Stephen Miller, senior adviser to President Donald Trump, advised U.S. attorney Robert Capers as to how to defend the president’s executive order on refugees during an emergency court hearing, according to a report in the liberal New York Daily News.
Miller, the Daily News says, called Capers at home “to dictate” strategy for the hearing.
The White House denied the report two days after it was published. “Stephen Miller did not speak to Robert Capers,” White House Deputy Press Secretary Lindsay Walters told The Daily News, in an update posted to the bottom of the report. “They have never spoken to one another.”
Miller, a 31-year-old communications man who worked for Attorney General Jeff Sessions during his Senate career, has no legal training to speak of. He holds a bachelors degree in political science from Duke University. During the campaign, he was a close adviser, policy and speech writer for the future president.
Capers declined to comment on any conversations he had with the White House in advance of his office’s defense of the order. Susan Riley, chief of the civil division in the eastern district of New York, ultimately appeared to defend the order before U.S. District Judge Ann M. Donnelly. The order was challenged by two Iraqi refugees, Haider Sameer Abdulkhaleq and Hameed Khalid Darweesh, who were previously detained at John F. Kennedy International Airport.
“This has unfolded with such speed that we haven’t had an opportunity to address the issues, the important legal issues,” Riley conceded during the hearing.
Donnelly ruled in favor of the refugees. Her order enjoined the government from deporting refugees who were en route to the United States when Trump issued the order.
The order was crafted by a handful of senior West Wing aides, including Miller, without reliance on the traditional interagency process. The White House did not initially seek guidance from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel, which typically vets draft executive orders. Key agencies were also unable to provide operational guidance in advance of the order’s promulgation.
A series of leaks following the order left the burden of the blame at Miller’s feet, whose debut policy initiative has been attacked viciously by critics in the media.
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