Stephen Miller, former senior advisor and White House director of speechwriting to President Donald Trump, joins the podcast this week to discuss President Joe Biden’s continued attempt to deflect blame for the disastrous Afghanistan withdrawal on his predecessor, Donald Trump. Miller also addresses the Left’s continued push for open borders, and what his organization, America First Legal, is doing to fight back.
Miller now heads America First Legal, which brings legal challenges to different Biden administration policies before the courts, and on that front, has already had some impressive successes. We’ll get into those and more on this week’s edition of She Thinks.
Hey everyone. It is Kelsey Bolar filling in for Beverly Hallberg. Welcome to She Thinks, a podcast from the Independent Women’s Forum, where we talk with women, sometimes men about the policy issues that impact you and the people you care about most. Today, I’m joined by Stephen Miller, former senior advisor and White House Director of Speech Writing to President Donald Trump. Stephen now heads up a new organization called America First Legal, which brings legal challenges to different Biden administration policies before the courts. And on that front, they [inaudible 00:00:50] a number of pretty impressive successes. We’ll get into some of those today during our conversation, along with trying to figure out is this man really who the media portrays him to be? Stephen, welcome to the show.
It’s great to be here. Thank you for having me.
President Biden continues to blame former President Donald Trump on the disastrous Afghanistan withdrawal, which he ironically called an extraordinary success. I guess only the bad parts are Trump’s fault. I wanted to read you a part of his speech, upon fully withdrawing the last troops from Afghanistan, then have you respond.
Leaving August 31st is not due to an arbitrary deadline, it was designed to save American lives. My predecessor, the former president, signed an agreement with the Taliban to remove U.S. troops by May 1, just a month after I was inaugurated. It included no requirement that Taliban work out a cooperative governing agreement with the Afghan government but it did authorize the release of 5,000 prisoners last year, including some of the Taliban’s top war commanders among those who just took control of Afghanistan. By the time I came into office, the Taliban was in its strongest military position since 2001, controlling or contesting nearly half of the country. The previous administration’s agreement said that if we stuck to the May 1 deadline that they had signed on to leave by, the Taliban wouldn’t attack any American forces but if we stayed all bets were off so we were left with a simple decision, either follow through on the commitments made by the last administration and leave Afghanistan or say we weren’t leaving and commit another tens of thousands more troops going back to war. That was the choice, the real choice between leaving or escalating.
Now you probably understood that part of his speech better than when Biden delivered it himself because he tends to mumble and not make much sense but Stephen, what say you about that?
Well, there’s obviously a lot to unpack there. Every part of the statement that you just read is categorically false and I will say that I have yet to see anybody, frankly, on the left or the right in the media who thinks any part of that statement is true or even remotely honest. It’s not just misleading, it’s just packed and filled with lies. And for starters, the Trump peace process in Afghanistan was explicitly condition spaced. Biden is just outright lying and I’m frankly astonished that the White House staff, the staff secretary process, the editing process, felt so comfortable putting a statement into a speech that everybody on every side of the equation knows to be untrue. In other words, there’s not a single person with even the faintest familiarity with Afghanistan who believes that the Trump peace agreement was you do whatever you want to do and then we’ll leave on this day. That’s just so categorically false. I don’t even really understand how it is that again, has the temerity that to, to insert that statement.
The Taliban had explicit issues they had to meet upon which any aspect of the U.S. withdrawal would be based. But the flip side of that, which President Trump has been very clear about, is that if the Taliban propped any red lines we drew for them, they would pay dearly and with their lives. For example, Biden acknowledges that as a result of President Trump’s tough diplomacy, that not a single American was killed in action in Afghanistan from when the negotiations began in earnest in 2020 until President Trump left office. Now, any sane thinking person hearing that would say, “Wow, President Trump did a really incredible job keeping Afghanistan stable, keeping our air base, keeping our diplomatic presence, keeping all of our assets in place, keeping everything that we had positioned there exactly as it was and not a single American casualty.” You would think that a normal person to hearing that would say, in fact, a normal person that would say, “That is a stunning success by any definition.”
