“That is one of the most outrageous, insulting, ignorant and foolish things you have ever said, and for you that is really …” a near-sputtering Stephen Miller castigated CNN’s Jim Acosta today as the two got into an escalating verbal brawl on live TV over the massive immigration policy revisions President Donald Trump announced this morning. In what was one of the most vitriolic press briefings of this or any administration, the sharp-elbow Acosta and Miller exchange took over the show — for better or worse.
“I am shocked at your statement that you think only people from Great Britain and Australia would know English,” the senior White House adviser also told the cable news reporter, who is the son of a Cuban immigrant and a longtime irritant to the Trump administration. Ironically, the explosive pre-briefing from Miller was supposed to be one the last questions in what is supposed to be the dull part of the rarely dull White House on-camera briefing.
As well as moving immigration into America toward a merit-based policy and a slashing of the number of green cards allocated, the legislation that Trump and a duo of GOP senators introduced earlier Wednesday also demands that people who want to come to this country speak English. Referencing the Statue of Liberty and his own family history, Acosta put that measure under the spotlight and said that it seemingly would only let in people from the UK and Down Under.
“It reveals your cosmopolitan bias to a shocking degree,” an increasingly bellicose and literal Miller added from the briefing room podium on soon after Acosta accused him of “National Parks revisionism” in his logic on the proposed new policy. “This is an amazing moment. That you would think only people from Great Britain and Australia would speak English is so insulting to millions of hardworking immigrants who do speak English from all over the world,” a clearly energized Miller stridently proclaimed, saying that Acosta’s questioning of the newly proposed policy that is “trying to ascribe nefarious motives to a compassion immigration measure designed to help newcomers and current arrivals alike is wrong.”
Check out the Miller and Acosta show here:
Only at the end of his time in front of the cameras and the press did Miller try to ramp things down. “I apologize, Jim, if things got heated, but you did make some pretty rough insinuations,” Miller said. “I think that went exactly as planned,” he added in an attempt at a joke that apparently no one in the room found funny.
By contrast, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ relatively short actual briefing that followed was pretty low-key.
After a break yesterday, the dust-up today saw the briefing returned to its now-regular habit of opening with a senior administration official offering an attempt at a deep dive on a particular part of the Trump agenda. But, despite talk of the new discipline that retired Gen. John Kelly is supposed to bring to the White House as the new Chief of Staff, obviously that didn’t work out so well Wednesday.
Getting into a near shouting match with The New York Times’ Glenn Thrush and later CNN’s Acosta, today saw the prickly Miller out front pushing the revised merit-based immigration plan the president and Sens. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and David Perdue (R-Ga.) unveiled. “What President Trump has done today is one of the most important legislative moves that we’ve seen on this issue in many, many years,” Miller told the media of the already controversial plan that some are calling “un-American” in its emphasis on being able to speak English and possessing profitable skills.
Miller also discussed wider immigration issues for the topic-focused administration and the plethora of foreign unskilled workers at various Trump properties – which he sidestepped, probably to the relief of his Oval Office audience.