3 Dem Senators Call For Investigation Into Background Of Sebastian Gorka

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Three Democratic senators on Friday asked for an investigation to determine whether White House aide Sebastian Gorka "falsified" his U.S. citizenship application by “failing to disclose his membership in a Hungarian neo-Nazi organization.”

In a letter to the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security, Sens. Dick Durbin (D-IL), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Ben Cardin (D-MD) cited a report from the Forward that alleged Gorka belongs to a group descended from a knightly order founded by a Nazi-allied, World War II-era Hungarian leader. Though Vitézi Rend, or the Order of Vitéz, is now defunct, two members of an existing offshoot told The Forward that Gorka swore a lifelong loyalty oath to the group.

“We note that this Administration has expressed a special interest in ensuring that those with extremist views do not exploit our immigration laws,” the senators wrote. “We are deeply concerned by reports that Dr. Gorka concealed the material fact of his membership in the Vitézi Rend, a far-right anti-Semitic Hungarian organization, when he applied for U.S. citizenship.”

The U.S. State Department previously refused entry to members of the Order of Vitéz because of its association with Miklós Horthy, the Nazi-allied Hungarian admiral and statesman, according to the report. The Forward posited that Gorka, who was born in the United Kingdom, would have been legally obligated to note membership in the order’s descendant group on his U.S. citizenship application.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) on Friday asked President Donald Trump to turn over Gorka’s immigration information to prove he “did not enter this country under false pretenses.”

These calls from lawmakers ratchet up the heat on Gorka, who has said that his father received a medal associated with the Order of Vitéz and that he occasionally wears it to celebrate his father's anti-communist efforts in Hungary.

He told Tablet that he has “never been a member of the Vitez Rend” or “taken an oath of loyalty” to the group, although he neither confirmed nor denied membership in a subsequent statement the White House provided to the Forward.

Read the senators’ full letter below:

March 17, 2017 The Honorable Dana J. Boente Acting Deputy Attorney General U.S. Department of Justice 950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20530 The Honorable John F. Kelly Secretary U.S. Department of Homeland Security Washington, DC 20528

Dear Acting Deputy Attorney General Boente and Secretary Kelly:

We urge you to immediately investigate whether senior White House counterterrorism advisor Sebastian Gorka falsified his naturalization application or otherwise illegally procured his citizenship.

We are deeply concerned by reports that Dr. Gorka concealed the material fact of his membership in the Vitézi Rend, a far-right anti-Semitic Hungarian organization, when he applied for U.S. citizenship. As you know, it is unlawful to make a false statement in naturalization proceedings (18 U.S.C. 1015) and procuring naturalization by concealing a material fact or willful misrepresentation is punishable by denaturalization (8 U.S.C. 1425, 8 U.S.C. 1451).

According to the Forward, leaders of the Historical Vitézi Rend have identified Dr. Gorka as a sworn member of the organization who took a “lifelong oath of loyalty.” The State Department identifies the original Vitézi Rend, as a virulently anti-Semitic organization that operated under the direction of the Nazis during World War II. Dr. Gorka was photographed wearing a Vitézi Rend medal on several occasions, including at a Presidential inaugural ball earlier this year. He has also identified himself as “Dr. Sebastian L. v. Gorka” in written testimony before Congress. Experts note that the initial “v.” is used by sworn members of the Vitézi Rend.

We note that this Administration purports to have a special interest in ensuring that those with extremist views do not exploit our immigration laws. The President’s January 27th Executive Order states, “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. … the United States should not admit those who engage in acts of bigotry or hatred (including … the persecution of those who practice religions different from their own).” Membership in an anti-Semitic organization like the Historical Vitézi Rend should raise serious concerns regarding whether an individual holds the sort of “hostile attitudes” that concern the Administration. Failure to address this case would further confirm the intent of this Administration is to discriminate on the basis of religion, rather than combat extremist views.

We are particularly troubled by Dr. Gorka’s reported affiliation with an anti-Semitic organization because of the White House’s own checkered record on religious discrimination. For the first time in decades, the White House’s statement on Holocaust Remembrance Day failed to mention the Jewish victims, an omission which Dr. Gorka publicly defended. President Trump was slow to condemn the wave of attacks on Jewish community centers and has yet to condemn the surge in anti-Muslim bigotry. And the President has signed two executive orders, both of which have been blocked by federal courts, barring people from Muslim-majority countries and all refugees from entering the United States. The President’s orders are a notable departure from our nation’s bipartisan tradition of welcoming refugees, which was established in the aftermath of our tragic failure to provide safe haven to Jews who were fleeing the Holocaust.

Again, we urge you to immediately investigate the circumstances surrounding Gorka’s naturalization. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely, RICHARD J. DURBIN United States Senator

RICHARD BLUMENTHAL
United States Senator

BEN CARDIN
United States Senator

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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