President Trump’s Deputy Communications Director Julia Hahn had connections to the white nationalist movement around the time she joined the White House as an aide, based upon hundreds of private correspondences that were leaked to Hatewatch by a former colleague and friend.
The leaked emails show Hahn is connected to Peter Brimelow, whom she refers to at one point casually by his first name. Brimelow founded the white nationalist hate group VDARE. VDARE traffics in the “white genocide” conspiracy theory, which suggests that white people are being systemically replaced in Western nations by non-white people. VDARE has published commentary by one of the principal organizers of the deadly white supremacist “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, and publicly defended that event on its third anniversary this August. Brimelow’s group has also published apologia regarding the ideologies espoused by far-right mass murderers in El Paso, Texas, and Christchurch, New Zealand.
Additionally, the emails suggest that before Hahn joined the right-wing website Breitbart News as an editor, she attended a writer’s workshop with the white nationalist publishing house The Social Contract Press. Her story pitches to Breitbart News show influence of the type of white nationalist worldview espoused by VDARE and The Social Contract Press. For example, in one July 2016 pitch, Hahn wrote, “How many whites have been killed by blacks since Obama has been in office?” – apparently seeking to draw a parallel between the election of America’s first Black president and Black people murdering whites.
Hahn also hyped the doomed congressional candidacy of Wisconsin’s Paul Nehlen in her writing for Breitbart News across at least 36 posts. Nehlen eventually used the fans he gained from his Breitbart News attention and from his failed stab at politics to become a notorious cheerleader for white supremacist terrorism, calling mass murderers such as Anders Breivik, Dylann Roof and Brenton Tarrant “saints.” Although Nehlen’s rhetoric grew increasingly hateful after losing two primary races against former Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, he was already a far-right extremist at the time Hahn repeatedly promoted his candidacy. Hahn promoted Nehlen at least four times in Breitbart News after he expressed an openness to the idea of physically removing every Muslim citizen from America.
Former Breitbart News editor Katie McHugh leaked over 600 of Hahn’s private emails to Hatewatch. McHugh delivered to Hatewatch emails taken from Hahn’s personal Gmail and her Breitbart News work email. She also leaked scores of text messages and Google Chat transcripts. McHugh, who once immersed herself in the anti-immigrant movement and rubbed shoulders with open white nationalists, has since renounced far-right extremism and racism. McHugh leaked to Hatewatch over 900 previously private emails authored by White House adviser Stephen Miller in 2019.
McHugh told Hatewatch that Hahn, her former friend and colleague, maintained a close relationship with Miller during Trump’s first campaign for president. Hahn pushed for favorable coverage of Miller, according to the emails. In February 2017, after Hahn had joined the White House as an aide to President Trump, the emails show she urged McHugh to write a favorable story about Miller as a way of blunting criticism of him published in The New York Times.
Hahn is 29 years old and comes from considerable wealth. Her grandfather, Harold Honickman, presides over the Honickman Group, a large soda and beer bottling conglomerate. Her role in the Trump administration is typically handled behind the scenes, and she rarely appears on camera. The White House named Hahn as the replacement for former deputy communications director Adam Kennedy in March, around the time that the COVID-19 pandemic became an issue of global importance. In August, the Times depicted Hahn as being the person who sometimes gathers talking points for White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany.
The White House criticized McHugh in a statement to Hatewatch but did not deny the authenticity of her correspondences with Hahn. Deputy Press Secretary Judd Deere issued the following statement on Hahn’s behalf:
Julia Hahn rejects and condemns racism and hatred in all forms, and, as a Jewish American, finds bigotry of any kind to be truly abhorrent. Every story Julia wrote as a reporter at Breitbart is publicly available and has been since the day she left the publication nearly four years ago. These cherry-picked emails were leaked by a troubled individual who was terminated from Breitbart in disgrace, and SPLC has stooped to a new low by giving her a platform.
Rubbing shoulders with white nationalists and other extremists
Hahn’s connection to Peter Brimelow goes back until at least 2014, the emails show. At that time, Hahn served as a producer for Fox News’s “The Laura Ingraham Show.” On Oct. 28, 2014, Brimelow emailed McHugh, Hahn and Kevin DeAnna, an extremist writer and propagandist who has authored over 1700 articles for white nationalist websites, urging them to get together and meet. Brimelow mentioned a “Writer’s Workshop” in that email. The white nationalist publishing house The Social Contract Press, which has ties to VDARE and similar hate groups, hosts a yearly writer’s workshop. McHugh told Hatewatch that the Social Contract Press event was what was being discussed in the email.
“I think I meant to send you Kevin and Katie’s email addresses – you met them at the Writer’s Workshop, she’s with Brietbart [sic]. You should all get together!” Brimelow wrote.
