State Politics

Bannon calls Duke alumnus Stephen Miller ‘my typist’ in gossipy new Trump book

The explosive new book about President Donald Trump offers a glimpse into the role of Stephen Miller, the young White House policy adviser and former student conservative activist at Duke University.

“Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,” by Michael Wolff, was widely released Friday. It described Miller, in his early 30s, as a sidekick to former Trump adviser Steve Bannon, who called the young aide “my typist.”

Miller was a key writer of Trump’s inaugural speech and of the executive order known as the Muslim travel ban, which touched off massive airport protests a year ago in the early days of the Trump presidency. The book also describes how Miller and now-Communications Director Hope Hicks drafted a letter last May that would make the case for firing then-FBI Director James Comey. That decision was hotly debated within Trump’s inner circle, according to the book, with Bannon and former Chief of Staff Reince Priebus warning against the firing.

The book has been denounced by Trump, who tried to stop its release with cease-and-desist letters from his lawyers. Trump has tweeted the book is “full of lies, misrepresentations and sources that don’t exist.” The book, which quotes Bannon extensively, has also caused a feud between the president and his former chief strategist.

Trump had once referred fondly to Bannon and Miller as “my two Steves.” Wolff writes that at the dawn of the Trump administration, his inexperienced team didn’t know how to get things done. Bannon directed Miller, a Trump campaign aide, to work on the executive order on immigration.

“Miller, a fifty-five-year-old trapped in a thirty-two-year-old’s body, was a former Jeff Sessions staffer brought on to the Trump campaign for his political experience,” Wolff wrote. “Except, other than being a far-right conservative, it was unclear what particular abilities accompanied Miller’s views. He was supposed to be a speechwriter, but if so, he seemed restricted to bullet points and unable to construct sentences. He was supposed to be a policy adviser but knew little about policy. He was supposed to be the house intellectual but was militantly unread. He was supposed to be a communications specialist but he antagonized almost everyone.”

Miller is a 2007 graduate of Duke, where he was a columnist for the student paper, a frequent critic of the administration and a staunch supporter of three Duke lacrosse players who were falsely accused of rape. He made TV appearances on “Fox and Friends” and wrote a column bashing the city of Durham.

Miller has denied connections to white supremacist Richard Spencer, who was also a conservative activist around the same time as a Duke graduate student.

From left, former White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, National Trade Council adviser Peter Navarro, senior adviser Jared Kushner, policy adviser Stephen Miller and former chief strategist Steve Bannon watch as President Donald Trump signs an executive order in the Oval Office of the White House on Jan. 23, 2017, in Washington. Evan Vucci AP

Wolff writes that Miller, who warmed up the crowd at Trump campaign rallies, was a part of a group that traveled “in lockstep” with the president. As senior advisers left the administration, Miller became elevated.

The book describes Miller as a figure of “ever increasing incredulity.”

“He could hardly be taken out in public without engaging in some screwball, if not screeching, fit of denunciation and grievance,” Wolff wrote. “He was the de facto crafter of policy and speeches, and yet up until now he had largely only taken dictation.”

“Fire and Fury” describes how, in May of last year at Trump’s golf club at Bedminster, N.J., it was Miller and Hicks who were persuaded to craft a letter outlining reasons to fire Comey – presumably at the behest of Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

“The letter, in the panicky draft assembled by Miller and Hicks, either from Kushner’s directions or on instructions directly coming from the president, was an off-the-wall mishmash containing the talking points – Comey’s handling of the Hillary Clinton investigation; the assertion (from Kushner) that the FBI itself had turned against Comey; and, the president’s key obsession, the fact that Comey wouldn’t publicly acknowledge that the president wasn’t under investigation – that would form the Trump family’s case for firing Comey. That is, everything but the fact that Comey’s FBI was investigating the president.”

“Fire and Fury” gives a scathing view of the chaos of Trump’s administration and an unflattering portrait of the president and his competency. White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders called it “trashy tabloid fiction.”

Wolff said in a TV interview Friday that he stands by the book, which he claims was based on 200 interviews within the White House inner circle.

He also wrote a biography of media mogul Rupert Murdoch and numerous articles for New York magazine and Vanity Fair. Some of his work has been criticized and disputed by his subjects.

Jane Stancill: 919-829-4559, @janestancill

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