The first story I read this morning has got my blood boiling! Not because it is one more blast at Trump, or at Stephen Miller (he can take care of himself).
And, although I have now learned more about the secretive process thanks to the leakers (the blabbermouths!), what has me steamed is that the Trump Administration clearly still has many people throughout government (the State Department!) and in the White House who are not loyal to him and are so willing to dish the dirt on his Presidency.
Whose fault is that?
It is Trump’s fault for not placing enough of his own people in leadership slots—people who would be loyal and keep the bureacrats in check.
Indeed the US Refugee Admissions Program in the State Department is still being run by career bureaucrats who saw Obama’s fantasy 110,000 refugee ceiling last year as the holy grail!
For new readers, know that I have maintained that there is nothing heroic about this 45,000 (split the baby) ceiling.
Trump had the perfect opportunity to suspend the program entirely, to put off setting the ceiling. He could have done it for 6 months and told Congress to investigate the entire program with an eye to reforming it or setting up an entirely new system to admit only the most desperate people. (There is likely zero chance any reform will be initiated in election year 2018!)
So, as you read through New Yorker reporter Jonathan Blitzer‘s story, meant to paint Stephen Miller as the boogeyman (written thanks to so many blabbermouths), know that I believe Trump flubbed this one and took an easy way out.
(You should read the whole thing. I couldn’t snip it all! So, I picked out what interested me most and the emphasis below is mine.)
Late last month, the White House announced that next year’s cap would be forty-five thousand, a record low. The State Department, the Defense Department, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Office of the Vice-President, and the Office of Management and Budget had wanted the number to be higher.
But they had all been forced to compete with one influential White House official: Stephen Miller, the thirty-two-year-old former aide to Jeff Sessions who has become Trump’s top immigration adviser.
I recently spoke to four Administration officials [come on chickens, who are you? put your names out there!—ed] involved in the refugee-cap process to try to understand how Miller was able to outmaneuver an array of powerful factions in the federal bureaucracy. Each official described Miller as a savvy operator who understands how to insert himself into the policy-creation process. They also described him as the beneficiary of a dysfunctional and understaffed Administration. Miller hadn’t completely gotten his way on the refugee cap, they told me; he wanted it to be lower. The forty-five-thousand figure—which past Administrations would have considered impractically low—amounted to a kind of compromise.
Miller, who has gone from the political fringe to the White House on the strength of his reputation as an anti-immigration ideas man, joined the Trump campaign early.
So the process begins in June. We will remember that for next year!
The chain of events that led to the announcement of the new refugee cap began on June 5th, when Miller met with officials from the State Department, the National Security Council, the Department of Homeland Security, and a policy group called the Homeland Security Council. Every summer, the State Department and the N.S.C. lead a series of discussions to decide the next year’s cap. Officials weigh dozens of different considerations, solicit input from the various stakeholder agencies, and ultimately bring a number to the President for his approval. [Could the stakeholder agencies be the federal contractors?—ed]
Miller introduced the officials to Gene Hamilton, another former aide to Sessions, whom the Administration had installed at D.H.S. This year, Miller and Hamilton explained, D.H.S.—not the State Department—would present the refugee-cap number to the President. Hamilton would be Miller’s key ally in the process. “They were in direct and constant contact,” the second White House official told me. “If there was ever a question you had for Hamilton, he’d say, ‘Hold on,’ and call Miller.” According to the first White House official, “It was clear that there was some precooked plan here.”
On this issue of asylum (in the next snip)…
….know that there are an estimated 270,000 asylum seekers presently in the country waiting for their day before a judge to make a pitch for asylum. Under the Refugee Act of 1980, once granted asylum, they are REFUGEES in every sense of the word and are on track to citizenship. The only difference is that they were not screened abroad at all and did not have their airfare to the US paid by the US taxpayer. So, Miller is making a very important point on numbers.
When officials pushed back against these kinds of changes, Miller would point to the backlog of asylum cases at D.H.S. and argue that the refugee program was unsustainable. All four officials believed this argument was disingenuous. “This was a manipulation to get the result he wanted,” one White House official told me. “He basically just had a political agenda: to limit the number of foreign nationals who come into our country.”
This next bit made me laugh! The bureaucrats who basically run the State Department were angry that Miller knows how the “sausage” is made in Washington!
You can bet the biggest blabbermouths Blitzer talked to came from the branch of the State Department called ‘Population, Refugees and Migration.’
I asked the officials how Miller, with his limited experience in the executive branch, had become such a formidable bureaucrat so quickly. “Look at who the senior advisers to the President were and are—Bannon, Kushner—Miller’s the only one with prior government experience,” the State Department official told me. “He knows something about government, and it turns out to be useful. He saw how the sausage was made. And he’s smart enough to make his own sausage.” The chaos of the Trump Administration helped. “The White House remains in utter disarray,” the official said. “If you don’t have an established set of procedures in place, it’s very easy to create your own process.”
In early September, officials at the State Department and N.S.C. were told that the Department of Homeland Security was ready to propose to the President that next year’s refugee cap be between fifteen thousand and twenty-six thousand people.
OPTICS! OPTICS! WHAT THE HELL! TO SATISFY SOME FOREIGN POLICY OPTICS! WHAT ABOUT AMERICAN COMMUNITIES SADDLED WITH THE COSTS AND THE CULTURAL UPHEAVAL?
Officials at the other government agencies involved in the process balked. “If we go below fifty thousand, we won’t satisfy the optics that the program was designed to generate, and that functionally hurts national security,” one White House official told me. “We look scared.” Miller and Hamilton weren’t swayed by the arguments, but when Elaine Duke, the interim Secretary of Homeland Security and Hamilton’s boss, insisted that the number couldn’t be lower than forty thousand, they were forced to retreat. (The White House disputed this account.)
Putting up a modest resistance, the State Department proposed a cap of fifty thousand. “People felt beleaguered and betrayed,” the official there told me.
“By the time we talked about splitting the difference, we were already two-thirds lower than where we were previously,” the State Department official told me. “We’d gone from a hundred and ten thousand”—which President Obama had set for the current year—“to around forty thousand, with no evidence to support the decision. It was purely political. The process has never been this corrupt.”
In mid-September, Tillerson lowered the State Department’s desired number from fifty thousand to forty-five thousand. The State Department official said the Secretary’s staff was surprised. “He undercut his deputy,” the official said. “He undercut the recommendation of the staff. He broke with every other federal agency except D.H.S.” The other agencies had all previously said they would back the State Department, so forty-five thousand was the only number that went to the President.
“The President would never know that almost all of his Cabinet wanted a higher number,” one of the White House officials told me.
So who is the White House blabbermouth?
There is much more, continue reading here.
If you are looking for something to do, contact the White House and tell the President to put his LOYAL supporters in key positions in order to begin reining-in the blabbermouths!