And compare that to how quickly Biden unraveled it all and turned President Trump’s success into the greatest foreign policy humiliation under Biden that our country has ever suffered. The essential thing to understand about Biden’s lies, that Biden took the Trump plan, all of the carefully-crafted conditions therein and all of the carefully crafted diplomacy therein, and shredded it and replaced it with his own plan, which was a…unconditional surrender, no coordination with our allies, no coordination across the U.S. government, no coordination with our citizens on the ground, no coordination with the Afghan government, no coordination with anything or anybody, just leave in the dead of night and cross your fingers and see what happens.
And of course we know what happened, which is that Afghanistan fell in 11 days and all of our citizens were stranded behind enemy lines. All of our assets were turned over to the Taliban. Our embassy was lost. Our air base was lost, and it was just one debacle, one strategic defeat, one embarrassment after the other. President Trump understood that the Taliban could be influenced by American strength. In other words, its serious threats, credible threats were made that if you do this, if you violate this, if you commit this act, then we will bomb you or we will kill you or we will find you, that that would influence their behavior, combined then with the other side of saying, “But if you follow these guidance and you follow these directions, then we’ll do this.” And Biden completely and utterly abandoned that framework, completely and utterly abandoned the whole idea of peace through strength and said, ‘you could get peace through radical weakness.’
Which convinces how little understanding he has with the Taliban, how little understanding he has of how extremist militants operate in this world, in the real world. In his fantasy world and the fantasy world of Blinken and the fantasy world of Sullivan putting out a Tweet from the State Department, urging the Taliban to respect human rights or to form an inclusive government will influence their behavior. At any step along this process, Biden had an off-ramp to end America’s humiliation and strategic defeat. Any point, even as they were marching towards Kabul. The leadership is now all out in the open. They’re not hiding they’re there. They’re all heading towards Kabul.
Biden could have easily said at any one of these junctures but take that juncture, it’s just one example. He could have easily said, “If you get within this many feet of our air base, this many feet of our embassy, this many feet of the airport, if you touch any citizen, if you touch any national of the United States of America or you touch anyone else that we deem to be a priority or issue any threats of any kind, then we will decapitate your leadership.” And they wouldn’t have done anything. We would never had to have surrendered any single one of our assets in Kabul. And that was just at that late development. It’s at that very late stage. At every step along the way and the choice between the right decision and the stupid decision, Biden made the stupid decision, and it cost America more than we can even begin to fathom. In closing, the whole speech is a lie and Biden is a liar. Frankly has been an inveterate liar and a habitual liar for his entire half-century in public service.
Right. And there’s a number of other topics I want to move on to but very briefly, I have to give you the opportunity to address this one specific allegation in the portion of the speech I just read where Biden said, “The Trump negotiation deal did authorize the release of 5,000 prisoners last year, including some of the Taliban’s top war commanders, among those who just took control of Afghanistan.” This was shocking to me because it really foreshadowed the entire strategy of the Biden administration to lay the groundwork to blame Trump for this for years to come. Because we all saw those videos of the thousands of the most hardened terrorists being released from prison before these evacuations had been safely executed but somehow this was Trump’s fault.
Yeah. It’s just a complete and total evasion by Biden. Before Biden came into office, there were no threats against our people. The situation was secure and stable, and the Taliban understood, again, not to cross any red lines. The degree of incompetence that the Biden administration has demonstrated defies description. And now under Biden, of course, hardened terrorists are being released right and left and entering the country right and left. But again, if Biden had just stuck with the Trump plan, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation but every step along the way, even within the context of his failed decision-making, he had the chance to make better decisions and he didn’t do it. The most important of which is that the evacuation of our citizens occurred subsequent to the evacuation of our troops. In other words, he took all the troops out, then Afghanistan fell; the Afghanistan government fell, and then we tried to evacuate our citizens.
