A Virginia court dismissed a weapons charge Friday against a White House national security aide, but not before an unwanted spotlight was cast on one of the architects of President Donald Trump’s controversial immigration policies.
Sebastian Gorka, charged last year with trying to board an airplane with a loaded handgun, is an ally of Steve Bannon, one of Trump’s closest advisers, who is seen by the white nationalist alt-right movement as a leader.
Gorka was a national security editor at Breitbart News Network, the far-right website that Bannon oversaw before joining Trump’s campaign last year.
“Dr. Gorka made a mistake . . . he regrets that mistake,” Christopher G. Oprison, Gorka’s attorney, said at a hearing in Arlington Circuit Court, which Gorka did not attend.
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When he was stopped on Jan. 16, 2016, by Transportation Security Administration officials at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, Gorka was carrying a Browning CZ 83 9 mm handgun. Manufactured in the Czech Republic, it’s the commercial version of the standard sidearm of the Czech army and, according to modernfirearms.net, “one of the best defensive pistols on the market today.”
Oprison said Gorka had the weapon because his family had received threats but that he’d forgotten it was inside his carry-on luggage.
A White House spokesman declined to comment on Gorka.
A counterterrorism expert and conservative television pundit, Gorka is part of a “Strategic Initiatives Group” inside the White House, which he described in a CNN interview as “charged with doing long-range initiatives of real import to the president.”
There seems to be a large portion of the media and maybe the millennials who seem to not understand what happened on Nov. 8.
White House aide Sebastian Gorka, on the immigration order
He’s also another link inside the Trump orbit to Breitbart, a “platform for the alt-right,” in the words of Bannon, its former chairman. Alt-right is shorthand for the alternative right, a political viewpoint that rejects mainstream conservatism and promotes a vigorous form of race-fueled nationalism that opposes immigration, political correctness and globalization.
The movement has attracted an array of followers who range from renegade conservatives upset with the status quo and political agitators who eschew political correctness to white supremacists who applaud its hard line on immigration.
It has found an outlet in the early days of Trump’s presidency, as evidenced by his “America first” pledge in his inaugural speech, moves to restrict immigration – specifically of people from countries with Muslim majorities –and a decision to leave out any reference to Jewish people in a statement about the Holocaust, a tactic employed by white supremacists and neo-Nazis.
Gorka has defended the immigration restrictions. In a recent interview on NPR, he described the criticism of Trump’s executive order on refugee admissions as “just another reflection of the chattering classes.”
Asked whether the thousands of people who protested the order at airports around the country “looked like the chattering classes,” Gorka replied: “It does. It does. . . . I find it quite amusing, sadly so, but amusing that there seems to be a large portion of the media and maybe the millennials who seem to not understand what happened on Nov. 8.”
He has also objected to the Iran nuclear deal crafted by the Obama administration and U.S. allies. In a Breitbart.com column last July, before he was associated with Trump and, he said, “long before anyone outside of (Trump’s) own family took his candidacy seriously,” Trump sought his advice on national security.
On NPR, Gorka defended Trump’s decision to add Bannon to the elite principals committee of the National Security Council – a decision widely criticized by former security officials from both Republican and Democratic administrations – noting as a qualification that Bannon had built “a media giant that has crushed its left-wing rivals.”
Gorka is the British-born son of Hungarian immigrants who escaped the Communist state during the 1956 revolution. His background includes the University of London, Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and a stint in the British army reserves. He developed expertise on national security and related issues through his work with the Rand Corp. and other think tanks and institutions concerned with foreign policy, warfare and terrorism.
To viewers of Fox News, Gorka is known as a fiery guest who frequently rails against Islamic extremism and called for the “extreme vetting” procedures on travelers arriving to the United States from Muslim nations. He also authored a popular book, “Defeating Jihad: The Winnable War.”
Derek Chollet, a former assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs in the Obama administration, said having a national security aide like Gorka become so visible in the media was just as unusual as having a top political adviser like Bannon serve on the National Security Council.
Gorka was headed to the Reagan airport on Jan. 13, 2016, for a flight to Florida when his handgun was discovered by agents. The TSA issued a news release then, saying only that a man from Alexandria, Virginia, had been stopped at a checkpoint carrying a 9 mm caliber handgun loaded with seven bullets.
Gorka’s gun was seized and he paid a small fine. In August, he was ordered to be on good behavior for six months. It means the misdemeanor charge is not wiped clean. It remains on his personal record as a dismissal, not a guilty plea.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article gave an outdated name for the Czech Republic.