Neither Donald Trump’s racism nor his Administration’s ties to white nationalists are new revelations, but the events of this summer are still a shocking reminder of the racism and xenophobia that are foundational to this presidency. From recent campaign events to the white nationalist figures staffing all levels of his Administration, Trump is playing up to his extremist base as much as ever.
In May, during a campaign rally before his official campaign launch, Trump asked a crowd, “how do you stop these people?”, referring to immigrants seeking asylum in the U.S. One of his supporters yelled, “shoot them.” Far from condemning the call for racist violence, Trump laughed and smirked, saying, “only in the Panhandle can you get away with that statement,” to which the crowd laughed and cheered.
In June, Trump officially launched his campaign with an anti-immigrant rant, putting to rest any doubt that his campaign would focus on anything besides racial grievance and anti-immigrant fear-mongering. In July, Donald Trump attacked four Congresswomen of color with racist and xenophobic tweets, telling them that they did not belong in the U.S., and followed up by egging on his rally crowds with racist “send her back” chants.
On August 3, in El Paso, Texas, a mass shooter carried out the deadliest terror attack against Latinos in the nation’s history, killing 22 after releasing a racist manifesto that echoed Trump’s rhetoric about a migrant invasion. In the days and weeks before the shooting, Trump had referred to immigrants as an “invasion” or as “killers” more than 500 times, according to reporting from USA Today.
Tragically, the white nationalist terror attack in El Paso was not the first violent incident perpetrated by someone emboldened by Trump’s xenophobia. During the 2018 midterms — which were jam-packed with anti-immigrant ads from Trump and GOP candidates across the country — a Florida man sent pipe bombs to Trump critics, while another white nationalist shooter attacked a synagogue in Philadelphia.
But the problem goes way beyond Trump’s rhetoric; Trump has staffed his Administration with dozens of individuals who are connected to various white nationalist organizations and hate groups. Many of these staffers come from a network of radical anti-immigrant groups that were founded by a white nationalist named John Tanton.
Tanton, now deceased, was a Michigan ophthalmologist who began to build a network of anti-immigrant organizations in the 1970s. The three main anti-immigrant organizations he founded are NumbersUSA, the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), and the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR). The Southern Poverty Law Center has listed the latter two as hate groups.
Tanton’s racist ideas have been a matter of public record since the 1980s. His early financial backers, the Pioneer Fund, like him believed in eugenics and white racial superiority. And two of Tanton’s friends were prominent white nationalists Jared Taylor and Peter Brimelow, who run the white nationalist websites American Renaissance and VDARE, respectively.
Several Administration staffers listed below also have connections to Brimelow. CIS has also sent out over 1,700 articles to its supporters that originated on Brimelow’s white nationalist website VDare. And as recently as July 2019, CIS was distributing disturbing VDare content.
Last year, we began a list of people who worked for the Administration and were connected to one more of these white nationalist organizations or hate groups. Here is the updated list:
- Stephen Miller, a senior advisor to the President, is a white nationalist and has tremendous sway over the nation’s immigration policy. He has been responsible for some of Trump’s most anti-immigrant policies — and his greatest failures.
- Jeff Sessions, Trump’s former Attorney General, had been meeting with the Tanton network since at least the 1990s and has been a constant ally ever since. Sessions was an important conduit for placing former anti-immigrant staffers throughout the Trump Administration. These staffers include Gene Hamilton, who while at the DHS masterminded the end to DACA for Dreamers; Danielle Cutrona, who served on Trump’s immigration transition team; Alan Hanson, who ran the Office of Justice Programs; and Rick Dearborn, who worked for Legislative, Intergovernmental Affairs and Implementation.
- At least three top Administration officials appeared at events with CIS, including Lee Francis Cissna, then the director of USCIS; Thomas Homan, then-acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE); and James McHenry, director of the Executive Office for Immigration Review.
- Since the 1990s, Kellyanne Conway, counselor to President Trump, has provided polling for FAIR, CIS, and NumbersUSA.
