Breitbart Staffer Turned Trump Aide Is Posterboy For New Admin’s Nationalism

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A recent addition to Donald Trump’s White House team is quickly becoming the new face of the administration’s foreign policy shop: Deputy Assistant to the President Sebastian Gorka.

Gorka, who formally joined the administration in late January and previously served as an editor at Breitbart News, has been deployed across the cable networks and airwaves this week to discuss Trump putting Iran “on notice” as well as the fallout from the President's executive order on immigration.

In the past several days, Gorka has appeared on CNN, the BBC, Fox News and Fox Business. He has done multiple radio interviews with NPR and spoken to "The John Batchelor Show," the Eternal World Television Network, "The Laura Ingraham Show" and John Gibson of Fox News radio.

In all of his appearances, Gorka communicated a singular message: the Trump White House is taking a 180-degree pivot away from Barack Obama’s foreign policy.

“There is a new sheriff in town,” Gorka told Fox’s Sean Hannity.

Many staffers who advise Trump on foreign policy, like National Security Adviser Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn and chief strategist Steve Bannon, steered clear of the cameras throughout the campaign and into the early days of the new administration. Gorka—whose lengthy resume includes stints as former national security editor at Breitbart, Fox News commentator, think tank founder and professor of military theory—is clearly the new mouthpiece.

Like Trump, Gorka’s talking points are long on “America first” rhetoric and short on details about how the new administration’s policies will be implemented—everything remains on the table.

Gorka declined to say whether Trump believed Islam was a religion in a Friday interview with NPR's “Morning Edition.” He went on to argue that the new administration’s overarching focus was targeting “radical Islam” as an ideology.

“We are prepared to be honest about the threat. We’re not going to white it out, delete it as the Obama administration did,” he said. “We understand that groups like ISIS have a religious verbiage, their justification for violence is always religion.”

Gorka made the same case in his 2016 book, “Defeating Jihad: The Winnable War,” in which he argued that the “War on Terror” failed because political correctness prevented Obama and George W. Bush from focusing on the religious ideology underpinning “the global jihadi movement.”

That stance undergirds the Trump administration’s decision to place Iran “on notice." The Treasury Department on Friday announced it was imposing additional sanctions on the country in response to its ballistic missile test.

Gorka told Fox’s Hannity that the Trump administration was sending “a very clear message” that Iran “is not just another country."

“It is a state sponsor of terrorism that is destabilizing the region,” he said.

In other interviews, Gorka said only the "chattering classes" were concerned about Trump's executive order temporarily suspending the refugee program and barring entry to travelers from seven majority-Muslim nations. He claimed that Iraqis prevented from entering the United States actually appreciate the policy because they know how many “bad guys” want to come to America.

He called the Guantánamo Bay prison “a very important asset in our war against global jihadism” and falsely asserted that border patrol officers only question arriving refugees for “60 seconds.”

While Gorka declined to offer specifics on whether Trump would extend the travel ban or expand it to other countries, he repeatedly argued the President had broad leeway to make whatever policy decisions on immigration that he wanted.

“The 1950s law puts the prerogative in the hands of the commander-in-chief as to how immigration is handled and what standards are met,” he said on NPR. “So it is wholly within the purview of the President to lessen the number of nations or increase them as he sees fit.”

Gorka is presumably referring to the 1952 Immigration and Nationality Act, which grants the President authority to suspend “any aliens or any class of aliens into the United States [who] would be detrimental to the interests of the United States.”

In another interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper, Gorka said “the law laid down in the 1950s” put the burden on the President to "make sure your children are safe.” Other Trump aides have made similar arguments, though civil rights groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union and Council on American Islamic Relations, have sued the Trump administration over the travel ban on the contention that it violates the religious freedom of residents of the seven countries it covers.

Gorka capped off his busy first week as a Trump administration talking head with a personal victory. On Friday, a Virginia judge dismissed a misdemeanor charge he faced for bringing a handgun that his lawyer said he started carrying after receiving death threats through a security checkpoint last year at Reagan National Airport.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Allegra Kirkland is a New York-based reporter for Talking Points Memo. She previously worked on The Nation’s web team and as the associate managing editor for AlterNet. Follow her on Twitter @allegrakirkland.
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