During his visit to the Holocaust Museum, Donald Trump declared, “This is my pledge to you: We will confront anti-Semitism.” As if.
We know by now that a Trump pledge has the worth of a wooden nickel, and yesterday’s offering was extra phony, because he won’t even confront the stench of anti-Semitism that emanates from one of his top counterterrorism advisers.
If you haven’t yet heard of Sebastian Gorka, perhaps it’s because most of the spadework on this guy’s background has been admirably performed by The Forward, a Jewish-American media outlet (led by a former Philadelphia Inqurer colleague) that likes to dig deep. NBC News has confirmed The Forward’s work, all of which deserves far wider notice.
Check this out: Trump’s adviser, a naturalized citizen from Hungary, is a sworn member of a far-right Hungarian extremist group that operated “under the direction of the Nazi government of Germany,” according to the State Department. The group, known as the Vitezi Rend (which translates to “valiant order”) was founded by Miklos Horthy, an Hungarian dictator and Nazi collaborator who said, “I have always been an anti-Semite throughout my life.” To this day, Vitezi Rend members lionize Horthy on the group’s website. To this day, the State Department lists it as a “criminal organization.”
Under federal rules, nobody can become a naturalized American without at least disclosing whether he or she has been a member of a prohibited group. The Trump regime has repeatedly refused to say whether Gorka disclosed his membership when he was naturalized in 2012. The Trump regime has also refused to say whether it knew about Gorka’s ties during its vetting process. (Although we already know that despite Trump’s pledge to hire “the best people,” his vetting has been a joke.)
And now that Gorka is safely in Trump’s employ, he’s not exactly hiding his membership. In fact, he wore a Vitezi Rend medal … to an inaugural ball. I could be wrong about this, but it seems highly unlikely that any previous White House adviser has ever advertised, on his clothing, an extremist organization whose founder collaborated in sending 600,000 Jews to their deaths.
— Tikun Olam (@richards1052) April 9, 2017
Gorka told The Forward last month that it’s “false and outrageous” to suggest that he has any ties to anti-Semitism, but numerous Vitezi Rend sources in Hungary confirm that he swore a lifetime loyalty oath to the group’s nationalist principles. They also said they were “proud” to learn that Gorka had worn the medal to an inaugural ball.
And Vitezi Rend aside, Gorka has also been outed for his 2007 endorsement of a violent anti-Semitic paramilitary group called the Hungarian Guard. Gorka, a Hungarian politician at the time, was asked on TV whether he supported the creation of that militia; he replied, “That is so,” and said the Guard would fill “a big societal need.” He seemed unfazed by the fact that one of the Guard’s founding members was widely known (and condemned by George W. Bush’s State Department in 2004) for publishing anti-Semitic articles that denied the Holocaust. Indeed, two years after Gorka’s TV endorsement, the Guard was banned by Hungary’s highest court; the ban was upheld in 2013 by the European Court of Human Rights.
How is it possible that a guy like Gorka — who, by the way, has questionable credentials in the first place — can be allowed to infest the inner sanctum? Because it’s impossible for us to navigate Trump’s relentless muckstorm. Every day brings something new, and that allows the Gorkas to slip through.
Still, an event on Monday gave us a smile. Roughly 24 hours before Trump spoke at the Holocaust Museum and pledged to confront anti-Semitism, Gorka showed up at Georgetown University for a panel on cybersecurity — and was quickly confronted by protestors. They didn’t like his ties to Vitezi Rend. Gorka reportedly got agitated, assailed the protestors as “victims of fake news,” and split the scene before the panel was over.
Well, as William Faulkner famously wrote, “The past is never over. It’s not even past.”
And speaking of ill-vetted Trump advisers:
We learned yesterday that Michael Flynn, the three-week national security guru, may well have broken the law when he failed to disclose, on his security clearance forms, the $65,000 in payments that he received from Russian companies in 2015. Given his long experience, he had to have known that the failure to disclose would probably disqualify him for the national security post.
By the way, failure to disclose foreign payments is a federal crime worth a potential five years in prison. Or, to update his Republican convention chant, “Lock him up.”
So, to review what we just learned: Trump’s national security adviser was a paid agent of a hostile foreign power, he covered up the payments — and now Trump is stonewalling congressional attempts to get more documentation. Sean Spicer says those requests are “ridiculous.”
Just another day in the thickening muckstorm.