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Democrats Question Trump About Adviser Sebastian Gorka


Some Democrats in Congress have questions about an adviser to President Trump. They wrote a letter asking the president to fire Sebastian Gorka, a sometime guest on this program. The terrorism specialist has been criticized for thin credentials and what some call a simplistic view of Islam. For Gorka, simplicity has been the point. He says he wants to get rid of nuance and focus on what he sees is a very clear threat.

But all this is not the reason some Democrats want him out. They question his ties to anti-Semitic groups in Hungary, which is the homeland of his parents. Congresswoman Nita Lowey of New York is one of those who signed the letter asking for him to be fired. She's on the line.

Welcome to the program.

NITA LOWEY: Well, good morning. Nice to talk with you.

INSKEEP: What did Sebastian Gorka do in Hungary?

LOWEY: Well, I was really shocked that someone like Sebastian Gorka should be part of this administration. He has ties to the former prominent members of the anti-Semitic Jobbik party in Hungary; founding of the New Democratic Coalition in Hungary, which is a party that is referred to by watchdog organizations as racist, anti-Semitic; public support for the Hungarian Guard, the paramilitary group known for anti-Semitism and threats to other minorities. And in fact, there are even reports out there that he is a sworn member of a Nazi-allied far-right Hungarian group known as the Vitezi Rend.

So I can't understand that this kind of a person should work in the White House advising the president on counterterrorism.

INSKEEP: You mentioned a number of groups there, one of them Vitezi Rend. That was reported by The Forward. And they talked with members of the group who said of course Sebastian Gorka is a member. But he's rejected these allegations as a hatchet job. Without getting too deeply into the historical details, do you have any evidence that he holds anti-Semitic views?

LOWEY: Well, very often, you hire people - whether it's the White House or it's in my staff - you look at their past support, and you look at their actions. So I have never met the man. I haven't interrogated the man. But if you look at his past ties and the fact that he doesn't have the kind of credentials you would expect to see in a person at the White House - as one of the founders and a co-chair of the Bipartisan Task Force For Combating Anti-Semitism, I really was very shocked that he has achieved a position in the White House.

INSKEEP: Although we noticed that he is scheduled to address a conference that's sponsored next month by The Jerusalem Post and that some Israeli Cabinet members are going to participate in that conference. They don't seem to be raising a lot of noise about him.

LOWEY: Well, it doesn't, frankly, have to be objected to by every group that supports values like, I assume, The Jerusalem Post. But I haven't seen any qualifications that this person deserves to be in the White House making important decisions, advising the president on counterterrorism.

INSKEEP: I wonder if we're getting to the essence of it there. You are raising concerns about possible links to anti-Semitic groups in Hungary. But is the larger issue here that this is just a man who has a view of the world and a view of Islam that bothers you?

LOWEY: I would say (laughter) there are many things that bother me. But overall, I don't see his qualifications for being part of the administration. And I see his ties, as I mentioned before, to these groups that don't reflect the values that I would want to see.

INSKEEP: Do you feel that he's been particularly influential in the White House? Because it's arguable that other figures in the administration, like Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, have had a bigger influence in the early national security steps that the president has taken.

LOWEY: I've met with Jim Mattis. I am very impressed with his values. I'm impressed with his demeanor. I'm impressed with his knowledge. I haven't seen any qualifications in Mr. Gorka looking at his resume - and again, I haven't met with him - that qualifies him as being a member of the president's advisory team.

INSKEEP: OK. Congresswoman Nita Lowey of New York, thanks for joining us this morning. Really appreciate it.

LOWEY: Pleasure to be with you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.