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Despite Recent Firings, the Trump Administration Still Has a Serious White Nationalist Problem

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Originally published August 27, 2018; updated September 9, 2018.

Revelations of white nationalist associations within the Trump Administration are tragically neither new nor surprising. But the recent firings of DHS analyst Ian Smith and  White House speechwriter Darren Beattie are just the latest reminders of how embedded white nationalism is in the current Administration. Far from an isolated incident, many others in the Trump Administration have long and continuing ties to white nationalists.

Ian Smith

On August 28, 2018, Ian Smith, a Department of Homeland Security analyst and a Trump political appointee, resigned after his extensive connections to white nationalism were made public by the Atlantic.

In a series of emails obtained by the Atlantic, Smith appears to be intimately familiar with leading white nationalists and white nationalist events, including emails sent to Richard Spencer of National Policy Institute and Jared Taylor of American Renaissance. Smith was also repeatedly invited to events with leading white nationalists and was on a first-name basis with them. Over emails, Smith casually affirmed Nazi terminology and spoke of plans to meet with the former spokesman of the neo-Nazi Traditionalist Worker Party, which helped organize the tragic 2017 Charlottesville rally.

Also, before joining the Trump Administration, Smith worked for the legal arm of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), white nationalist John Tanton’s flagship organization and a hate group. And Smith donated $2,000 to a colleague with his own white nationalist connections, Kris Kobach, for his gubernatorial campaign.

Also concerning is fact that Smith cleared a security clearance background check, even as DHS spokesman Tyler Q. Houlton said the agency is “committed to combating all forms of violent extremism, especially movements that espouse racial supremacy or bigotry.”

Smith was reportedly a mid-level staffer at DHS, but attended several immigration meetings at the White House convened by Stephen Miller, sometimes in place of his supervisor. He also helped craft the reportedly forthcoming policy that will force immigrant families to choose between much receiving assistance and  jeopardizing their immigration status — a move that could hurt more than 20 million immigrants, including children who are U.S. citizens.

Darren Beattie

Former White House speechwriter Beattie was fired in August after journalistic scrutiny of his participation in a conference with white nationalists in 2016. That event, the annual H.L. Mencken Club Conference, was a frequent destination for white nationalists including Peter Brimelow of VDARE and Jared Taylor of American Renaissance. Beattie claims that he said “nothing objectionable” in his remarks, but this is beside the point. Beattie’s willingness to participate in a conference with white nationalists is an action unfit for anyone employed by the White House. 

Miller, Kudlow, Kobach, and John Tanton

Even without Beattie, the influences of white nationalism are still numerous in the White House. Chief among them is lead speechwriter and policy advisor Stephen Miller, who is himself a white nationalist with a long history to prove it. While attending school at Duke University, Miller worked with Richard Spencer — an avowed white nationalist and one of the organizers of the events in Charlottesville, Virginia in August 2017, where Heather Heyer was murdered. In 2007, the pair worked together to bring Peter Brimelow to Duke for an event they hosted. Today, Miller plays a key role in the Trump Administration — and has the ability to shape real policy, from the Muslim ban to family separations at the border to temporary protected status and more. If Darren Beattie was fired for associations with white nationalism, there is zero good explanation for why Stephen Miller remains employed.

And Miller is not the only friend of white nationalists at the White House. Trump’s top economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, has also been friends with Brimelow for over 40 years. Brimelow is a frequent guest at Kudlow’s house and was there the weekend after Beattie was fired. Kudlow said he disagrees with his friend’s ideas, but Kudlow’s continued employment with the Trump Administration is further evidence of Trump staffers’ willingness to associate with reprehensible and racist ideas.

Another of Trump’s close allies with white nationalist connections is Kris Kobach, the Kansas Secretary of State and current candidate for governor. Kobach, who sometimes advises Trump on immigration issues and led Trump’s sham voter fraud commission, shared a stage with Brimelow in 2004 and Brimelow was so taken with Kobach that he called for both Mitt Romney and Donald Trump to pick Kobach for Vice President.  Kobach was also a longtime employee in white nationalist John Tanton’s network of anti-immigrant organizations. 

Speaking of John Tanton, Tanton is also a long-time associate of both Brimelow and Jared Taylor. One of his organizations, the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) — a hate group — has circulated thousands of white nationalist articles, including from Peter Brimelow’s VDARE, Jared Talyor’s American Renaissance, and Richard Spencer. At least three top Administration officials have appeared at events with CIS, including Lee Francis Cissna, the director of the US Immigration and Citizenship Services (USCIS); Thomas Homan, former acting director of ICE; and James McHenry, director of the Executive Office for Immigration Review. A discussion of white nationalists inside the Trump Administration would not be complete without mentioning the extensive list of John Tanton-network alumni and affiliates who have worked or currently work inside the White House.

Of course, institutional cultures start from the top, and Donald Trump himself has made headlines for his refusal to condemn white nationalists. He’s equivocated on white nationalist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia and retweeted a British white nationalist who posted an anti-Muslim video. He’s pretended he doesn’t know anything about David Duke and his eldest son, Trump Jr. has a nasty habit of retweeting white nationalists. 

The Administration, in addition to firing a staffer for his willingness to associate with white nationalists, needs to clean house of all the others who did the same. We don’t, of course, have much faith of that happening, when it’s clear that white nationalist influence in this Administration goes all the way to the top.