Sebastian Gorka and the White House's Questionable Vetting

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A report in The Forward links Trump’s terrorism adviser to a Nazi-linked Hungarian fraternal group:

Michael Flynn and Sebastian Gorka share a couple of things. Both men are rabidly anti-Islam, and both seem to have been insufficiently vetted by the Trump White House.

Flynn, of course, was the national security adviser pushed out after barely three weeks for lying to the vice president about his contacts with Russia. Last week, after Flynn filed papers acknowledging he had lobbied on behalf of the Turkish government between August 2016 and his appointment to the Trump administration, I wondered how Flynn could possibly have gotten appointed.

Gorka is a top terrorism adviser to Trump; like Flynn, he has a long record of militant attitudes toward Islam, and like Flynn, his foreign ties are now coming under serious scrutiny. The Forward reports Thursday that officers of Vitézi Rend, an anti-Semitic, quasi-Nazi Hungarian nationalist group, say Gorka is a sworn member. Gorka wore a medal typically worn by Vitézi Rend members to a January 20 inauguration ball, but said at the time that it was a gesture honoring his late father. He has also at times referred to himself as Sebastian L. v. Gorka, using a “v.” initial employed by Vitézi Rend members.

There are, of course, reasons to take quasi-Nazi group’s claims about their members with a grain of salt. Asked by The Forward and others about his affiliation with the group, Gorka declined to comment and referred questions to the White House, on what ought not be a particularly tough question. However, he has now told Tablet, “I have never been a member of the Vitez Rend. I have never taken an oath of loyalty to the Vitez Rend.”

The Forward, which had previously reported on connections between Gorka and Hungarian anti-Semites, speculated that Gorka could be jeopardizing his immigration status if he is a member of Vitézi Rend but did not declare it upon entering the country, as required by the State Department, which considers it a Nazi-linked group.

Setting aside the question of immigration status, the story does force the question of how Gorka made it through the vetting process.

One answer is that he had friends in high places. Gorka was previously national-security editor at Breitbart, whose former CEO Steve Bannon is now President Trump’s top strategist. His views on Islam also closely align with those of the president and many of his top aides. They are, however, far outside the mainstream of scholarship of terrorism and Islam, and experts in the field viewhis qualifications as questionable.

Another answer is that Gorka didn’t entirely make it through the vetting process. The Associated Press reported in February that he did not have appropriate security clearance for his work, and it’s not clear that he has any clearance at all.

You can read the rest at the Atlantic Monthly.

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