Sebastian Gorka, an adviser to President Trump, has exited the White House — though how and why remains unclear.
Gorka, a deputy assistant to the president, is known for his focus on Islamic terrorism and as a frequent presence on cable news. He previously worked as an international news editor at the right-wing outlet Breitbart, under the leadership of Steve Bannon — the onetime chief strategist to President Trump who has since returned to Breitbart.
Amid a series of breaking news stories on Friday night, Gorka's exit from the White House was first reported as a resignation by The Federalist, which a source confirmed to BuzzFeed News.
A White House official, however, disputed that account and suggested that he had been pushed out. "Sebastian Gorka did not resign, but I can confirm he no longer works at the White House," the official said in a statement to reporters.
The White House statement is unusual. A Republican source close to the White House noted in an email to BuzzFeed News, “First time I have ever seen surrogate operations send out something like this.”
A source with knowledge of the situation said Gorka was planning to resign on Monday, his first day back from vacation, during a planned meeting with White House chief of staff Gen. John Kelly, but the letter leaked before the meeting could take place.
Regardless, Gorka is the latest White House official to leave his post, after Bannon was ousted earlier this month by Trump's chief of staff John Kelly, and following a series of departures this summer.
Gorka has been a source of controversy as long as he had been in the Trump administration. Earlier this year, there were reports that Gorka belonged to Historical Vitézi Rend, a far-right Hungarian group that had ties to the Nazi party and a complicated history. Gorka has denied he belonged to the group and denied holding anti-Semitic beliefs.
More recently, after a bomb exploded at a mosque in suburban Minneapolis, Gorka said he was not convinced the attack was not “a fake hate crime.”
A number of progressive and liberal groups had called on Trump to fire Gorka and chief White House strategist Steve Bannon in the wake of the violent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville last weekend.
Gorka, who was born in the UK, spent the 1990s and early 2000s in Hungary, where his parents were born, as a self-styled defense and intelligence expert. After moving to America and earning his citizenship, he became an increasingly prominent critic of Islam through his work at Breitbart and eventually as a television pundit. Gorka was a fierce critic of former president Barack Obama over what he saw as Obama’s unwillingness to properly call out radical slamic terrorism.
Gorka and his wife, Katharine, who works at the Department of Homeland Security and previously served on the Trump transition team, were said to be major drivers of Trump’s foreign policy strategy focusing on Islamic terror. “Our pillow talk is the Islamic State and al-Qaeda,” he once said in a speech. Under Trump, DHS’s task force to counter violent extremism shifted to refocus specifically on Islamic terror groups while putting fewer resources toward combating far-right domestic terrorism, with the assistance of Katharine Gorka.
Gorka has been accused of exaggerating his intelligence bona fides, and his bid for security clearance was rejected by Hungarian counterintelligence.
In an interview on SiruisXM Gorka told Breitbart Washington editor Matthew Boyle he would be returning to the news outlet. A DHS spokesperson said in an email to BuzzFeed News that Katharine Gorka "remains an employee of DHS, in the policy office."
Miriam Elder contributed reporting.
This post has been updated with the news Sebastian Gorka would return to Breitbart while his wife Katharine remains an employee of DHS.
Paul McLeod is a politics reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC.
Contact Paul McLeod at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kate Nocera is the DC Bureau Chief for BuzzFeed’s Washington, DC bureau. Nocera is a recipient of the National Press Foundation's 2014 Dirksen Award for distinguished reporting on Congress.
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