Politics

Counterterrorism adviser Sebastian Gorka out of White House job

Outgoing National Security Council adviser Sebastian Gorka participates in a discussion during the Conservative Political Action Conference in February.
Outgoing National Security Council adviser Sebastian Gorka participates in a discussion during the Conservative Political Action Conference in February.
Alex Wong/Getty Images

Controversial White House counterterrorism adviser Sebastian Gorka is out of his job, following the departure of his former boss, chief strategist Steve Bannon.

A White House official denied reports that Gorka had resigned on Friday night but confirmed that he "no longer works at the White House."

Gorka became known for his confrontational style and has fought accusations about his credentials and potential ties to extremist groups.

Gorka has been working with the Trump team since the presidential campaign and was a close ally of Bannon; he'd previously been an editor at Breitbart News, the right-wing media outlet which Bannon led before joining Trump's team.

"We're the platform for the alt-right," Bannon told Mother Jones. Bannon returned to Breitbart as executive chairman following his departure from the White House on Aug. 18.

Gorka belonged to a school of thought inside the White House that also included the former national security adviser, retired Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn: They argued extreme Islamism is as coherent and united a threat to the United States as Nazism and Communism were in the past.

Gorka also was a staunch defender of President Trump's desire to impose immigration restrictions refugees and residents of several majority-Muslim nations.

"The border is our front door," Gorka said. "Surely we should have a control as to who enters our house. This is the house of America. And the idea that we don't control it is crazy."

Gorka's fate at the White House had been called into question this spring and there had been discussion as early as April that he might be moved elsewhere in the government. He was said to win back Trump's favor after some aggressive TV appearances in which he landed some blows, for example, about CNN's low viewership.

He asked to be called "Doctor Gorka," citing a Hungarian postgraduate degree and work on a best-selling book, "Defeating Jihad: The Winnable War." But his peers in the national security and counterterrorism world called him an exaggerator at best and at worst, "a charlatan."

Researcher Michael Smith needled Gorka with accusations like that on Twitter until, in February, Gorka called him from his personal cellphone and threatened to refer the posts to the White House's legal counsel. There's been no indication that, if Gorka did so, a government attorney made any formal contact with Smith.

Michael S. Smith tweet

Smith recorded part of Gorka's call and shared it with NPR.

"I think that he was attempting to intimidate me and was trying to avoid having a record of the call in the first place," Smith said at the time. "But during the course of the call, I think it occurred to him that he may be approaching things in such an unprofessional manner that I could perhaps bring that to light in such a way as to harm his career working in government."

Gorka himself appeared on NPR a few times as a spokesman for the White House during his tenure as a counterterrorism adviser. The more his profile rose, however, the more he became a target for criticism, including by congressional Democrats who cited alleged ties to anti-Semitic groups in Hungary.

"I was really shocked that someone like Sebastian Gorka should be part of this administration," Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., told NPR's Steve Inskeep.

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