Sebastian Gorka, the special assistant to President Trump who calls himself a counterterrorism expert despite the consensus view of the national-security community that he isn’t one, has had a rough month. His misadventures have ranged from presenting false Guantánamo Bay statistics on Fox & Friends to engaging in a crazy, secretly recorded phone-fight with a real terrorism expert to the revelation that he has long palled around with anti-Semitic groups in Hungary (Gorka was born in London but his parents are from Hungary and he has spent a lot of time there).
Now, it turns out Gorka may have an even tighter connection than previously thought to the Hungarian far right. Writing in the Forward, which has been excellent at probing Gorka’s Hungarian connections, Lili Bayer and Larry Cohler-Esses report that according to members of Vitézi Rend (Order of Vitéz), a far-right Hungarian group with deep historical ties to the Nazis and to anti-Semitism, Gorka “took a lifelong oath of loyalty” to the group.
This could help explain why Gorka was seen at President Trump’s inaugural balls sporting a medal associated with Vitézi Rend founder Miklós Horthy, the virulently anti-Semitic World War II–era ruler of Hungary (“[F]or all my life, I have been an anti-Semite,” he once wrote) who cooperated with the Nazis, and why he reportedly signs his name with initials meant to signify membership in the group. At the time, Gorka told Breitbart the medal was meant to symbolize the Hungarian fights against communism and Nazism. And there was some ambiguity about the medal’s precise meaning: “Hungarian scholars who spoke to TPM did not unanimously agree that the medal he wore on inauguration night could definitively be identified with Horthy’s Order of Vitéz,” reported Talking Points Memo in February. “But they concurred that Gorka’s regalia is popular today among Hungary’s nationalist conservatives.”
If what the Vitézi Rend members told the Forward is true, though, this wasn’t just a bit of (creepy) nationalist symbolism — rather, Gorka is a full-blown member of the organization. And that, Bayer and Cohler-Esses explain, would be a problem for the beleaguered self-appointed terrorism expert: “The State Department’s Foreign Affairs Manual specifies that members of the Vitézi Rend ‘are presumed to be inadmissible’ to the country under the Immigration and Nationality Act.” So if Gorka failed to disclose his membership in the group, a law professor and retired immigration judge told the Forward, it could cause him legal problems and even call his naturalized citizenship into question. Gorka didn’t deny his membership in the group to the Forward, failing to respond “to multiple emails sent to his work and personal accounts, asking whether he is a member of the Vitézi Rend and, if so, whether he disclosed this on his immigration application and on his application to be naturalized as a U.S. citizen in 2012.”
Now, it’s probably unlikely a top Trump adviser is going to be investigated in such a manner, let alone have his citizenship jeopardized. But this incident does add an interesting flavor to a sentence from Trump’s first, defeated-in-court immigration executive order: “In order to protect Americans, the United States must ensure that those admitted to this country do not bear hostile attitudes toward it and its founding principles.” Indeed!