they put this episode together, and in the end I didn’t really have one answer. There’s the Katie McHugh, who has given over 900 emails to the Southern Poverty Law Center trying to reveal the philosophical underpinnings of White House immigration policy. But then there’s the Katie McCue inside those emails. The Katie McCue eagerly treating white nationalist ideas with Stephen Miller. At the time, Katie was a writer for Briber News. Miller was a policy adviser for Senator Jeff Sessions and a source. Katie’s editors strongly endorsed.

S12: I you know, I want to please. And he was basically the editorial director for the Bright BART News political section. So you have someone who a young woman who wants to like make her boss happy and is getting excited about bouncing ideas back and forth.

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S1: Wouldn’t you see yourself in those emails? Who is that? Katie McCue.

S12: She’s dead. Say that. And it was a person who is like being radicalized by the company she worked for, people that she spoke to every day and her close personal ties.

S1: You spent how many years as a reporter for briber?

S12: Three years. Yeah. Yeah. Because I start working there from April 14th, 2014 to June 4th, 2017, when I was fired for Vic Faery Islamaphobic tweets.

S1: To be clear, Katie didn’t arrive in Washington as a political moderate in a profile published by BuzzFeed earlier this year. She described herself as a raging conservative even when she was in college. But her opinions and her racism became more radical and pronounced while she worked in D.C.. A bright BART, she became a favorite of the website’s chairman. Steve Bannon produced his radio show and the tweets that got her fired. They weren’t some kind of aberration for Katie. Islamaphobic tweets were kind of normal. I just want to read you some of the tweets that you sent out. I guess in 2015. Yeah. One is funny how Europeans assimilated unlike third worlders demanding welfare while raping and killing Americans. Another one of your tweets here was another crusade would do a lot of good. Let’s turn Mecca into a strip mall.

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S12: That’s the kind of rhetoric that Stephen Miller would use, not to as extreme degree. There is extreme rhetoric being pushed at Breitbart. We are covering immigration policy. And I was being radicalized in part just one part by Stephen Miller, who is constantly beating me this this information.

S13: That’s interesting. You think of Stephen Miller is radicalizing you? Yes, I do. I can hear how just hearing this now years later makes you tense up a little bit. I just wonder what you think when you hear someone reading these tweets out loud.

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S14: It breaks my heart because those are awful things. They’re hateful things. And I never should’ve said them. And I hope that people understand I’m coming from a genuine place of, you know, I did a lot of soul searching and that’s certainly not who I am anymore.

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S1: Back then, would you have called yourself a white nationalist?

S12: Yes, I was. Are actually on the phone on a conference call with Stephen Bannon. And he asked me out loud who’s shouting on the phone? You know, almost like trying to, I don’t know, like goad me into something saying, well, you’re a white nationalist. Our show, White Nationalist, Katie. And I just said, yeah, this was on a three part conference call. He just moved on to the next subject.

S1: Nothing happened at the break part that Katie describes. Racism was expected encouraged when she saw reports of an extremist attack in London. She tweeted there would be no deadly terror attacks in the UK if Muslims didn’t live there. When you send these tweets that created all of this firestorm, did you even think twice about them?

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S14: No. I was watching Fox News and I saw that there’s been another terrorist attack, just like I said what I said, because this was rhetoric that was just very common.

S1: But after the 2016 election, readership of Bright Bard had plummeted. And this tweet prompted a really successful advertiser boycott. That’s when Katie was fired. Afterwards, Katie didn’t start what she calls deprogramming right away. She had stints writing for other far right publications, but eventually her professional networks started to fall through and she began to cringe at the general toxicity of the. All right. When did your ideology start to change?

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S12: I don’t know. It certainly began to change with the backlash of being fired. I thought, you know, I was doing a lot of soul searching then even I was surrounded just by the. All right. And I was very upset and angry at what I saw. I saw an e-mail change for they were calling Megan Merkel, like comparing her to a gorilla. You know, they’re trashing her for being, you know, de forest, for being beautiful and being actress. It’s just constant, non-stop hatred of women. It makes you sick.

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S13: And I felt like I would be targeted when I first started hearing your story. It stood out to me that you were this young woman who’d come to Washington with big dreams, but you didn’t want to be someone’s plus one. You wanted to be a reporter. You wanted to do the work. And you and I might disagree about that work. Or we might have disagreed about that work. Right. Right. But of course, the the white nationalist community has very particular ideas about women. Yes. And I wondered if for you that was the breaking point.

S15: It was one of them, because I and her this happens with a lot of women and extremist movements. You internalized the misogyny. So I was beating myself up, telling myself, I’m just a woman. You know, I did listen to these men who heard just a raging misogynist. So the way I described it in other interview was I had to pull a shrapnel out of my brain. It’s it’s a very painful deprogramming process. And luckily, I’ve had good friends to help me de-radicalize and get out away from these circles. But it’s it’s very hard. And I just had to ask myself, why am I tolerating this as a woman being targeted?

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S16: Because I am a woman. Why my help spreading this kind of hatred to other women? Why am I sharing articles from right saying that birth control makes women attractive and crazy? It’s non-sense.