How stupid do you have to be? There’s no other words to describe it. And then stupid has now turned into betrayal because he broke his promise, the essential duty of the Commander in Chief, and left our citizens on the field of battle, which is unforgivable. You can never get past that. You can never get around that. All the lies in his speech, which we don’t have nearly enough time to get through all of the fantasies in this alternate reality that he’s constructed, that we don’t have time to get through are all important but at the end of the day, the simplest point to make is that Biden executed the single most incompetent withdrawal in the history of withdrawals. And as a result of that, our citizens have been stranded in Afghanistan, which again is unforgivable.
It is just imbecility, just rank imbecility and lies. For weeks now, before the entire world, watching our prestige, watching our honor, watching our legacy, watching our standing in the world melt away like snow in July. That’s what’s happening, and no amount of lies, evasions, diversions, misdirections, and misstatements from Biden will ever undo what he has done to our country and its citizens.
Your organization, America First Legal, recently filed Freedom of Information Act requests for information related to this withdrawal, including information about the safety and security vetting and screenings of evacuees. Can you tell us more about what you’re pursuing? And will this ultimately help to hold anybody accountable for what happened?
Well, I sure hope that it does. We’re pursuing an OIG or Office of Inspector General request to determine the decision-making process that went into each of the various debacles that we’ve discussed so far in the Biden unconditional surrender plan. And in particular, we want to look at the extent to which political appointees interfered in military security decisions. Like abandoning Bagram Airbase, which is one of the most inexplicable decisions in this whole never-ending train wreck. If we had carried out the evacuation, in other words, as I mentioned earlier, it wasn’t one error or two errors or three errors or four errors or five errors. It was every single decision at every single juncture was wrong. Again, if we kept all of that, and all of the terrible decisions, but we had at least kept Bagram, think about how much safer that evacuation would have been. Think about how much more controlled that evacuation would have been.
Instead, we’re carrying out an evacuation where people are getting trampled to death. People are suffering from severe heat exhaustion, severe dehydration in this almost impossible to secure site where everybody’s crammed together, making it, of course, an extremely vulnerable target for a terrorist attack. How were these decisions made? Because clearly again, Biden is lying when he said the military wanted him to close Bagram. That is a lie. Let’s figure out just like everything else in this speech, let’s figure out how that happened. And then the other part of the request is—which you alluded to—is a Freedom of Information Act request to get to the bottom of the radical lack of vetting that is occurring with Afghan nationals who have been evacuated largely at random from Afghanistan.
I also want to shift gears but I guess on the topic of vetting at our southern border, which of course is a topic you know much about. There’s little to no vetting down there and of course this is all happening in the midst of a global pandemic. I want to get your take on how COVID-19 factors into border security and what your organization is also involved regarding a lawsuit on this front.
Yes. Well, the greatest super spreader event on planet earth right now is the U.S. southern border. And it’s the depleting medical resources in Texas. It’s depleting medical resources elsewhere in the country. It is spreading the Delta variant and will inevitably spread other variants into the country as well too. It is a perfect epidemiological storm for the spread of virus, the spread of illness, and the spread and the incubation of variants. This is really the ultimate manmade public health catastrophe playing out on our southern border. And as for vetting, there is no vetting. The illegal immigrants show up and they get released. There’s no vetting. The entire immigration procedure, lawful immigration procedure is predicated on the idea that you apply from your home country and you go through a vetting process with the State Department prior to entering.
Now, historically at that process has been far laxer than it should have been and under the Trump administration, all of those loopholes were plugged and closed, especially with respect to terrorism and national security. Biden, of course, has once again ripped off the guard rails and then, more than that, widened the lane for unvetted entry to an extent never before realized in our history as a country. But yes, with respect to the southern border, it’s a public health nightmare and there is no vetting so it’s a public safety nightmare as well too. And my organization is outside counsel for the state of Texas. America First Legal is outside counsel for the state of Texas in its lawsuit against the Biden administration for COVID catch and release along the southwest border.
It’s really striking to me the mandate coming down and the advice being handed down by the CDC and the Biden administration regarding to COVID-19 and then the lack of any of these policies applying to the border. I do want to mention that IWF has been running a safe border petition, that our listeners can take just a moment to sign online, demanding that the Biden administration applies these COVID requirements and screenings to everyone equally and fairly including those at the border but, Stephen, give us an idea, some perspective on the actual numbers we’re talking about here. Is it even possible to be properly screening and quarantining every single person who’s coming across the border when compared to if you fly into the United States from another country, you do have mandatory testing and you are supposed to quarantine if you test positive but that doesn’t seem to be happening down there.