McHugh told Hatewatch that Hahn was not closely connected to DeAnna, but knew Brimelow well. Hahn was close enough to Brimelow to refer to him by his first name, Peter, in an email dated Jan. 25, 2016.
“U shd maybe think abt intvwing Peter,” Hahn wrote in the subject line of the email, referring to a story pitch for Breitbart News that McHugh recalled as being about far-right figures losing access to social media. “And writing story [sic] abt the purge. Might be interesting story for u to do...”
Hatewatch reached out to Fox News and Breitbart News for a comment on this story but they did not respond. Brimelow responded to a similar request by asking the author to unblock his account on Twitter.
McHugh told Hatewatch that Hahn engaged with a social circle that overlapped with young extremists of the white supremacist-friendly “alt-right” movement. Emails back up her claim. For example, Hahn met white nationalist and Daily Caller editor Scott Greer, the emails show. The Daily Caller cut ties with Greer in 2018 after The Atlantic reported he was writing for Richard Spencer’s publication Radix Journal under the pseudonym “Michael McGregor.”
“I think I met a friend of yours yesterday at a Daily Caller happy hour... I think his name was Scott... he’s an editor at the DC? He had lots of nice things to say about you!” Hahn wrote on March 27, 2015.
“Aww, I’m so glad you met Scott! We’ve been friends since I moved down to DC in 2013! :) He’s very solid on immigration,” McHugh replied.
“Haha I figured as much since he said he was a good friend of yours :-),” Hahn wrote back.
Hahn is also one of a handful of far-right figures looped in on an email with the subject “Dinner?” that McHugh sent on May 4, 2015, making plans to eat at the chain restaurant Ted’s Montana Grill. Devin Saucier, editor for the white nationalist website American Renaissance, and far-right extremists Chuck Johnson and Tim Dionisopoulos are looped in on the email with Hahn.
“I wish I could tomorrow, but I’m at a staff training retreat in Richmond until Wednesday night :/ But does this mean you're finally back in town?? Would love to get together any other time!” Hahn wrote, apparently referring to Johnson with her question.
The White House told Hatewatch in a phone call that Hahn did not know Saucier or Dionisopoulos, even if they appeared in an email thread with her. The White House did not offer Hatewatch similar clarifications about Brimelow, Greer, Johnson or The Social Contract Press.
Like Miller, Hahn also kept in contact with the anti-immigrant hate group Center for Immigration Studies (CIS). The group has promoted white nationalist writers in the past. Critics have suggested CIS’s reports present data in a way that paints immigration in a negative light. Hahn refers to CIS employees by name in her emails. She described herself as “currently working on big story w/ Jessica Vaughan” in a July 17, 2015, email, referring to CIS’s Director of Policy Studies. In a Nov. 4, 2016, email, Hahn wrote, “can you send link? Camarota was asking,” referring to the link for a story McHugh authored. Camarota is Stephen Camarota, CIS’s director of research.
Hatewatch reached out to executive director Mark Krikorian for a comment on CIS’s connection to Hahn. He offered to answer specific questions but declined to provide a statement.
'Think you need to do a black on white crime #s story.'
McHugh told Hatewatch that a white nationalist worldview pervaded Hahn’s work at Breitbart News. Hahn’s writing at Breitbart News, and emails about issues of race, like Miller’s private emails, which McHugh leaked to Hatewatch in 2019, consistently portray people of color and Muslims in an intensely negative light. Sometimes, they paint non-white people as violent and dangerous.
Hahn wrote McHugh a story pitch on July 12, 2016, under the subject line, “think you need to do a black on white crime #s story.”
“How many whites have been killed by blacks since Obama has been in office?” Hahn asked McHugh in the body of that email. McHugh did not reply to that email.
The email was hardly an isolated example of Hahn seeking to draw a link between non-white people and violence. Hahn consistently took a casual tone when discussing stories that portrayed immigrants as being criminal in her emails with McHugh. In one example, from Aug. 10, 2015, Hahn appeared accidentally to misuse the word “stories” instead of the word “murders” while referring to pitch about DACA recipients. McHugh told Hatewatch she believed Hahn made the mistake as a result of the culture of writing stories that depicted immigrants as being violent that pervaded Breitbart News under Bannon’s leadership.
“Do you know of a couple stories off hand that were committed by DREAMers?” Hahn asked McHugh.
Hahn took a similarly casual tone in discussing stories that portrayed Muslims in a negative light.
“What was that brutal [M]uslim crime story you just did?” Hahn wrote to McHugh on Oct. 2, 2015.
“The Oregon shooter? I just looked at my archive back til July and it’s mostly Hispanic immigrant crime,” McHugh replied, referring to the male supremacist mass shooter Christopher Harper-Mercer, who was mixed-race but not Hispanic.
