WASHINGTON -- Stephen Miller, President Donald Trump's go-to adviser on immigration policy, cannot avoid fielding questions from lawmakers if they call on him to testify about a reported plan to drop off undocumented immigrants in "sanctuary cities," Rep. Jerrold Nadler said Sunday.
Nadler, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee with jurisdiction over immigration policy, said Miller would likely try to claim executive privilege to avoid talking about his policy deliberations.
"But that would be a misuse of executive privilege," Nadler said on CNN's "State of the Union" Sunday. "Because he seems to be making the decisions -- not the Cabinet secretaries that come and go."
Presidents can assert executive privilege to shield certain confidential communications from compelled disclosure to the judicial and legislative branches.
Trump and his White House counsel team have struck upon a broad interpretation of executive privilege in an effort to slow House Democrats' investigations into his personal and business finances, and administrative decisions. They have claimed that private, confidential conversations are essential for helping the president receive candid advice from his officials.
As Trump continues to rely on acting secretaries and reportedly guts the Homeland Security Department of career officials, Miller has stepped in to fill the void on directing and influencing immigration policy.
Nadler said that whistleblowers told the committee "several weeks ago" that Miller had devised and pushed the plan to release undocumented migrants into the so-called sanctuary cities -- including the San Francisco district of Speaker Nancy Pelosi -- to retaliate against Trump's political rivals who oppose his immigration policy.
After Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen resigned last week, new acting Secretary Kevin McAleenan -- the Customs and Border Protection commissioner -- joined acting secretaries at the Pentagon and Interior Department. Mick Mulvaney, the Office of Management and Budget director, is currently the acting White House chief of staff. And Russell Vought is the acting OMB boss while Mulvaney is running the West Wing.
There's also an acting U.S. ambassador at the United Nations.
Trump has said previously that he likes having acting secretaries because it gives him "more flexibility." Detractors have said the lack of full-time secretaries has hindered the administration's ability to come up with coherent, long-term department policy strategies.
"Steve Miller, who seems to be the boss of everybody on immigration, ought to come before Congress and explain some of these policies," Nadler said Sunday.
After the Homeland Security Department played down reports that it had mulled a proposal from the White House to release undocumented immigrants in sanctuary cities, Trump struck a different note on Friday, tweeting that he was "strongly looking at" sending "thousands" of them to the cities.
(John Bennett contributed to this report.)
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