Before he penned an anonymous, explosive New York Times column claiming to be part of a group of "like-minded colleagues" intent on bringing down the Trump administration from the inside, Miles Taylor was a top official at the Department of Homeland Security while it imposed some of the most restrictive US immigration policies in decades.
Taylor, former chief of staff for then–DHS secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, revealed himself to be the infamous "Anonymous" writer on Wednesday and has said he left the administration because “saying ‘no’ was no longer enough.” Yet according to internal emails and former colleagues, Taylor worked on some of the most critical immigration policies of the Trump administration and either remained silent on, or actively worked to push through, the agenda.
Family separation and the administration’s push to force asylum-seekers to stay in Mexico as they await the fate of their immigration cases were among the policies enacted while Taylor was a top DHS official — policies he later criticized on cable news shows.
“On multiple occasions, I sat within inches of Miles Taylor during meetings solely focused on 'zero tolerance' policy, and he was neither silent nor vocally opposed to the weighty decisions before us,” one current Trump administration official told BuzzFeed News on the condition of anonymity.
A former administration official said Taylor was part of a group close to Nielsen, a tight inner circle that included the likes of Chad Wolf, the current acting head of DHS and also a former chief of staff to Nielsen.
“They had their hands in virtually every policy that Nielsen looked at,” the former official said. “They served as gatekeepers, White House liaisons, executors of policy. In many ways, they served to sustain Nielsen to the greatest extent possible.”
Nielsen’s reign at DHS oversaw massive upheavals of the immigration system, including efforts to deny permanent residency to immigrants who officials believe are likely to use public benefits, a "zero tolerance" policy at the border that led to families being separated, and pushing asylum-seekers into Mexico during immigration proceedings, known as the "Remain in Mexico" program.
A former administration official said Taylor was heavily involved in negotiations over the program, which has exposed vulnerable immigrants to rape, torture, kidnapping, and other documented violence, according to immigrant advocates.
But in his New York Times op-ed published in 2018, Taylor, known only at the time as "Anonymous," claimed senior officials within the Trump administration were “working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agency and his worst inclinations [because] the president continues to act in a manner that is detrimental to the health of our republic.”
Then in August, Taylor began to publicly criticize the administration after leaving the DHS. In an ad for Republican Voters Against Trump, he described his former role as “terrifying.”
“The president wanted to exploit the Department of Homeland Security for his own political purposes and to fuel his own agenda,” he said in the ad.
He also blasted the Trump administration on news programs, saying he was doing so because “this has to do about being honest about the president and putting country before party.”
Yet, while he was distancing himself from immigration policies adopted by DHS during his tenure, Taylor was not being honest about his role.
In an interview with George Stephanopoulos on Aug. 18 on Good Morning America, Taylor claimed he had no role in the policy to separate immigrant families at the border, which then–attorney general Jeff Sessions said was a deterrent against illegal immigration.
“That was actually a policy that was developed before I took on my role as deputy chief of staff in the Department [of Homeland Security] before becoming chief of staff,” Taylor told Stephanopoulos. “Attorney General Sessions announced that a few days before I stepped into that role.”
He also told NBC that “people like me should have done more.”
“Looking back, I wish I had laid my body on the train tracks and said, 'We cannot implement this no matter what you guys tell us about resources,’” he added.
As he and others supposedly worked to secretly undermine the administration, Taylor publicly defended President Donald Trump’s immigration policies that were criticized as xenophobic and politically motivated to appease his base.
When addressing questions about Trump’s travel ban that targeted Muslim-majority countries in September 2017, Taylor called the rules “tough and tailored,” arguing that terrorists were trying to “exploit our defenses” and that screening and vetting procedures were no longer adequate.
Last October, BuzzFeed News reported that Taylor had joined Google as its “head of national security policy engagement.” The news caused internal backlash at the company as employees wondered why Google had hired an individual that stood for policies that its own founders and executives had opposed and protested against.
BuzzFeed News later obtained internal emails through the Freedom of Information Act that showed how integral Taylor was in coordinating family separation efforts with Nielsen and Wolf. In one email from May 2018 — a time when family separation was a department policy — Nielsen asked Taylor and Wolf to provide “narratives” days after a caravan of Central American immigrants had made its way to the US–Mexico border in Tijuana.
Those “narratives” were meant to spin policies that had become highly controversial, particularly when images emerged of abandoned immigrant children in cages in squalid camps.
At Google, employees who asked questions about Taylor and his views ahead of a company-wide meeting were ultimately censored by the tech giant, which also cracked down on employees who tried to investigate his internal work history. The company also eventually ended its weekly all-hands meetings in part because of the furor around Taylor’s hiring.
On Wednesday, a Google spokesperson confirmed that Taylor is still an employee but on unpaid leave. The spokesperson said the company was previously unaware of his role as the unnamed Times op-ed writer and that it only found out on Wednesday via media reports.
“I don't know if he told Google he wrote the [anonymous New York Times op-ed] and book when he took the job, but either way they hired him knowing his role in atrocities,” said Laurence Berland, a former Google employee who had raised concerns about Taylor internally and was subsequently fired. “Miles was tailor-made for Google leadership. They practice the same exact amoral, cynical strategery.”
In an email from April 24, 2018, obtained by the nonprofit watchdog group American Oversight, Taylor asked for examples to provide Nielsen in which separations of adults and children apprehended at the border had to happen as the administration faced mounting public backlash. Katie Miller, who was the agency’s press secretary and is now married to Trump senior adviser Stephen Miller, responded with four examples from 2016 and 2017 of immigrant adults and children pretending to be families.
Despite his role, Taylor has continued giving interviews as a Trump critic and revamping his image as a sort of lifelong Republican working against the administration as the president faces a tough election in less than a week.
Last month, he ramped up efforts to campaign against Trump and was hired as a contributor at CNN, which for years has been the target of the president’s ire.
In August, he was asked by CNN’s Anderson Cooper whether he was the writer of the New York Times op-ed, but he lied and said no.
“I wear a mask for two things, Anderson: Halloween and pandemics,” Taylor said. “So, no.”
Speaking to Chris Cuomo on CNN Wednesday night, Taylor apologized for lying about his identity, but said he did for a reason.
"We have seen over the course of four years that Donald Trump's preference is to find personal attacks and distractions to pull people away from criticisms of his record," he said. "I wrote that work anonymously to deprive him of that opportunity and to force him to answer the questions on their merits."
"The point was to focus on him and his record," he added. In a statement Wednesday night, Wolf said Taylor's announcement "demonstrates that he was clearly pursuing a self-serving, self-promoting agenda while at the Department of Homeland Security rather than pursuing an agenda aimed at securing the Homeland."
"Having worked with Mr. Taylor on the President’s immigration and counter-terrorism policy agenda, I can attest that he never vocalized disagreement with the President’s policies – and in fact expressed strong support," he added.
Earlier in the day, Taylor did not respond to BuzzFeed News' multiple requests for comment. When reached by a reporter via email, the former DHS official directed them instead to contact his agents with United Talent Agency, a Los Angeles–based firm that recently signed Paris Hilton.