During his rocky seven-month tenure as a deputy assistant to President Donald Trump, Sebastian Gorka did little of note beyond his punchy and frequent media appearances, in which the self-styled counterterrorism expert swiftly dismissed any item that painted the President in an unflattering light as “fake news.”
Since his ouster on Friday, Gorka has been on a media blitz of a different type. In interviews with outlets as varied as the BBC and Breitbart News, the former White House aide offered harsher words for the administration than he’s allowed previously, acknowledging that the “Make America Great Again” platform on which Trump won the presidency is so far unfulfilled.
The critical tenor of his remarks may have been prompted in part by the terms of his departure. The White House said he was removed, while Gorka insisted he left of his own accord. But his interview talking points were ripped straight from the fiery resignation letter he shared with the press on Friday, in which he assailed “forces” inside the administration bent on betraying the “MAGA promise.”
Fittingly, his first interview went to Breitbart, where he previously served as national security editor and where he says he now plans to return in some capacity.
“On key issues, we’ve done great things, but unfortunately, those who don’t believe in many of those things are now at the helm in key places and we have to make sure that they maintain the MAGA doctrine and we’re going to be doing that right now,” Gorka told reporter Matthew Boyle in an interview on Breitbart Radio.
According to Gorka, Trump campaigned and won on a “very simple platform” redolent of Ronald Reagan’s: fixing the economy, building a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border and defeating the Islamic State terrorist group.
“Unfortunately, I don’t want to go into the palace intrigue stuff—had too much of that—but the fact is, the forces of MAGA, the Make America Great Again faces, the policy people like [ousted chief strategist] Steve Bannon, my old boss inside the White House, have been systematically undermined,” Gorka said.
He’s not wrong: More traditional, moderate figures in the White House have sought to consolidate control over the chaotic administration in recent weeks. Retired Gen. John Kelly helped push Bannon out shortly after becoming Trump’s chief of staff, while National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster dismissed several National Security Council staffers with fringe views.
Gorka and his allies see that purge as a fundamental betrayal, as he told Newsmax host Steve Malzberg in a Saturday interview on talk radio station WMAL.
“The agenda is losing steam within the building,” Gorka said, insisting that the President told him in a phone conversation that day that he remained “committed” to enacting it. In the interview, Gorka lashed out repeatedly at the “swamp establishment” and “anti-MAGA clique” inside the White House.
“We have to help him to make sure that no one undermines him staying on course,” he told WMAL. “We’re going to have to box them in and were going to have to remind them that the American people spoke, that we are not going to be an interventionist nation.”
He made similar points in an interview with the BBC, calling Trump’s victory a “hostile takeover of establishment politics” that “un-Trumpian” forces were trying to undermine.
“There’s no conspiracy theory here and there’s no central leader. They are individuals who if you look at their career they clearly would have been very comfortable working for Hillary Clinton in her cabinet,” Gorka insisted.
The first leg of Gorka’s personal “#MAGA” tour also featured him saying the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism” as often as possible. Gorka complained to Breitbart and WMAL about Trump’s speech on Afghanistan last week, in which the President vowed to increase the number of boots on the ground and gave no clear timetable of when the U.S. presence there would end. He did not deploy Gorka’s preferred term linking violent extremism to Islam, however.
“I realized after the President’s speech this week on Afghanistan that he’s not being well-served,” Gorka told Breitbart. “That speech was written by people for the President in direct contravention of everything that we voted for November the 8th.”
Gorka mostly avoided naming the White House staffers he was complaining about on his weekend news rounds. However, he did point fingers at a few particular individuals: In an interview with the Jerusalem Post, Gorka criticized McMaster for failing to describe ISIL in religious terms, calling the national security adviser’s framing “simply wrong” and unfavorably comparing it with the Obama administration’s approach.
He also said that critical news reports about him, including those about his affiliation with a Hungarian knightly order founded by a Nazi collaborator and his wafer-thin resume on counterterrorism issues, were only ever brought up by Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser.
“The only time they would come up is when Jared [Kushner] would joke about them,” Gorka said. “He would always joke about the latest absurd accusation to be made. But it’s possible they came up privately.”
Such on-the-record criticism of one of Trump’s family members suggests that Gorka will be more candid now that he’s no longer a White House staffer. He’s framed his departure, which was reportedly preceded by the revocation of his security clearance, as a move that allows him “far greater power and freedom” to promote the President’s agenda.
But that “freedom” may spell bad news for the administration. While other senior officials have proven themselves willing to criticize the President and his policies in public, Gorka had been a reliable mouthpiece for the Trump team, dutifully making the rounds on cable news in moments of crisis to offer unblinking White House spin.
As he demonstrated this weekend, Gorka no longer feels that responsibility so keenly.