In 2018, The Atlantic's Adam Serwer penned "The Cruelty is the Point" — one of the defining essays of the Trump era. In it, he posited that a major cohesive factor of the president's base of support "is not just that the perpetrators of this cruelty enjoy it; it is that they enjoy it with one another."
It's this axiom I encourage you to keep in mind as you read NBC News's new report on top Trump adviser Stephen Miller's alleged role in nixing a Justice Department plan to provide mental health services for the migrant children and parents separated as part of the White House's abominable family separation policy. Miller, whose affinity for white supremacist policies is well-documented, has been President Trump's staunchest and most militant immigration adviser.
The program, reportedly the culmination of months of negotiations between the Justice Department and lawyers representing families separated by the administration, was set to cost less than $10 million, and would have screened and assigned mental health workers for "thousands" of undocumented immigrants who had been affected by Miller and then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions's punitive anti-immigrant efforts.
That all came crashing down in October 2019, when the White House suddenly quashed the plan, per NBC News.
"DOJ strongly, and unanimously, supported the settlement, but not all agencies involved were on the same page," one administration official who spoke with NBC News explained. "Ultimately, the settlement was declined at the direction of the White House counsel's office."
While that official did not give an explanation for the counsel's office's objections, another administration source placed the blame squarely on exactly who you might expect: Stephen Miller.
"Ultimately, it was Stephen who prevailed," the second official said. "He squashed it." NBC News reported that the deal's failure ultimately cost taxpayers $6 million.
Other officials who spoke with NBC News denied Miller's involvement, with an unnamed White House official telling NBC News that he "was not involved, and any suggestion that he was is false." But it certainly sounds like something Miller — a man who reportedly pushed family separation during a Trump Cabinet meeting by insisting that "if we don't enforce this, it is the end of our country as we know it" — would have had his fingers in.
NBC News's uncovering of the scuttled plan to do the bare minimum to cushion the crippling psychological fallout from tearing families apart comes shortly after the network also reported that attorneys have been entirely unable to find the parents of more than 660 undocumented minors in the custody of the Trump administration. That number is higher than had been previously reported.