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Tue Mar 7, 2017, 04:04 AM

The husband-and-wife team driving Trump's national security policy

The husband-and-wife team driving Trump's national security policy

By ELI STOKOLS, BRYAN BENDER and MICHAEL CROWLEY 02/13/17 05:05 AM EST Updated 02/13/17 11:51 AM EST


Before they became a Trump administration power couple, Sebastian and Katharine Gorka were prolific collaborators on research about the Islamic terrorist threat who built a fan base in far-right circles.

Business partners as well as published co-authors, the Gorkas made successful careers out of their shared passion. “Our pillow talk is the Islamic State and Al Qaeda,” Sebastian Gorka, now a senior White House aide, said during a talk in Florida last November.

At times it can even be difficult to tell which Gorka is doing the talking. Several passages of Sebastian’s 2007 dissertation, on the rise of radical Islam, appeared almost verbatim two years earlier in an article for the conservative journal Human Events. The byline over an online version of the article, “ccornell,” links to an author page for Katharine Cornell — the maiden name of Katharine Gorka.

The dissertation, written for Sebastian’s doctorate in political science from Corvinus University of Budapest, does not credit either a Katharine Cornell or Katharine Gorka in its endnotes.

“We write together all the time,” Gorka said during an hourlong conversation with POLITICO. He brushed off the overlapping passages as “probably something I dictated or that we came up with together.” Much of his writing and that of his wife, he explained, is the result of a “collaborative effort,” even if that’s not clear to readers. “She’s my wife and she’s my closest collaborator,” he said.

In the decade since earning his doctorate, Sebastian has vaulted into the heart of the American national-security apparatus. At the White House, Gorka — who was born in Britain and became a U.S. citizen in 2012 — is a deputy assistant to the president. He reports to strategist Steve Bannon and includes the Strategic Initiatives Group, Bannon’s in-house think tank, in his email signature.

That appointment, which includes a portfolio focusing on terrorism and national security, has befuddled mainstream counterterrorism experts, who recognize Gorka from his Fox News appearances but not as an influential thinker.

“He is hard core,” said retired Army Col. Joseph Collins, a professor at National Defense University who worked with Sebastian Gorka when he taught there. “He came at the issue from the ideological route.”

Joining Sebastian in Trump’s orbit is his wife, Katharine, who served on the Trump transition’s Department of Homeland Security “landing team,” focusing on plans to shift its “Countering Violent Extremism” programs to concentrate on Islamist extremism, according to a former DHS official. Sebastian Gorka declined to comment on his wife’s current role within the department, and calls and emails seeking comment from DHS were not returned.

Trump first summoned Gorka to Trump Tower in the summer of 2015. At the time, Gorka was national-security editor at Breitbart News, the right-wing website Bannon ran before joining Trump’s campaign. Long before most people took Trump’s candidacy seriously, Gorka wrote him a series of position papers.

Gorka’s biography at the Institute of World Politics, a Washington-based program that offers master's degrees and continuing education programs for military and other government officials, casts him as an “internationally recognized authority on issues of national security, irregular warfare, terrorism and democratization.” Gorka taught there as an adjunct before becoming a professor in 2016.

Several experts interviewed by POLITICO puzzled over the gap between the numerous military academic credentials listed by Gorka — a political science Ph.D. who unfailingly uses the title “Dr.” — and their unfamiliarity with his work and views.

In the decade since earning his doctorate, Sebastian Gorka has vaulted into the heart of the American national-security apparatus. Belowng the transition, I did a triple-take. I've been in counterterrorism since 1998, and I thought I knew everyone. But I'd never heard his name and couldn't recall anything he'd written or said,” said Daniel Benjamin, who served as counterterrorism coordinator under Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Retired Col. Peter Mansoor, a former top aide to Gen. David Petraeus in Iraq who helped rewrite the Army’s counterinsurgency manual, also said he’s never crossed paths with Gorka. “What I've heard has not been complimentary,” added Mansoor, who now teaches at Ohio State University and remains active in military circles.

In a subsequent email to POLITICO, Gorka said the two participated together on a panel discussion. Mansoor responded that he had forgotten about the event but said he remains critical of Gorka's recent views.

Gorka’s defenders dismiss such criticism. “Seb has never been in the traditional kind of academic world,” said James Carafano, a national security expert at the conservative Heritage Foundation. “There is a certain demonization that goes on against these guys.”

Trump’s rhetoric and actions since taking office reflect the influence of the Gorkas, who call for a tougher response to Islamist radicalism. In his Florida speech days after Trump won the election, Gorka showed what he acknowledged was a controversial PowerPoint slide featuring a dead ISIS fighter face down in the sand framed by a black background featuring white text that read: “Now we can win.” The Trump administration, Gorka told POLITICO, is committed to “crushing” ISIS “with [its] partners in the region.”

Gorka was one of the few White House staffers consulted ahead of Trump’s controversial Jan. 27 executive order limiting arrivals into the U.S. from seven Muslim-majority countries. He told POLITICO that he believes “it’s absolutely watertight when it comes to the legality and the president’s right to do this.” Although two federal courts have halted the order, Gorka hasn’t changed his opinion. “It’s a fundamentally preventative measure,” he added. “Counterterrorism isn’t about responding afterwards.”

Katharine Gorka wrote in 2013 that the Obama administration “seems to be allowing Islamists to dictate national security policy.” And she criticized President Barack Obama’s DHS for allegedly changing its training protocols to include an “emphasis on Islam as a religion of peace.”

The Gorkas are also strong believers in changing official U.S. government rhetoric to include the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism,” which Obama, and George W. Bush before him, shunned. “We are prepared to be honest about the threat. We're not going to white it out, delete it as the Obama administration did,” Sebastian Gorka told NPR last month.

More at link.

If there are repetitions in the text, apologies. It was difficult to cut and past due to the underlying configuration of scripting on the web page. I'm also sleep deprived. Nevertheless, I hope you find parts of it interesting and informative.

I am of the strong opinion we need to keep a close eye on these two interlopers. I'm interested in what others think. Thanks.




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Reply The husband-and-wife team driving Trump's national security policy (Original post)
littlemissmartypants Mar 2017 OP
Phoenix61 Mar 2017 #1
littlemissmartypants Mar 2017 #2
brer cat Mar 2017 #3
littlemissmartypants Mar 2017 #4

Response to littlemissmartypants (Original post)

Tue Mar 7, 2017, 04:16 AM

1. Great, a pair of whack-a-doodles

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Response to Phoenix61 (Reply #1)

Tue Mar 7, 2017, 04:46 AM

2. They alone could indefinitely drive the aluminium industry bankrupt.

Not to mention the moral bankruptcy they are propagating via their fascination with Radical Islamic propaganda. More grifters, carving out their path with free tickets on the war machine gravy train. I'd love to see them frog marched asap.

Thanks for the reply Phoenix61.


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Response to littlemissmartypants (Original post)

Tue Mar 7, 2017, 10:00 AM

3. He has certainly surrounded himself

with radical extremists; too many, I'm afraid, that will be pushing for military action to "solve" all our problems. "Crushing" ISIS? I shudder to think about how they plan to accomplish that, but our CiC is probably having wet dreams about it.

I noted the Breitbart connection. President bannon stacking the deck.

Thanks for the post, lmsp. It is so hard to identify and keep up with all the cast of crazies that dwell in the current WH sewer.

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Response to brer cat (Reply #3)

Tue Mar 7, 2017, 04:14 PM

4. You're welcome, brer cat.

These two need all the 'sunshine' we can get them. Thanks for your reply.


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