White House Official Who Advocated for Refugees Sacked and Escorted From Office

Jennifer Arangio had clashed with Stephen Miller and other hard-line aides to Trump.

Stephen Miller, senior advisor to U.S. President Donald Trump, departs the White House on June 25. (Win McNamee/Getty Images).
Stephen Miller, senior advisor to U.S. President Donald Trump, departs the White House on June 25. (Win McNamee/Getty Images).

A senior White House official, Jennifer Arangio, was fired Thursday and escorted from her office, ending a turbulent tenure that saw her clashing with President Donald Trump’s most hard-line advisors over human rights and refugee issues, according to several current and former U.S. officials.

The officials said Arangio, a senior director for international organizations and alliances at the National Security Council, had fallen out of favor with Trump aide Stephen Miller over the number of refugees who should be allowed to enter the United States.

She had also sparred with Miller over continuing U.S. participation in international negotiations on a global migration compact, insisting that the United States could better shape international policies on migration from inside the tent.

She lost the argument, but Miller remained embittered by the rift, the officials said. When Arangio sought his endorsement for a position in the State Department, he refused to take a meeting with her.

Adding to the tension, Arangio had defended the State Department’s embattled refugee bureau amid campaigns by other top Trump aides to dismantle or defund it — efforts that were ultimately rebuffed by Congress.

“This is a disaster for the bureau,” one State Department official said. “She is really a good ally.”

The White House refused to answer questions on Arangio’s removal, which was first reported by Politico. “We don’t comment on personnel matters,” a spokesman said.

Arangio had been investigated internally a year ago for allegedly bullying a White House subordinate. But there was no indication that the issue was the reason for her dismissal.

The administration’s approach to international organizations has sparked fierce debate in Washington, even within the ranks of the State Department and White House.

Arangio, who has served Trump since his presidential campaign, was charged with overseeing the administration’s policies on migration and refugees, two of the White House’s most politically charged issues.

One of her duties was to promote the administration’s controversial candidate for a top international migration job. It ended in a high-profile failure. In June, United Nations members voted against appointing Ken Isaacs, the Trump administration’s handpicked candidate, to head the International Organization for Migration.

The vote was seen as a sharp rebuke of the president.

Isaacs, the vice president at Christian aid organization Samaritan’s Purse, caught flak during his candidacy for past social media posts and radio interviews in which he disparaged Muslims. He denied he was anti-Islam.

Arangio defended Isaacs during his bid for the post. “He embodies what the United States believes,” she told reporters at a press event in March arranged by the U.S. mission to international organizations in Geneva.

Isaacs’s rejection was just one in a series of clashes between the Trump administration and international organizations.

Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the U.N. Human Rights Council last month and his earlier move to slash U.S. aid to the U.N. relief agency in Palestine sparked a fierce backlash from aid groups and sowed deep divisions between career diplomats and political appointees.

His ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, has repeatedly criticized the international organization for slow-walking internal reforms and being biased against Israel.

Arangio had worked as the national director of women engagement for Trump’s presidential campaign in the run-up to his election in November 2016.

“The ironic thing is that she is all in for Trump — worked on the campaign, transition, talks all the time about her admiration for the president,” said one colleague.

Before campaigning for Trump, she worked at Command Consulting Group, a private Washington-based firm that focuses on homeland security and national security issues.

Arangio served as a senior counsel on the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Homeland Security from 2006 to 2014, before taking up a senior leadership role at a private consulting firm.

Colum Lynch is a senior staff writer at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @columlynch

Robbie Gramer is a diplomacy and national security reporter at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @RobbieGramer

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