DRAGON OF BUDAPEST
Seb Gorka Plots His Next Act, Eyeing Fox News and a Partnership with Bannon
The controversial former Trump aide wants back on cable. And he could be launching a national security project too.
It has been nearly three weeks since Sebastian Gorka was ousted from the Trump White House. Now that he’s off the government payroll, the former deputy assistant to the president is eyeing a return to Fox News—and possibly going back into business with his old boss, Steve Bannon.
Multiple sources with knowledge of their conversations tell The Daily Beast that Bannon, Trump’s former chief strategist who Gorka reported to both at Breitbart News and subsequently in the Trump administration, has been talking to Gorka over the past couple weeks about potentially starting a new national-security and foreign-policy initiative together. Such a group, which is in the embryonic planning stages, would champion the same clash-of-civilizations and pro-Trump, nationalist worldview that both men share.
One source said that such a project, which could take the form of a think tank or advocacy organization, would very likely have the blessing and financial backing of the Mercer family, the pro-Trump Republican mega-donors who have long worked and partnered with Bannon. The Mercers also co-own Bannon’s media flagship, Breitbart.
Bannon and Gorka worked closely together at the Strategic Initiatives Group, an internal White House “think tank,” early in the Trump presidency. Initially conceived as an informational apparatus to brief the president and staff on key policy issues, SIG was quickly seen by some in the White House as a rogue attempt to circumvent the National Security Council. It was soon disbanded, leaving Gorka without a clear portfolio of White House responsibilities, and working primarily as a Bannon aide.
Gorka was left with little to do beyond acting as a White House surrogate on cable news, where he quickly gained favor with the president for his vehement defenses of administration policy and Trump more generally. It was Gorka’s television presence, and Trump’s affinity for it, that temporarily saved his job in the White House as pressure mounted to relocate him to another federal agency. At one point, the president personally intervened to keep him in place.
Gorka is hoping he can parlay that steady cable news presence into another post-White House gig. In addition to his talks with Bannon, he is currently trying to land a contributorship deal at Fox News, where he had a contract before joining the Trump administration.
According to two sources briefed on ongoing negotiations, Gorka is in the process of reviving his pre-White House Fox contract, under which he would appear to discuss terrorism, war, and U.S. foreign policy. Sources say, however, that a Fox deal hasn’t officially been inked.
A Fox News spokesperson told The Daily Beast on Tuesday that there are currently “no plans” to hire Gorka. But the former Donald Trump aide does have boosters at the network. Sean Hannity, a prominent Trump ally and Fox News host, is a big fan and has been actively advocating internally for Gorka to get a new deal, the two sources said.
Hannity and Bannon did not provide comment for this story. Sources spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal planning.
Not all of Gorka’s potential prospects look as promising, however. There is no indication that he is returning to Breitbart, though editors there have said that they would welcome him back. The Institute of World Politics, a Washington, D.C.-based school where Gorka used to teach, still notes (inaccurately) on its website as of Wednesday afternoon that “Dr. Gorka is currently on leave for government service.”
When asked if Gorka would ever return to teach, IWP spokeswoman Katie Bridges told The Daily Beast that "he's still on leave—other than that, I have no comment."
Gorka is also signaling a possible return to pre-White House business ventures. Within weeks of his departure from the administration, he updated his LinkedIn page to say that he was back at the Threat Knowledge Group, the counterterrorism consultancy he previously ran with his wife Katharine, who is now a senior adviser to the Department of Homeland Security.
TKG formerly advised federal law enforcement agencies—it won more than $100,000 in government contracts from 2012 to 2016. But its work came to an end over what officials described to The Daily Beast as Gorka’s fringe anti-Muslim statements.
It’s not clear what exactly TKG is doing now. Its website was updated earlier this year to say the firm “has closed,” and records on file with the state of Virginia indicate that the company was dissolved in late March.
Neither Gorka nor his wife responded to requests for clarification on the company’s status.
Two sources familiar with Gorka’s plans told The Daily Beast that Gorka has also expressed interest in signing on with one of the handful of super PACs and dark money groups supporting Trump and his political allies. It was not immediately clear, however, whether the interest was mutual or if offers had been made.
Though his profile has been raised immeasurably by his stint in the administration, Gorka remains a lightning rod figure. He has downplayed his alleged involvement with a right-wing Hungarian order that, according to the U.S. State Department, was “under the direction of the Nazi Government of Germany” during the Second World War. But he is prone to extreme statements, such as claiming in his capacity as a White House official that a recent Minnesota mosque attack could be an example of “fake hate crimes” and a false-flag incident.
Nevertheless, Gorka’s allies remain supportive. “Seb is one of the most talented people in conservative politics today [and] I think there’s a good chance he ends up with multiple roles, whether they be at a cable network, a think tank, or a super PAC—Seb Gorka is gonna be just fine,” a source close to him told The Daily Beast.
Reached for comment on this story, Gorka simply replied, “Why would I assist you?”
—With additional reporting by Lloyd Grove