S11: But you also had personal connections to the all right, you were dating a leader of the.

S13: All right.

S14: Yes. And that’s something I can’t talk about that yet because there’s a big story coming out on him. And I don’t want to scoop anyone, but I’ve been I’ve been working on exposing these people for months because I said I’ve saved everything, that I had all the receipts, all the emails ever had tons of pictures about devices, you know. So I’ve just been excavating that. And I have to think of which reporters working and which stories site. I’ll break it for them. Does that make sense?

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S17: Yeah. I mean, it sounds like it’s funny because I saw the first article back in May about you and then I saw the Southern Poverty Law Center with this. And I was like, wow, it feels like this woman walked out of her job with like a hard drive under one arm and probably a cloud full of emails. Yes. And I guess we’re about to see where all of those landed.

S14: Yeah. Yeah. It takes you know, because I take this stuff very seriously. It does take a long time.

S1: So how many journalistic institutions are you working with now?

S16: A lot. Basically, almost every major publication now with new subjects as well.

S11: This exchange was so revealing to me all throughout our conversation I would try to ask about something from Katie’s past. She would be vaguer than I wanted her for a moment. She would be a little wiser than I expected. And then quickly she’d launch herself out of the past into a story about her present or her future. It’s hard to know what to make of it. What seems clear is that Katie is a woman on a mission to rehabilitate her own reputation.

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S1: Maybe, sure. But she’s also trying to beat back white nationalism. After years of being one of its true believers in her tool of choice is these old work emails from her days at Bright Bart. So let’s talk about these emails between you and Steven Miller in particular. Now, of course, he he works in the White House. But when you started corresponding with him, he was working with Jeff Sessions. How did you meet him?

S12: I was introduced to Steven Miller by Matt Boyle, who was our Washington political editor with the understanding I would take editorial direction from Steven Miller. That’s how we met.

S1: So taking editorial direction from a political aide.

S12: Yes, from, you know, Sessions’s. Yes. A Senate office. It would be like Kamala Harris, his press office, dictating news coverage at political news coverage at CNN.

S1: You see you have like 900 emails between yourself and Steven Miller. Which is remarkable because he’s known as someone who doesn’t like to leave a trace like currently in his current job. He doesn’t do a lot of emailing because he doesn’t want to communicate in that way and give other people that kind of potential ammunition. So it’s kind of amazing that you have it.

S18: Well, people are never always as careful as they think. Miller is quite an arrogant person as well as many white nationals, of course, are. So I just I preserve them and was searching for an opportunity to give them to a news organization to properly vet and then have the e-mails share with other news outlets who could pursue new leads about this person.

S1: I wonder if you could translate some of the ideas in the e-mails for me, because me as someone who hasn’t interacted with the white nationalist community. I don’t understand some of the ideas or where they come from. Steven Miller talks a bit, as do you, about the next America. What does that mean?

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S14: It’s the same kind of rhetoric we see on Tucker Carlson is Fox News show whenever he says immigration make America poor and dirtier.

S19: Instead, our leaders demand that you shut up and accept this. We have a moral obligation to admit the world’s poor.

S18: They tell us, even if it makes our own country poorer and dirtier and more divided, because non-white people will be able to immigrate here in numbers set by Ted Kennedy’s, you know, 1965 Immigration Act. That’s what that means. And that America will become a worse country if it’s not majority European. And they believe that people of color are not only dangerous individuals, but an existential threat to America. That’s what the phrase new America means to become a dangerous place for white people. And you see in those e-mails to that, Miller talks about the analysers poem at the bottom, Statue of Liberty calling it ridiculous.

S17: It’s so interesting because, of course, we just had that conversation about that poem and whether by denying benefits to people who are coming into the country, making it so that if you don’t have health care, you can’t come in. Whether that is violating the spirit of that poem.

S18: Yes, it absolutely is. And Miller had a very intense, you know, hatred for that poem. He directed me to write a new story, attacking it because I was watching Tucker Carlson interviewed Lindsey Graham and John McCain about it.

S19: It sounds like the overwhelming majority of these refugees, at least the ones fleeing Syria, are men. Probably a lot of them were combatants. That makes sense. Why is it in the interest of Americans to have them come here?

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S1: I went back to find this interview. It’s about a plan to let Syrian refugees into the U.S..

S9: Well, I we have always welcomed refugees under certain circumstances watching it now.

S1: It’s pretty stunning to think about how different this conversation is in 2019. It’s hard to imagine Lindsey Graham going on Fox News saying something like this.

S20: So I would like to think that America is a special place that Americans have welcomed people in the past, have been fleeing oppression, go read books on the Statue of Liberty. I want to balance our national security against our character.

S1: People like Tucker Carlson and Katie McHugh, they were part of the media engine that changed these talking points.

S18: So I wrote up a very hostile article about the poem Parliament Immigration. Miller would, you know, would frequently praised my work to be an saying that I’m doing a great job. This is a phenomenal story.

S1: It should be the lead from Steven Miller also references this book called The Camp of the Scenes, which I I’d never heard of before. Can you explain a little bit the significance of this book?