No, not even close. We’re averaging between 7- 8,000 apprehensions a day. The border patrol doesn’t have the resources—frankly, no nation on earth has the resources—to quarantine for two weeks, 8,000 people every day. Just do the math on that one. And then, of course, what would happen under such a large volume of people is they’d all cross infect each other and then it would just be, which is what is happening, I should note. They cross infect each other and then so the disease just spreads further and further and further through the migrant population. The only way to be able to even have an effective quarantine regime, if you even wanted to, would be to expel most arrivals so that the numbers were manageable to the point where if you even wanted to quarantine people, you could. If that was even to be part of your approach, you would have to expel the vast majority of people who are arriving so that you then have enough space to quarantine the remainder. Of course, the easy thing to do would just be to return everybody, which is what was done under the Trump administration.
Right. And sticking to the topic of immigration, I did want to ask you about one of the policies that I believe was one of the driving factors you were so villainized by the media and that is the quote unquote child separation policy that occurred under the Trump administration. I want to let all our listeners know you actually recently joined Megyn Kelly’s podcast and you took a lot of time really breaking down the intricacies of that policy. And one of my big takeaways was there’s just such a misunderstanding and misrepresentation of what actually occurred during that time. And there’s very few people who have the background and knowledge such as yourself to really communicate that type of information. And I guess this kind of leads me to my wrap-up end question, which I know we don’t have time to break down everything about the child separation policy and our listeners can go listen to that Megyn Kelly interview with you. I thought it was a wonderful explanation.
But again, you have been so villainized just to give our listeners an idea, you’ve been called everything from a white nationalist advocate by Vanity Fair to an immigration hypocrite by actually your uncle in Politico. And yet you continue to face the media, you continue to debate and be challenged and stand up for your beliefs. What do you make of these personal attacks? And why do you continue putting yourself out there when you probably could have a pretty lucrative career just going behind the scenes for good?
Well, a lot to unpack in that question. I’ll try as best I am able. I think that the simplest point is that, with respect to the smears and the lies and the defamation that has taken place, tragically to be in the public eye in any way in the 21st century is going to entail a lot of defamation and slander. The fact that it’s commonplace doesn’t make it any less odious or any less deplorable. And of course, if you are somebody that advocates strongly for America first principles, then the media will reserve a special level of venom and hatred for you.
But the important point to always remember and I would encourage everyone in your audience to understand is that if you stand for decency and justice and equality and civil rights, public safety, the Constitution, and you do so with integrity and with constancy and with devotion to country, then it is just tragically priced into the equation that some very unstable people and some very unwell people are going to say very repugnant and very libelous things about you. But you will rest very easy, very comfortably, knowing you did right by your country and countrymen. In the end of the day, that’s what really matters.
And a small handful of angry, entitled, bitter DC elites with a keyboard, they’re going to say terrible lies but at the end of the day, there is such a vast, tiny, tiny minuscule minority of the American population so out of touch, so extreme in their beliefs, so hateful in their thought process and also so profoundly unhappy, people who are consumed with hate, of course, always unhappy. And so my critics being so consumed are, of course, quite unhappy people.
With respect to the policy issues that you raised, I would just say, because there’s so much intricacy there that we don’t have time to get into—and perhaps we can schedule another time—that the starting point, the United States government has never had a child separation policy. What the United States government has always had, long before President Trump and long after President Trump presumably will continue to have is a policy that people who are incarcerated for federal crimes—and also it’s true in the state context as well too—are housed in correctional facilities, without their children present. And this has always been the case. If you were charged with an immigration crime by the Biden administration and you went to a Department of Justice correctional facility, then by definition, your children would not be placed in that setting with you.