- The head of Trump’s failed voter commission and sometimes-immigration advisor, Kris Kobach, was employed by Tanton’s network for over a decade and is deeply entangled in its organizational web.
- Trump nominated Ronald Mortensen for Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, which oversees the U.S. response to refugees. Mortensen has written for CIS since 2009.
- Julie Kirchner, former executive director of FAIR, left the organization in 2015 to work as an immigration advisor to the Trump campaign. She was later appointed to Chief of Staff at the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and then became the ombudsman for USCIS.
- Robert Law is a senior policy adviser to USCIS, but was previously the lobbying director for FAIR. Another former FAIR lobbyist, Elizabeth Jacobs, is now a policy adviser to USCIS.
- Jon Feere, a longtime staffer at CIS, was hired as a senior advisor at ICE.
- NumbersUSA and CIS claimed to have met with Trump and top officials throughout Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and Trump used their data in his campaign ads.
- Lou Barletta, who sits on the Board of Directors for FAIR, worked on Trump’s transition team.
- Steve Bannon, former White House Chief Strategist and Senior Counselor to the President, was the CEO of Breitbart, which frequently reports on the Tanton network’s “research” and gives column space to Tanton allies. Bannon’s favorite book, a racist French novel, was published in English by another of Tanton’s organizations.
- Ronald Vitiello, then acting director of ICE, attended FAIR’s annual conference in Washington, D.C. in September 2018, along with a number of anti-immigrant sheriffs that FAIR helped bring to town, who then met with Trump and Mike Pence.
- Two leading officials, Ian Smith at the Department of Homeland Security and Darren Beattie, a White House speechwriter, were fired in 2018 after news reports highlighted their connections to white nationalism. Trump’s top economic adviser Larry Kudlow, however, remains at the White House even after his long friendship with white nationalist Peter Brimelow was reported by the Washington Post.
- Ken Cuccinelli, acting director of USCIS, has a long history of working closely with FAIR.
- John Zadrozny, a close ally of Miller, is reportedly up for deputy chief of staff at USCIS; he worked as a legislative counsel for FAIR in 2009.
- During his keynote address at the CPAC annual conference in March 2019, Donald Trump cited a thoroughly debunked statistic about immigrants that came from FAIR.
- Katharine Gorka was named CBP press secretary; Katharine and her husband Sebastian Gorka have a long history of Islamophobia and Katharine was instrumental in removing funding for Life After Hate, a group formed to fight white supremacy. Sebastian also briefly worked for the Trump team as a foreign-policy adviser.
- The citizenship question that Trump tried to add to the 2020 census is actually a longtime hobby horse of FAIR, and emails between Trump Administration officials encouraged consultation with the CIS about adding the question. The emails suggested the Administration talk to Steven Camarota of CIS, who was already found by a federal judge not to be a credible expert on the issue.
- Trump said nothing after the Proud Boys, a white nationalist gang, attended his reelection launch, or when they attended his July 4th celebration in Washington, DC.
- Trump appointed Charles M. Kupperman as a deputy national security adviser; Kupperman has a long and close relationship with leading Islamophobes.
- At the beginning of the year, Trump met with far-right activists including leading Islamophobe Frank Gaffney, a member of NumbersUSA, and CIS director Mark Krikorian.
- Trump invited Thomas Hodgson, who sits on FAIR’s board, to the White House for the signing of his veto against Congress’ rejection of his fake national emergency. Two other sheriffs with connections to FAIR — A.J. Louderback of Jackson County, Texas, and Mike Lewis of Wicomico County, Maryland — were also invited by the Administration to attend the signing.
- Reporting by Slate found that during his presidency Trump has retweeted at least four white nationalist accounts, including one account that was unambiguously called “whitegenocidetm”.
- During the Trump Administration, GOP members of Congress have invited at least three CIS members to testify to Congress including Todd Bensman, who ironically testified in a hearing on “FBI efforts to combat an increasing threat of white supremacy and white extremism”, CIS’ Jessica Vaughan, and Andrew Auther.