(CBS Local)– New York Times reporters Michael D. Shear and Julie Hirschfeld Davis have covered Washington politics for a long time, but they’ve never seen anything like the Donald Trump presidency.
Shear & Hirschfeld detail the Trump administration’s aggressive tactics at the border and promises to build a wall between the United States and Mexico in their new Simon & Schuster book “Border Wars: Inside Trump’s Assault On Immigration.” The authors talked to President Trump on the record in the White House and many people around him. They discovered many fascinating details about why the administration separated families at the border and how the travel ban became law.
“One of the things that struck both Julie and I and something we didn’t expect going in was that a lot of the frustration from inside the administration didn’t come from so-called Obama holdovers or deep state people who perhaps have a different immigration agenda,” said Shear in an interview with CBS Local’s DJ Sixsmith. “In fact, it often came from people who the president had hand picked to run the relevant agencies. These people came to reject and push back against the extreme things the president wanted to do. Over time, those people were all pushed out, the most dramatic was Kirstjen Nielsen at Homeland Security. She pushed back so much that it cost her job.”
“We talk about in the book how the wall was never supposed to be… it wasn’t Trump who said I’m going to run and the wall is going to be my thing,” said Hirschfeld Davis. “He always talked about illegal immigration and his advisers early on knew that it was getting a big reactions from crowds. There were people like Steve Bannon who were on the outside at that point and understood that this could be a really powerful political theme for him.”
In addition to Bannon, another major influence for President Trump on his immigration policy has been Stephen Miller. Trump’s senior policy advisor was an aide to Senator Jeff Sessions and quickly was thrust into a prominent position of power once Trump took over the White House.
“The biggest failure was the family separation policy,” said Shear. “It was in place formally for only several weeks and then they abandoned it under intense public pressure. We sat down with Stephen Miller about a week before they abandoned the policy. He was utterly defiant and said they wouldn’t back down. He said it was the right policy to deter migrants from coming into the United States. When that went awry and they had to back down, that was their biggest failure.”
“I worked with Stephen Miller when I was covering Capitol Hill years ago and he was working for Jeff Sessions when he was a Senator,” said Hirschfeld Davis. “He was the staffer who knew a lot about immigration, but was very much on the fringes of the debate and trying to derail all the compromises that were sort of in the works among Democrats and Republicans. He was willing to say and do things to get a rise out of his political opponents that other people weren’t willing to do. He became untouchable in Trump’s orbit.”
“Border Wars: Inside Trump’s Assault On Immigration” is available in stores and online now.