When President Donald Trump abruptly withdrew his nomination of Ronald Vitiello to be the next confirmed head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency on Friday morning, he told reporters it was because he wanted to take his nomination—and, by extension, ICE as a whole—in a “tougher direction.”
The move, sudden enough to initially make at least one Homeland Security official insist that it’d merely been a clerical error to the Associated Press, baffled many—especially given the effusive praise heaped on Vitello from Trump’s cabinet, including DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, who said “Vitiello’s leadership experience, combined with the unique perspective that comes from more than 30 years in law enforcement, makes him especially qualified to hold this important position.”
On Friday afternoon, however, we learned a little more about just why Trump yanked the rug out from under Vitiello. It’s reportedly all Stephen Miller’s doing.
According to CNN’s Kaitlin Collins, Miller—the president’s white nationalist policy advisor—had been personally lobbying Trump to jettison Vitiello. Among Miller’s complaints was the fact that he said Vitiello wasn’t fully in favor of the president’s threat to fully close the border between the United States and Mexico.
Collins’ report was backed up by the Washington Post, which quoted a senior administration official as saying:
This is part of an increasingly desperate effort by Stephen to throw people under the bus when the policies he has advocated are not effective. Once it becomes clear that Stephen’s policies aren’t working, he tells the president ‘they’re not the right people.’
If Miller is indeed behind Vitiello’s ouster, it’d be very much in keeping with the 33-year-old’s fascistic anti-immigrant crusade. According to former White House advisor Cliff Sims, Miller once stated that “I would be happy if not a single refugee foot ever again touched America’s soil.”
Miller is himself the descendent of immigrants—a point not lost on multiple members of his family, who have allegedly condemned his “inexcusable cruelty,” according to Miller’s uncle.
The White House hasn’t publicly announced who will replace Vitiello as Trump’s nominee to lead ICE. However, according to the official who spoke to the Post, it’ll probably be someone pretty awful.
“Stephen wants to put Attila the Hun as director of ICE,” the official said. Because, as bad as Trump’s anti-immigrant politics have been so far, they can always get much, much worse.