The Trump administration is actively exploring options to remove controversial national security aide Sebastian Gorka from the White House and place him at another federal agency, multiple sources tell The Daily Beast.
Two senior administration officials familiar with the situation say it is exploring a new role for Gorka elsewhere in the administration. Another said he has been entirely excluded from day-to-day policy-making at the National Security Council in the meantime.
Gorka’s looming departure from the White House, which one of the sources described as imminent, comes amid mounting controversy over his involvement with a far-right Hungarian group notorious for its collaboration with the Nazi regime during the second world war.
Reached by phone on Friday, Gorka requested that questions be sent in an email, to which he did not reply. The White House did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
According to two senior administration officials, the White House has been seeking a position for Gorka that does not require a security clearance. One said it was looking to classify him as a member of the federal government’s senior executive service.
Plans for Gorka’s move have not been finalized, the officials cautioned. And in this White House—with its reputation for turn-on-a-dime decision-making and competing factions—that means Gorka’s status could change.
BuzzFeed News reported on Thursday that Gorka lacked a security clearance as late as last month. His inability to sit in on high-level national security meetings has reportedly made it all but impossible for him to be involved in White House nat-sec policy-making.
Gorka was denied a Hungarian security clearance in 2002 when he sought a position on a government panel investigating the then-prime minister over his role in the country’s secret police during the Soviet occupation of the country, BuzzFeed reported.
Two senior administration officials described Gorka as completely devoid of influence on White House policy, corroborating reports that he “had not been cleared to sit in any sort of national security meetings, which leaves him without much to do all day,” as one former Obama administration official told BuzzFeed.
One source described the situation to The Daily Beast as “a pain in the ass.” Gorka, the source said, has been “biding his sweet time,” with virtually no official substantive duties and or role in White House decision-making.
Another source said Gorka owes his continued presence at the White House to President Donald Trump himself. The president views him as a strong communicator of the administration’s anti-terrorism policies.
“The president really likes him and appreciates him as a good spokesperson for the administration, but he isn’t part of the NSC policy making process,” a senior administration official said of Gorka. That makes sense, as he’s part of the Bannon-and Kushner-run Strategic Initiative Group, but the official said his contributions to foreign policy have been minimal, with Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster’s team overshadowing the relevance of his input. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive personnel matters.
But the controversies dogging Gorka have created headaches for a number of White House officials, and his apparent inability to participate in high-level policy discussions means keeping him on requires weathering bad press without any real upside.
Foremost among Gorka’s public relations problems are his emerging ties to Vitézi Rend, a Hungarian nationalist group that a State Department “watch list” notes was “under the direction of the Nazi Government of Germany” during the Second World War.
Gorka has downplayed his involvement with the group, though Forward reported this week that his Vitezi Rend ties appear to go back decades.
The former national security editor for the pro-Trump website Breitbart News, Gorka has also faced criticism for his controversial statements about Islam. In March, he declined to say whether Trump believes that it is actually a religion.
—with additional reporting by Kim Dozier