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Trump aide Stephen Miller told Bannon immigration would 'decimate' America

Amanda Holpuch in New York

The under-fire White House adviser Stephen Miller said in a 2016 radio interview that immigration could see America lose its sovereignty and be “decimated”, echoing racist and white nationalist themes at the heart of a current scandal that has seen growing demands for him to resign.

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In the 17-minute radio interview with Breitbart in February of that year, Miller claimed that Obama-era trade and immigration policies, which had bipartisan support, would “decimate” the US, give amnesty to dangerous immigrants, and end US sovereignty.

Miller claimed “the sovereign powers of the United States have been bled away” in the interview with Breitbart’s then executive chairman, Steve Bannon.

Miller’s extreme language in public is under renewed scrutiny following a series of reports by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) that revealed how leaked emails showed the White House aide espousing white nationalist views and injecting that agenda into Breitbart.

More than 80 members of Congress, 55 civil rights groups and Democratic presidential candidates have demanded Miller resign in response to the leaked emails.

Tiana Lowe, a columnist at the conservative newspaper the Washington Examiner wrote: “It’s long past time for Trump to dump Miller.”

The Democratic New York congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez started a petition for people to support his resignation.

The White House did not respond to the Guardian’s request for comment. In statements to the media, they have not denied the emails came from Miller or addressed the content of the emails. Stephanie Grisham, the White House press secretary, told the New York Times that the SPLC was an “utterly discredited, long-debunked far-left smear organization”.

Much of Miller’s interview with Bannon is centered on attacking two of Trump’s Republican rivals in the 2016 presidential race, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz.

Speaking of Rubio and Cruz’s decision to back a trade deal with 11 countries on the Pacific Rim , Miller said it was a “defining moment in the history of the United States”.

He said: “They answered the question of whether or not the United States will remain a sovereign country. Already in ways we don’t readily see, but we experience the effects. The sovereign powers of the United States have been bled away.”

Miller spent most of the interview criticizing Rubio, who was part of a coalition of four Republicans and four Democrats in the Senate, known as the Gang of Eight, who attempted to pass bipartisan immigration reform. Miller said if the bill they put forward had passed in Congress and become law, “America would be decimated”.

He also said Rubio’s election would lead to open borders and “the destruction of US sovereignty”.

An SPLC report published on Tuesday alleges Miller had an outsized influence on the output at Breitbart, pushing stories the site should cover and suggesting where those stories should be arranged on the homepage. The emails show that Miller specifically pushed articles attacking Rubio, who Trump has called a “great friend” since becoming president.

In the interview, Miller said Rubio ran for president “for the singular purpose of advancing his own ambitions and financial standing and campaign fundraising in order to put him in a position to end forever the existence of the United States as a country with sovereign, protected, secure, defined, certain boundaries.”

Speaking about sanctuary city policies in Florida – which limit local cooperation with national immigration law enforcement – Miller claimed Rubio, who had said he opposed sanctuary cities, had not done enough to stop them from existing.

“How many Floridians today have been wounded or maimed or lost a loved one because Marco Rubio didn’t fight to help the bill to stop sanctuary cities?” Miller said.

After making these comments, Miller’s criticism of Rubio became more heated, with the White House aide raising his voice at the 15-minute mark as he accused Rubio of saying one thing in English and another in Spanish to deliberately mislead voters. At one point, Bannon tried to interject but Miller continued to speak.

After Bannon asked why the “mainstream media” was not focused on Rubio’s use of Spanish, Miller said people who work at thinktanks are too busy in their townhouses talking about the “import-export bank” on Friday nights. His comments then abruptly turn to the brutal. “Meanwhile, Americans are dying in the streets because of our open border,” Miller said.

Miller went on to speak about Kathryn Steinle, a 32-old-woman murdered in San Francisco by a man who had been deported five times to Mexico. Her death remains a frequent talking point in anti-immigrant circles, despite the evidence which shows immigrants are less likely to be criminals than people born in the US.

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“Kate Steinle was murdered in her father’s arms by an illegal immigrant, yet our lawmakers in DC and our political system in DC and our lobbyists in DC have become so desensitized to the abuse of Americans that that horrendous slaughter, in broad daylight, in the streets of San Francisco, was not enough to stir our political class to meaningful, sustained action,” Miller said.

Five months later, Rubio’s office also used Steinle’s death to explain why he was voting for two bills to change sanctuary city policies, which his office said “make immigration problems worse”.

Miller ended the interview by saying Trump was the only presidential candidate “to put the American citizen back in control of their own future and their own destiny”.