Stephen Miller Pushed for Drone Strike on Migrants, New Book Claims – Rolling Stone

Stephen Miller Proposal Migrants

Stephen Miller, one of Donald Trump’s top immigration advisers, advocated using U.S. predator drones in 2018 to blow up migrant boats full of unarmed civilians, according to an upcoming book by a former administration official.

In a passage reviewed by Rolling Stone, former Trump Department of Homeland Security appointee Miles Taylor writes about an April 2018 conversation in which Miller allegedly advocated an attack on a migrant ship headed for the United States. Miller, Taylor writes, argued for the potential mass killing of civilians by suggesting they were not protected under the U.S. Constitution because they were in international waters.

Taylor is the writer behind the infamous “Anonymous” New York Times op-ed that set off a furious hunt for the turncoat in the halls of Trump’s administration. After leaving the administration, Taylor endorsed Joe Biden during the 2020 presidential election, and later revealed himself to be “Anonymous.”

Rolling Stone has reviewed written documentation from during the Trump administration that supports Taylor’s claim. Taylor’s account, however, is contested, both by Miller and by another person present.

“This is a complete fiction that exists only in the mind of Miles Taylor desperate to stay relevant by fabricating material for his new book,” says a spokesman for Miller.

Taylor’s book claims Miller made his argument to Paul Zukunft, a since-retired admiral who was then commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard. Reached for comment, Zukunft replied he had “no recollection” of the exchange as described in the book.

“I vividly recall having a lengthy conversation with Stephen Miller regarding Southwest border security in 2018,” says Zukunft. “My point was that the U.S. is not exerting enough influence in the form of foreign aid in the tri-border region of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador that have been key source nations for illegal migration. In effect, get at the root cause of illegal migration at the source rather than a goal line defense at the border. And the preponderance of these migrants traverse on foot. But to use deadly force to thwart maritime migration would be preposterous and the antithesis of our Nation’s vanguard for advancing human rights.”

Zukunft was appointed by former President Barack Obama and, after retiring from the Trump administration in the summer of 2018, backed Biden in the 2020 election.

Asked to respond to the retired admiral saying he had “no recollection” of the book’s explosive detail, Taylor said: “The conversation happened.”

Taylor’s book, Blowback, describes the alleged 2018 conversation in depth. The critical passage reads:

‘Admiral, the military has aerial drones, correct?’ Stephen inquired. 

‘Yes,’ Zukunft replied.

‘And some of those drones are equipped with missiles, correct?’

‘Sure,’ the commandant answered, clearly wondering where the line of questioning was going.

‘And when a boat full of migrants is in international waters, they aren’t protected by the U.S. Constitution, right?’

‘Technically, no, but I’m not sure what you’re getting at.’

‘Tell me why, then, can’t we use a Predator drone to obliterate that boat?’ 

Admiral Zukunft looked nonplussed. ‘Because, Stephen, it would be against international law.’ 

According to the book, Miller begins arguing with Zukunft:

[The] United States launched airstrikes on terrorists in disputed areas all the time, Miller said, or retaliated against pirates commandeering ships off the coast of Somalia. The Coast Guard chief calmly explained the difference. America attacked enemy forces when they were armed and posed an imminent threat. Seafaring migrants were generally unarmed civilians. They quarreled for a few minutes. Stephen wasn’t interested in the moral conflict of drone-bombing migrants. He wanted to know whether anyone could stop America from doing it.

The book continues:

‘Admiral,’ [Miller] said to the military chief nearly thirty years his senior, ‘I don’t think you understand the limitations of international law.’

Miller’s stance on immigration and human rights remains deeply relevant. Trump is the frontrunner for the 2024 GOP nomination, and multiple people intimately familiar with the matter say that Miller, along with other anti-immigration hardliners of his stripe, are still on the shortlist for administration posts should the twice-impeached, twice-indicted former president retake the White House. Trump himself is campaigning on promises to run on more extreme anti-immigrant policies than his first term’s, including proposals for attacking or invading Mexico and reviving and expanding his travel “Muslim ban.”

For years, including well before his entrance into Trump’s inner circle during the 2016 election, Miller has been a uniquely aggressive, far-right voice operating in conservative and anti-immigration circles in Washington, D.C. The Trump administration’s draconian immigration policies — largely spearheaded by Miller — became so heavily entrenched in government that some significant aspects endured during the Biden administration. 


Taylor is not the first Trump administration veteran to speak out in recent years about Miller and his alleged proposals for violence.

Trump’s former Secretary of Defense Mark Esper wrote in his memoir last year that, in October 2019, Miller once “proposed securing [ISIS leader] Mr. al-Baghdadi’s head, dipping it in pig’s blood and parading it around to warn other terrorists,” according toThe New York Times. Miller denied that this occurred, telling the Times that Esper was “a moron.”

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