Obama administration holdovers and loyalists are waging a leak-driven media campaign against a senior counter-terrorism adviser hand-picked by President Donald Trump, with the aim of undermining the Trump administration's national security apparatus, according to multiple senior White House officials and sources close to the administration.
Sebastian Gorka, a longtime national security expert profiled by senior editor Bill Gertz in today's Free Beacon, has been the subject of multiple leaks and negative stories portraying him as a bigot as part of a campaign similar to the one that brought down former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
Senior White House officials dismissed the media narratives and said Gorka is well liked and respected by Trump's innermost crowd. Several of these sources would only speak on background because they were not authorized to discuss internal White House workings. They also expressed growing concern about leaks from within the administration that are aimed at undermining Trump's senior advisers.
The media's focus on Gorka comes on the heels of a similar situation in which Obama administration holdovers and loyalists targeted Flynn by planting selective leaks of classified information in newspapers across the country. The Free Beacon first disclosed this effort a day after Flynn was forced to resign.
The most recent campaign against Gorka is being fueled by career staffers and anti-Trump insiders who fear being exiled by the current administration, according to senior White House officials familiar with the situation.
"Those who are brought in [to the White House], whether they're detailed or direct hires, but who are there because they support Trump and the Trump agenda, those people like him," one senior White House official told the Free Beacon. The official said the attacks were from Obama holdovers who would "have a problem with anybody who departs from their worldview. Seb is just a lightning rod."
Senior White House staff has not lost faith in Gorka, the official said.
"They just don't like anyone else in the White House weighing in on foreign policy," the official added, referring to career National Security Council, executive branch, and State Department officials, many of whom remained in government after Trump's election.
"The unhinged attacks on Seb Gorka are shameful but unsurprising, as they're coming from the architects of and cheerleaders for nearly a decade of failed Obama counterterror policy," said one source who is close to both the White House and Gorka.
Rep. Mike Gallagher (R., Wis.), a member of the House Armed Services and Homeland Security Committees, described Gorka as "very insightful and highly professional."
"You may disagree with some of his arguments, but his patriotism is beyond question," Gallagher told the Free Beacon. "And the fact that some of the architects of our failed foreign policy of the last eight years—which has allowed a terrorist state to emerge in the heart of the Middle East and triggered a rise in global salafi jihadism—are now trying to smear and discredit Seb is ironic and irresponsible. The counterterrorism field is highly politicized, and I fear the personal attacks on him are politically motivated."
As part of the effort to undermine Gorka, multiple publications, including those in the Jewish world, have sought to tie him to anti-Semitic movements and leaders. While multiple insiders dismissed the claims as nonsense, they admitted that the headlines have had an impact.
The attacks on Gorka are partly aimed at muddying the Obama administration's history of anti-Israel diplomacy, these sources said.
"This has nothing to do with Gorka and everything to do with protecting Obama's legacy on Israel," said one source. "Gorka understands that America and Israel face the same threats, and that many of our enemies target Israel specifically because it's the Jewish state. The Obama administration attacked Israel and downplayed anti-Semitism, but they never admitted it, and the policies Gorka is pushing would make the gap obvious."
David Reaboi, a national security consultant who has known Gorka and his wife personally and professionally for nearly a decade, told the Free Beacon that the most recent claims about Gorka are false.
"I've known Seb for nearly a decade," Reaboi said. "In addition to our Hungarian backgrounds and our families' struggles against communism in Eastern Europe, we share an interest in defeating the global jihadist movement. He is a good friend, a bright and penetrating analyst, a brilliant communicator, and a passionate defender of liberty and American values."