Terror Expert Critical Of Gorka Says He Threatened Legal Action On Heated Call

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A counterterrorism expert says White House aide Sebastian Gorka rang him up this week to threaten legal action and “berate” him for repeatedly questioning Gorka’s credibility on Twitter.

Newsweek on Thursday published what it said was audio of a phone call between Gorka and Michael S. Smith II, a terrorism analyst who’s advised members of Congress and, like Gorka, weighed in on the issue as a commentator on TV news.

Smith and Gorka, the former Breitbart News editor whose hardline take on Islam and ties to fringe, anti-Muslim activists have drawn criticism since he was appointed deputy assistant to the President, can be heard trading barbs for more than 14 minutes in the audio of the call.

On the call, Gorka attempts to get Smith to agree to meet at the White House to discuss Smith’s concerns about his background, growing increasingly frustrated as the analyst returns to his criticisms of the White House aide. Both men, who note they’ve never met before, get heated as the conversation drags on and cast doubt on each other’s bona fides in the field.

“I would submit to you that a majority of terrorism experts who have experience working with policy makers, which you do not until now, would agree that you are not an expert of level sufficient to be working in the White House with the President’s inner circle,” Smith says in one representative exchange.

“But that’s one man’s opinion,” Gorka objects. “A man who has a 2-year-old TV clip pinned to his Twitter feed and having to point out that he had an op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal as your header. I mean that’s your qualifications?”

According to Business Insider, which first reported on the phone call, Smith said Gorka called him at home Tuesday night “berating him” about his critical tweets. Smith has taken to hashtagging posts about Gorka with #FakeTerrorismExpert:

Smith told Newsweek that he started recording the call with Gorka only after he allegedly threatened legal action. In the audio of the call, Smith repeatedly refers to a threat of a lawsuit without pushback from Gorka on that point.

Gorka didn’t respond to Newsweek’s request for comment, and an emailed request for comment from TPM was not immediately returned Thursday. He took issue with Smith’s version of events in an email to Business Insider, however, while acknowledging that he did mention bringing Smith to the attention of White House lawyers during the conversation.

“Mr. Smith has been sending disparaging emails to [US government] officials about me and my work and I indicated that I may have to consult with legal staff at the [White House] about what he is doing,” Gorka told the news site. “However I ended the discussion by inviting him to meet at the [Eisenhower Executive Office Building] for a coffee to discuss why exactly he feels the need to constantly be tweeting about me.”

Alas, that coffee summit was not to be:

Listen to the full audio of the call over at Newsweek.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Catherine Thompson is a senior editor for Talking Points Memo in New York City. She came to the site in 2013 and reported on national affairs. Previously, she worked as a research assistant to investigative reporter Wayne Barrett. She can be reached at catherine@talkingpointsmemo.com.
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