WASHINGTON — Donald Trump aide Sebastian Gorka departed the White House Friday in a shroud of controversy, with conflicting claims about whether he resigned or got the boot.
While The Federalist initially reported that Gorka resigned, an administration official told reporters that was not quite the case.
“Sebastian Gorka did not resign, but I can confirm he no longer works at the White House,” the official said after reports that Gorka had left voluntarily.
Gorka, 46, has become a familiar face on television, offering a bombastic defense of the US president in a strong English accent. Born in London to Hungarian parents, he became a US citizen in recent years.
A deputy assistant to the president, he has been accused of ties to far-right groups and his claimed counter-terrorism knowledge was repeatedly questioned by peers.
His failure to gain security clearance cast doubts over his day-to-day role inside Trump’s White House.
He had been seen entering Oval Office events not with staff but with the press, and snapping photos from the press position behind the wings of Air Force One.
Earlier this week, three Democratic senators had once again asked the Trump administration whether Gorka was under investigation for allegedly lying when he became a US citizen.
Gorka “reportedly concealed his membership in the Vitézi Rend, a far-right anti-Semitic Hungarian organization with historical ties to the Nazis, when he applied for US citizenship,” said the letter sent Monday. “The administration’s refusal to treat this matter with urgency is inexplicable and disturbing.”
The letter was signed by Senators Dick Durbin of Illinois, the second ranking Democrat in the Senate; Ben Cardin of Maryland, the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee; and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticit. Blumenthal and Cardin are Jewish.
The letter followed up on the same request the three senators sent the administration in March. It notes that it took until August 15 for the Department of Justice, one of the addressees, to reply and until May 8 for the Department of Homeland Security, the other addressee, to reply. In both cases, the agencies said only they would “take action if warranted.”
According to an article published in March by the Forward, Gorka allegedly is a member of Historical Vitézi Rend. The group is a namesake of Vitézi Rend, a defunct order of merit that had existed as a state entity for 20 years until 1944 under the rule of Miklos Horthy, Hungary’s Nazi-allied leader. Vitézi Rend was disbanded, outlawed and ceased to exist in the 1940s following the World War II defeat of Nazi Germany.
Gorka has denied being a fascist or anti-Semite. In a statement published in April by Tablet, Gorka was quoted as writing, “I have never been a member of the Vitézi Rend. I have never taken an oath of loyalty to the Vitézi Rend.” The statement did not mention the Historical Vitézi Rend group.
In May, Gorka appeared before a largely Jewish audience to defend his pro-Israel bona fides and deny claims he is anti-Semitic.
Speaking at the Jerusalem Post Conference in New York City, Gorka rebuffed attacks against him but did not deny being a member of Historical Vitezi Rend.
“I have spent my life fighting against totalitarian ideologies,” Gorka said. “Nobody… has found one sentence that I have said in the past 46 years that is anti-Semitic or anti-Israel.”
Gorka said leaders of the White House’s so-called “nationalist” wing, including since-ousted chief strategist Steve Bannon, are pro-Israel. He called Israel the United States’ closest ally. He said the leaders of attacks on the administration are proponents of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel, as well as supporters of the agreement on Iran’s nuclear program.
“Because we are pro-Israel, we must be attacked, whether it’s the president, whether it’s Steve Bannon, whether it is Steve Miller or myself, we are friends of Israel,” he said. The US alliance with Israel, he added, “is our closest relationship.”