“Hmm ok, thanks. I thought there was a refugee one recently. Thanks though,” Hahn replied.
Hahn also expressed interest in the issue of changing demographics, which is an animating issue for far-right extremists. On Nov. 23, 2015, Hahn wrote the words, “Rubio’s New American Century Arrives” in reference to a Politico story suggesting that white Christians no longer made up a majority in the U.S. Anti-immigrant extremists, including Miller, sought to portray the Cuban-American Rubio in a negative light around the issue of immigration.
Hahn also showed an interest in keeping immigrant children locked in ICE detention centers. On Aug. 22, 2015, Bannon emailed Hahn, McHugh and Miller a link to a Business Insider story about a Los Angeles-based judge who defied the Obama administration by ordering the release of immigrant children from ICE detention.
“Outrageous. She's fanatical,” Hahn wrote to the group, referring to the judge.
Hahn’s public-facing writing also promoted an extremist ideology, Hatewatch found. She authored 36 different posts hyping Wisconsin congressional candidate Paul Nehlen, helping give the obscure, anti-immigrant challenger to former Speaker of the House Paul Ryan a national profile.
Emails demonstrate how Breitbart News helped make Nehlen a known entity on the right. Following the publication of a June 8, 2016, story about Nehlen challenging Paul Ryan, editor Ezra Dulis told Hahn to put his name in the headline to help make him more findable in Google searches.
“Let’s get Paul Nehlen's name in the headline – our readers know who he is by now and the change will boost this article to people Googling him,” Dulis wrote on that day.
“Great – thanks! I’ve made the edit in [WordPress],” Hahn replied.
Around the same time, Hahn and other Breitbart staff members coordinated to promote a campaign video of Nehlen’s that focused on America’s Southern border with Mexico. Nehlen’s campaign forwarded Breitbart News an advance copy of the ad, roughly one week before it was about to run.
“Paul, Can you communicate with Julia [Hahn] on this stuff? We want to move on it today – the stuff on the border patrol purchase and the footage,” Breitbart News editor Matthew Boyle replied on June 7, 2016.
On June 13, 2016, Boyle jumped back into the email, adding McHugh to the thread.
“OK,” Boyle wrote. “Julia can you grab [this story] really quick when you’re done w [T]rump.”
Nehlen gained only 15% of the vote in August 2016 despite the coverage given to him in Breitbart News, but used his profile to steer his fans on social media toward increasingly extreme ideas. Fourteen months after Hahn wrote her last story about Nehlen, he appeared on the white nationalist podcast “Fash the Nation,” and then publicly endorsed the work of antisemitic white nationalist academic Kevin MacDonald. In 2019, Nehlen openly praised mass murder as a response to non-white immigration and heralded terrorists such as Anders Breivik, Dylann Roof and Brenton Tarrant as “saints.”
Relationship to Stephen Miller
In September 2015, Stephen Miller pushed for McHugh to write about the racist French novel “The Camp of the Saints,” as Hatewatch previously reported. It was ultimately Julia Hahn who published a version of the story Miller pitched to the website. Distributed in the U.S. by The Social Contract Press, and promoted by VDARE, “The Camp of the Saints” describes Indian refugees as “invaders,” to use Hahn’s descriptor in her write-up, led by a man who eats feces as food. In one particularly brutal scene late in the book, Indian men gang rape a white woman named Lydie and then leave her to die.
McHugh told Hatewatch that Miller’s connection to Hahn was personal in nature and transcended their shared views over immigration policy. The emails appear to show Hahn pushing for McHugh to publish favorable material about Miller on multiple occasions. One example of this is a Nov. 16, 2016, email with the subject line, “hey! I spoke to Matt,” referring to Breitbart News editor Matthew Boyle.
“Awesome. Just cc Matt,” Hahn wrote in helping to piece together a story about Miller. “He’s going to include quote from [T]ucker saying Stephen is smartest guy he’s met. Plus ingrahams quote about how he’s brilliant and is only 30.”
McHugh also told Hatewatch that in February 2017, Hahn called her from the White House telling her to write a story defending Miller from criticism he received in an article in The New York Times. Hahn urged McHugh to round up quotes from popular right-wing voices defending or celebrating Miller. The list of people who contributed praise of Miller included Ingraham, Ann Coulter and Sean Hannity. Hahn’s push culminated in the Feb. 12, 2017, Breitbart News story “Conservative Stars Line Up Behind Stephen Miller After Establishment Attacks.”
Evidence of the exchange can be found in the emails. McHugh sent a link to that article to Hahn’s Gmail account at 9:22 p.m. that night without a subject line, the emails show. Hahn replied twelve minutes later.
“Amazing,” she wrote back. “Thanks so much.”
Photo illustration by SPLC