Sebastian Gorka, one of Donald Trump’s most controversial and mysterious advisers, is leaving the White House just three months after he was appointed as a deputy assistant to the president, according to multiple reports.
The former Breitbart News editor and counterterrorism specialist had been a source of controversy for the White House from the start after it emerged he has a long and complex list of alleged ties to far-right, anti-Semitic, and fringe groups in Hungary.
Gorka, who had a failed political career in Hungary before relaunching as a national security editor at Breitbart News, is a close ally of Trump adviser (and former Breitbart chairman) Steve Bannon and sat on the strategic initiatives group, an advisory panel created to offer an alternative viewpoint to the National Security Council. However, the group’s influence and that of its members has waned in recent weeks as National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster continues to reshuffle and reorganize his predecessor’s National Security Council.
First reported by the Washington Examiner, Gorka’s imminent departure has been confirmed by White House officials speaking to CNN, the New York Times, and AP. An administration official speaking to CNN said there was a possibility the former Breitbart contributor could take another role within the White House, but it was more likely he would leave altogether. The Washington Examiner reported that Gorka’s likely new position will be at a federal agency, dealing with the “war of ideas” involved in countering “radical Islamic extremism.”
Gorka is seen as one of Trump’s most reliable attack dogs, consistently appearing on television to promote and defend the president’s most controversial policies, especially those related to immigration and counterterrorism. As recently as Saturday, Gorka appeared on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show discussing the growing tensions with North Korea.
But Gorka’s past has been catching up with him.
At the president’s inaugural ball, Gorka caused outrage when he wore a medal honoring the Hungarian nationalist organization Vitezi Rend — an organization the State Department lists as having been “under the direction of the Nazi Government of Germany” during World War II.
At the time Gorka denied he was a member, saying he wore the medal “to remind myself of where I came from, what my parents suffered under both the Nazis and the Communists, and to help me in my work today.” But subsequent investigations found that Gorka was a “sworn lifetime member” of the group, claims backed up by people in Hungary who knew Gorka when he lived there. The investigations led to three senators calling for a probe into whether Gorka “falsified his naturalization application or otherwise illegally procured his citizenship.”
Born in 1970 in the U.K. to Hungarian parents, Gorka immigrated to Hungary in the early 1990s, where he worked as a low-level staffer at the defense ministry before moving into politics.
According to an investigation by the Forward, Gorka built up a complex web of ties to right-wing political groups and individuals in Hungary, including links to the radical nationalist party Jobbik, which has been described as a “neo-Nazi” and “anti-Semitic organization.” He also worked as an adviser to Hungary’s increasingly hard-right prime minister, Viktor Orbán.
Gorka was charged last year with carrying a weapon at Ronald Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C. According to a BuzzFeed report last week, Gorka had similar problems in Hungary in 2002, when he was denied security clearance to serve on a panel investigating then–Hungarian Prime Minister Péter Medgyessy. The denial doomed Gorka’s career as a national security expert in Hungary.