When White House senior policy adviser Stephen Miller went on CNN for a live interview Thursday night, Wolf Blitzer instantly took notice of his guest’s appearance.
But it wasn’t Miller’s widely discussed hairline that caught the anchor’s attention. Filling the screen above a news chyron that read in all capital letters, “Defense secretary quits in protest over Trump Middle East policy as government shutdown looms and financial markets tank,” Miller had a broad smile across his face.
“I see you smiling, but right now it doesn’t look like there’s a lot to smile about," Blitzer said. "Very serious issues.”
Miller, one of President Trump’s most ardent supporters, was invited on “The Situation Room” to discuss the whirlwind of events that have left the country in what has been described as “a state of chaos” just days before Christmas. What began as a civil exchange rapidly turned into more than 20 minutes of a heated back-and-forth.
Miller appeared to repeatedly dodge Blitzer’s pointed questions, choosing instead to shower Trump with praise and spout lengthy impassioned defenses of the president’s recent controversial decisions. At one point, Miller became so animated while arguing for the president’s proposed border wall that Blitzer, who remained composed, cut him off, saying, “Calm down a minute, we don’t have to yell.”
The interview soon went viral, encapsulating for many a hectic day of turmoil in the nation’s capital.
Blitzer kicked off Thursday’s interview asking Miller for his reaction to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis’s abrupt resignation just hours earlier. In a letter, Mattis wrote that Trump has the right to have someone in the position who is “better aligned” with his views, The Washington Post reported. The pair recently clashed over Trump’s surprise announcement that he plans to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria and Afghanistan, a decision Mattis and other top advisers warned the president against.
On Twitter, Trump announced Mattis was retiring, which Blitzer pointed out was not the reason cited in the lengthy resignation letter. “Tell us what you know about this,” Blitzer asked Miller.
“Well, first of all, there is a lot to be happy about right now,” Miller responded, referencing Blitzer’s initial comment about his seemingly out-of-place smile. Miller quickly rattled off the day’s achievements, which included the House passing a sweeping criminal justice reform bill and Trump signing an $867 billion farm bill into law. He also touted a low unemployment rate.
“As to your question about Secretary Mattis, he and the president had a great relationship,” Miller said. “Secretary Mattis served our country with honor and distinction."
Then, Miller shifted gears to defend the president’s “America First” approach to foreign policy. Seeming unsatisfied with Miller’s answer, Blitzer reiterated his original question about Mattis.
“The president said that Mattis is retiring," the anchor said. “Mattis is quitting, he’s not retiring. He’s quitting in protest over the president’s policies, so why is the president saying in that statement he made on Twitter that Mattis is retiring?”
“James Mattis is retiring,” Miller said, before parroting the explanation the defense secretary gave in his resignation letter for why he has decided to step down. Talking over Blitzer, who tried to ask a follow-up question, Miller added that it is “very normal at this point in the administration to have turnover.”
Throughout the interview, Miller defended Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria and Afghanistan, and asserted that the media were responsible for encouraging U.S. involvement in the affairs of other countries.
Blitzer responded that the current situation has “nothing to do with the media,” pointing out that opposition is coming from top government officials.
Miller, who told Blitzer he didn’t mean “any disrespect,” argued that he has seen “hour and hour of coverage, breathlessly trying to drag America deeper into a Syrian conflict, breathlessly engaging in propping up quotes from people who have dragged us into conflicts like Iraq.”
“This president’s been very clear about the fact he will defend America like no one else,” Miller said, talking faster and louder as he went on. "He will have a military power second to none. He will kill terrorists wherever and whenever he has to. But he’s also going to be sophisticated and intelligent and smart about it. And he’s not going to have us in foreign conflicts, like Syria, generation after generation after generation instead of protecting this country.”
He continued, ignoring Blitzer’s attempts to interject: “And you want to talk about protecting this country, you want to talk about defending America? Border security.”
Trump, Blitzer said, had two years to complete the wall when both the House and the Senate were under Republican control. “Why did he fail?” Blitzer asked.
Laughing, Miller said the House was currently voting to pass a funding bill that allocated $5.7 billion for the wall. The bill passed Thursday night and is headed to the Senate, where Democrats have the votes to block any legislation that contains funding for the wall, The Post reported.
“The fight’s only just beginning,” Miller told Blitzer. “We’re talking about success at border security, this president has made unprecedented achievements in that area.”
When Blitzer asked again why the wall wasn’t finished, Miller started to shout.
“He wants to build the wall by getting the money now, just like the president was very clear about for the last year leading up to this funding fight,” Miller said, raising his voice.
Cutting off Blitzer, who tried to ask about securing the funding, Miller said emphatically, “Right now as we speak there is a surge of illegal immigration heading toward our country that presents a national crisis now.”
He continued, appearing to become more irate: “Not a month from now, not a year from now, right now. And this president took an oath, like every lawmaker in Congress to defend the citizens of this country. How many more innocent people have to die in pursuit of an open-borders agenda?”
“All right, Stephen, hold on a minute,” Blitzer said, trying to curtail Miller’s outburst. “Calm down a minute, we don’t have to yell.”
As Miller chuckled, Blitzer said: “These are important policy issues that we’re discussing. The American people have a right to know where you and the president, the White House, stands.”
Social media were immediately alight with reactions to the fiery interview, or what one Twitter user described as “Stephen Miller’s crazy, alarmist ranting.” Blitzer and Miller were both trending on Twitter as of Thursday night.
Many were quick to praise Blitzer for maintaining his composure and handling the interview “like a pro.”
NBC News reporter Kasie Hunt applauded Blitzer on Twitter for being “calm cool and collected,” to which the CNN anchor responded, tweeting, “Thanks . . . That is so nice.”
Others expressed sympathy for Blitzer.
People also saw the interview as an opportunity to continue poking fun at Miller, who was recently savaged by the Internet for appearing on “Face the Nation” last weekend with what looked to be fake hair. (Miller, many noticed, was back to his normal baldness for Thursday’s CNN interview.)
“Stephen Miller is my hero,” tweeted Jacob Wohl, the 21-year-old pro-Trump conspiracy theorist who received national attention for allegedly being part of a scheme to discredit special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.