When Kamala Harris was the attorney general for the state of California, she put thousands of people behind bars, including many for which you would consider relatively minor crimes who had U.S. citizen children. They weren’t just kept away from those children for days, they were kept away from the children, depending on the offense, for years, many years. I think it’s an important just background point to make that while it’s true that immigration prosecutions increased under President Trump, the policy of the U.S. government has always been that if you were prosecuted for a federal crime, you are not housed with your children in a jail or in a prison for obvious reasons.
But I think the more important point in all this is that it was President Obama who assented to a ninth circuit policy that made it impossible to keep families in a noncriminal immigration setting for the pendency of their removal proceedings. That was known as the Flores decision. And so, in other words, Jay Johnson got an unfavorable ruling from the ninth circuit, they declined quite cautiously to appeal that ruling to the Supreme Court, locking in the Flores ruling, which meant that if a family immigrates to the country illegally, that they can’t be held together through the pendency of a civil immigration removal proceeding. That created an industry of child smuggling. It created a particularly heartbreaking phenomenon, which are fake families. And we had to have Homeland Security investigations set up shop in the border and, as I understand, Biden has scaled this back dramatically, which is tragic in its own right.
But we had to send Homeland Security investigations down to the border in order to help identify these fake families to save these children. And a lot of children end up getting recycled, which is the term that law enforcement use for when illegal aliens would grab a kid take them across the border to get through because of this Flores loophole created by the ninth circuit, then this kid would get sent back and then used by other adults to come through and so on and so forth. You can imagine the horrors that children were subjected to because of this Obama policy. The Trump administration implemented a series of reforms, all since canceled by Biden who’s brought child smuggling to levels never seen before in the history of our country and probably any country that has ever existed. But the Trump administration put in place a series of reforms that allowed us to keep families together through the pendency of the removal proceedings.
The main vehicles for that were the migrant protection protocols or remain in Mexico as it’s more commonly known. There’s also safe third agreements with the Northern Triangle, both of these agreements, along with other reforms that we don’t have time to get into today, allowed us to either compress the removal timeframe or to carry out the removal proceeding in a third nation, in this case in Mexico, so that families could be kept together. But also importantly, this eliminated completely the incentive that Obama created in partnership with the ninth circuit to use children as a tool for entry into the country, which led to all kinds of barbarous inhumanity that the Trump administration ended. President Trump dealt an enormous blow to the child traffickers, and President Biden has delivered an enormous gift to the child traffickers. And that’s just the bottom line, lawlessness begets misery, the rule of law makes people more safe and more prosperous and more secure.
I appreciate you giving us that brief overview. There is such an important humanitarian aspect to this, where vulnerable children are sadly being very much taken advantage of. And I know that was a priority to address under the Trump administration. We’d love to have you back at some point to discuss this more. In the meantime, as I mentioned, our listeners can hear you go into greater detail about some of these policies in your interview with Megyn Kelly on the Megyn Kelly podcast. I really enjoyed listening to that and I think regarding the personal attacks, you said it well, I don’t face anything comparable to the scale that you do but I’ve never had trouble sleeping at night knowing what I am fighting for and believing in it. Thank you so much, Stephen, for being willing to share your expertise and for being willing to stand up in this fight and take those bullets. I know a lot of people appreciate that.
Let me just close by reiterating that don’t spend your life trying to chase positive reinforcement from all the wrong people. Spend your life trying to do the right thing and everything else will take care of itself. If you would like to help do the right thing as a listener, I would love you to visit my website, aflegal.org. Aflegal.org, that’s the website for America First Legal, aflegal.org. And join our team, sign up for our newsletter, get our alerts, and help us fight back in federal court.
We hope you all take something away from today’s conversation. If you enjoyed this episode of She Thinks or like the podcast in general, we’d love if you would take a moment to leave us a rating or review on iTunes. This helps ensure our message reaches as many Americans as possible. Share this episode, let your friends know where they can find more. She Thinks episodes are available on iTunes, iHeartRadio, Spotify, all your favorite podcast apps. This is Kelsey Bolar signing off on another edition of She Thinks. Stephen, thank you so much for joining us.
Thank you. My pleasure.