The Democrats are pursuing two charges in their impeachment of Donald Trump: First, that the president tried to enlist Ukraine’s help for his own political gain. And second, that he’s continued to obstruct Congress in its investigation into this abuse of power.
Trump’s transformation of the Oval Office into both a branch of his business empire and the dirty tricks division of his re-election campaign is certainly disturbing. But the narrowness of these charges should not obscure the broader pattern of Trump’s crimes. From the point of view of basic morality and international law, Trump has committed far more consequential crimes and misdemeanors.
In his construction of an alternate foreign policy that makes an end-run around the State Department’s seasoned diplomats, Trump’s attack dog, Rudy Giuliani, has thrown the president together with corrupt Ukrainian officials and oligarchs. But behind the scenes in the Trump administration, an even more sinister shadow foreign policy informs the administration’s approach to immigration and security issues.
This one puts the president in bed with even more unsavory characters: racist extremists, neo-Nazis and mass shooters. Indeed, the recent leak of Trump adviser Stephen Miller’s emails provides only the latest example of the Trump administration teaming up with white nationalists from around the world.
As a right-wing college activist and later as an aide to then-Sen. Jeff Sessions, Miller consistently supported the most restrictive immigration policies. Elevated to the Trump administration, Miller has influenced the president on such policies as the Muslim travel ban and family separation at the Mexico border.
Thanks to Miller, the administration has forcibly sent thousands of desperate asylum seekers back into harm’s way. It separated nearly 70,000 children from their families and held them in detention, more than any other country. These are policies have done far greater harm than Trump’s ham-fisted pressure policy on Ukraine. They fly in the face of basic decency and violate international laws on the status of refugees.
Moreover, the leaked emails reveal that Miller’s rationale for such policies is not just conventionally conservative. It is connected to a global conspiracy theory known as the “great replacement.”
I recently interviewed more than 80 experts and activists from around the world on the rise of the far right. Again and again, they pointed to this theory as the glue that holds the globe’s most noxious right-wing movements together with mainstream conservatives.
According to this far-fetched theory — first promulgated in the racist 1973 novel, The Camp of the Saints, which Miller enthusiastically recommended to Breitbart writers — non-white people are determined to replace whites and undermine their civilization.
Believers of this conspiracy theory include far-right parties in Europe and neo-Nazi organizations around the world. Mass shooters in Christchurch, New Zealand, and El Paso, Texas, have also referenced the “great replacement” in their statements. Because of Miller and his ilk, the White House is now a part of this odious network.
Of course, it’s not just Miller. The president himself has clearly embraced the same philosophy, with his slanders of Mexicans as “rapists and criminals” and prospective African and Haitian immigrants as coming from “shithole” countries.
The administration has appointed people associated with far-right, anti-immigration organizations, like the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), to top positions. Until recently, the former executive director of FAIR, Julie Kirchner, was an immigration services ombudsman in the Department of Homeland Security.
The “great replacement” ideology also has an anti-Muslim slant. Believers of this fictional narrative say that non-white immigrants want to replace the U.S. and European legal systems with Sharia law. The Trump administration has drawn heavily from the work of the famously Islamophobic Center for Security Policy (CSP) and appointed such figures as former Deputy National Security Adviser Charles Kupperman, who served on the CSP board for nearly a decade.
This anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim fanaticism has taken over much of the Republican Party and permeates right-wing media outlets like Breitbart and Fox News.
White nationalists are not content to seal off borders to people of color. They also want to kick out longstanding immigrant communities. This concept of “remigration” is an integral part of the European far right’s agenda and has attracted certain elements of the “alt-right” in the United States as well.
“Remigration” hasn’t yet turned up in a Trump speech or as a Republican Party talking point. But the president has been sending up trial balloons.
Consider his tirade that the quartet of critical congresswomen — Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts — should “go back” to the countries they came from. The administration has also attempted to expel hundreds of thousands of people from El Salvador, Honduras and Haiti who have Temporary Protected Status.
Throughout Trump’s presidency, such actions and rhetoric have no doubt resulted in immediate harm to millions. But they threaten even more insidious shifts in the future. In the 1920s, far-right figures like Father Charles Coughlin as well as mainstream conservatives like Calvin Coolidge pushed immigration policies and theories of eugenics that would directly influence Hitler in Germany. As part of a growing, global far-right network today, it’s important not to cast the true danger of this administration in the comparatively narrow terms of an impeachment inquiry alone.
While Trump’s shadowy conduct toward Ukraine is without a doubt illegal, this shadow policy of white nationalism is even worse. It’s not just a crime — it’s a crime against humanity.