S18: It is a book that I have not read. It’s circulated in all these white nationalist circles. And it’s about a heart like people of color are coming to Europe.

S21: And, you know, there are scenes in which a woman is raped to death in it. And they they colonize Europe. And it’s held up as a warning as to what’s going to happen according to white nationalists, to white majority countries.

S11: Stephen Miller’s e-mails with Katie. They’re like a roadmap to understanding the ideology that Katie now says she disavows. It’s not a pretty journey reading them, talking to her.

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S1: It’s hard not to be skeptical of Katie’s motives, mostly because it’s hard to believe that someone could make such a drastic turnaround after being so extreme. Katie says it’s a process. Can you describe your life now? I mean, you spent years living in D.C., living that D.C. reporter life. It sounds like you’re living a pretty different life right now.

S12: Yeah. So I’m healing. I’m surrounded by wonderful people. I’m just working regular jobs right now and figure out where I’m going to go graduate school because I’d like to study environmental policy.

S1: You didn’t want to let us know where you’re living now or details that would let people find you. Why?

S12: My safety is a concern and I’m trying to rebuild a quiet, peaceful life. I’m not trying to. Become like a famous person, I guess you put it. I don’t I don’t want that. I really want a quiet life working, you know, as an academic and just helping people by means of volunteering. So to me, it’s not about it’s really not about us searching the spotlight. I’ve been disentangling myself, trying to expose this ideology and more people about it, but also rebuilding, you know, a healthy life away from all of it.

S1: I wonder what you’d say your ideology is now.

S12: Well, I’ve done a Bernie Sanders. Should give you an idea, and I definitely I have much more compassion. Know used to feel that conservatism itself can make it into a very cold, calculating person who doesn’t care about others, especially, you know, libertarianism, that kind of ideology. That’s why I’m new. I no longer subscribe to those beliefs. I do believe we need to wipe out all medical debt. We need Medicare for all. We need to abolish all student loan debt. I support policies which which help people make their lives better so that there’s less suffering in the world.

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S1: Young When you describe to another reporter the beliefs of the people you worked with, a bright bird, it sounded kind of nihilistic, like the point wasn’t not to not be racist, but to laugh at those who called you racist.

S12: It really was because it was just about making liberals angry at whatever cost to your country and your soul. And I certainly do not subscribe to that, especially not any longer.

S1: It sounds like more than anything, what you were getting away from was that laughter, that sort of not caring.

S14: Ennis Yes, because actually there’s a very good reporter. His name is Robert Evans, who does a lot of work about researching fascism. And one of the things he he talks about in fascist movements is using laughter as a means to humiliate and dominate your opponents. It’s like genuine sharing a joke kind of laughter. It’s it’s like a force and is deeply nihilistic. Laughing at the world, thinking it’s hopeless. You can’t fix it, but you can at least make your enemies angry. That’s the kind of mindset that Brightmoor had and far right publications and far right people have.

S1: It strikes me as extremely online is very online.

S14: Yes. Yes. That’s why I tell people, log off.

S12: You know, you need to surround her. You need to have a real life. You need to surround yourself with real people. You need to have real responsibilities and real dreams, real hopes. And not just, you know, doing what I did, which is making a living by mocking people online and making fun of them from getting upset.

S1: Do you think you would have changed if you hadn’t been fired?

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S12: That’s a good question because I was extremely online, surrounded by bright part, the company every day, I worked very, very long hours. So I I would just say I’m grateful for being fired. I’m thankful for that because it did lead me to changing.

S1: I wonder what you might say to someone who says it looks like you’re trying to bring Steven Miller down and bring him down maybe to get some of the stink off of you.

S12: No, that’s that’s absurd. I am upset that this person who is a white nationalist is crafting White House policy and it’s hurting very vulnerable people. I don’t believe in hurting vulnerable people. And I do not believe someone who subscribes to discredited race, science and eugenics, who believes in those things should be crafting White House policy.

S1: What do you want the result of sharing these e-mails to be?

S12: I would like people to be aware that white nationalism is shaping White House policy, that we can speak up as Americans and say this is unacceptable.

S1: Do you want Steven Miller to be fired?

S12: I don’t want him shaping immigration policy.

S14: And I believe the 80 plus Congress people are saying calling him for him to resign because you should be ashamed of having these views.

S1: I’m struck by the fact that you said you don’t necessarily want to see Miller fired. You want him to resign for you. What is the difference?

S12: Well, I don’t. I say that because I don’t believe trouble fired him. He’s too close to the president. I just hope that, you know, I don’t. I think he will.

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S16: But recognize that he’s wrong. No, white nationalism is not an ideology. Subscribe to. And that he should resign and change his life for the good of the country and for his own conscience.

S13: Katie McHugh, thank you so much for joining me.

S16: Thank you so much.

S22: Katie McCue worked for Briber News from 2014 to 2017, and that’s the show What Next is produced by Mary Wilson. Jason De Leon, Daniel Hewitt and Mara Silvers. Tell me what you thought about this show. I would love to hear from you. I’m on Twitter at Mary’s desk. Thanks for listening. I’m Mary Harris. I’ll talk to you tomorrow.