Carson Doubles-Down: Slaves Were ‘Involuntary Immigrants’

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson doubled-down Monday on his description of slaves as immigrants, arguing that the label fits anyone who comes into a country from the outside – even “involuntary immigrants.”

Speaking to department employees in his first full day on the job, Carson stoked controversy when he said America is “a land of dreams and opportunities,” even for “immigrants who came here in the bottom of slave ships” and “worked even longer, even harder for less.”

The remarks provoked uproar on social media, where many on the left lambasted the HUD secretary for describing slaves as immigrants aspiring for a better life. Both Chelsea Clinton and Samuel L. Jackson also weighed in with disbelief.

On Monday evening, speaking on the Sirius XM radio show of his friend and business partner Armstrong Williams, Carson refused to back away from the remarks.

“I think people need to actually look up the word immigrant,” Carson said. “Whether you’re voluntary or involuntary, if you come from the outside to the inside, you’re an immigrant. Whether you’re legal or illegal, you come from the outside to inside, you’re an immigrant. Slaves came here as involuntary immigrants but they still had the strength to hold on.”

One woman who called into the show said she disagreed with Carson, arguing, “you can’t be an immigrant if you’re brought over here in chains.”

“Yes you can, you can be an involuntary immigrant,” Carson responded.

“We should be proud to have ancestors that had the mental strength to endure what so many others had not been able to endure,” he continued.

“They tried to enslave all kinds of people but they were not able to survive it and that requires a tremendous amount of toughness and will power and strength and hope and they had that. Don’t let someone turn that into something bad.”

Carson said the department employees he addressed earlier in the day understood his message, accusing the media of seizing on a non-existent controversy and overlooking the reception he received.

“Everyone in that auditorium was with me,” Carson said. “They knew exactly what I was saying. It’s only those people who are always trying to stir up controversy. Did they talk about the good things? Or the prolonged standing ovation? All the people standing in line to get pictures, the people who asked very good questions and got answers for them? The lady who stood up and said some of us were concerned but we’re not concerned about you anymore – no, they don’t cover that. They say, ‘ah, he said that slaves were immigrants and that’s a terrible thing to say and he’s out of contact with reality and he’s crazy.’ You know it’s really kind of sad what the media has degenerated into.”

“There were numerous people brought over here on slave ships and it was a horrible thing, I’m not saying that it wasn’t a horrible thing,” Carson continued. “But what I’m saying is that those people were strong, they were strong-willed. They didn’t just give up and die like many of the other people who they tried to enslave. And one of the reasons they didn’t just give up and die is because they used the brain god gave them and they figured a time would come when there would be freedom, a time would come when their children could achieve, so unless you have the ability to maintain that hope and that aspiration, you just give up and you die. Our ancestors did not do that.”

Carson then posted a statement on Facebook that walked back his claims.

(h/t The Hill)

Carson Refers to Slaves as ‘Immigrants’ in First Talk to HUD Employees

Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson referred to slaves as “immigrants” dreaming of a better life in a talk with department employees, according to Monday reports.

“That’s what America is about. A land of dreams and opportunity,” Carson said. “There were other immigrants who came here in the bottom of slave ships, worked even longer, even harder for less.”

He added: “But they, too, had a dream that one day their sons, daughters, grandsons, granddaughters, great-granddaughters might pursue prosperity and happiness in this land.”

Carson, longtime supporter of President Trump who was sworn in as HUD secretary last week, compared abortion to slavery during his bid for the Republican presidential nomination.

“During slavery — and I know that’s one of those words you’re not supposed to say, but I’m saying it — during slavery, a lot of the slave owners thought that they had the right to do whatever they wanted to the slave,” Carson told NBC’s “Meet the Press” in October of 2015.

“What if the abolitionists had said, ‘I don’t believe in slavery, I think it’s wrong, but you guys do whatever you want to do?’ ” added the retired neurosurgeon, who opposes abortion even in the cases of rape and incest.

(h/t The Hill)


Longtime Trump Adviser Calls Critic a “Stupid Ignorant Ugly Bitch”

Roger Stone, the political consultant and longtime adviser to President Donald Trump, went on a Twitter meltdown on Saturday night, sending out vulgar and misogynistic tweets to critics. Some of those tweets have since been deleted, but others are still in his account, suggesting he doesn’t regret his entire tirade. Stone was Trump’s top political adviser until the then-candidate fired him. (He denied that was the case and says he quit.) Regardless, he remained a “confidant to Trump,” as the Washington Post described him and has since published a book on Trump’s campaign for the presidency.

The political consultant’s night of horrific Twitter messages began when a Twitter user who identifies as Caroline O under the handle @RVAwonk, asked Stone if he knew “what libel is” in response to him pushing Trump’s assertion that he was the victim of a wiretap operation by Obama. “Bring it! Would enjoy crush u in court and forcing you to eat shit-you stupid ignorant ugly bitch !” he wrote in the since-deleted tweet.

Stone then directed his misogynist anger toward anti-Trump Republican strategist Ana Navarro: “Really? @ananavarro is fat, stupid and fucking Al Cardenas.” He seemingly doesn’t regret that tweet, because it’s still up.

The personal attacks then continued against journalist Yashar Ali: “go fuck yourself, u talentless asswipe.”

Not satisfied with the public aggression, Stone went private. “Fuck you, you politically correct asswipe,” he wrote in a direct message to Ali.

Yelling at critics on Twitter is apparently a Saturday night well-spent, according to Stone: “Just nothing better than calling out liberal jerk offs on Twitter. We won, you lost. You’re done!”

In the middle of his personal attacks, Stone also admitted that he enjoyed a “back channel” to WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange during the campaign. Stone did delete that tweet, but he has made the same assertion before, saying in a TV interview that he had “back-channel communications” with Assange regarding the release of hacked messages from Democrats. On Saturday night he repeated that claim on Twitter: “Never denied perfectly legal back channel to Assange who indeed had the goods on #CrookedHillary.”

Stone is one of several Trump allies who are allegedly under investigation for possible ties to Russian officials. He has repeatedly said investigators won’t find anything. “Sure they’ll get my grocery lists; they may get the emails between my wife and I, but here’s what they won’t get: any contact with the Russians,” Stone told CBS News.

A new documentary about Stone, titled, Get Me Roger Stone is set to premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival next month before moving on to Netflix.

(h/t Slate)

Sessions Spoke with Russian Ambassador Twice During Trump’s Campaign

Attorney General Jeff Sessions spoke twice with Russia’s ambassador to the United States last year, the Washington Post reported Wednesday, raising new questions about contact between Trump campaign officials and the Kremlin.

Sessions, a former Republican senator from Alabama, did not disclose the contact with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during his confirmation hearings, testifying under oath that he “did not have communications with the Russians.”

The contacts are coming under scrutiny because Sessions endorsed President Trump early in his presidential bid, stumping and introducing him at campaign rallies, and officially joined the Trump campaign last February.

A spokeswoman for Sessions confirmed the contact with Kislyak, saying the attorney general spoke on the phone with the ambassador from his office in September. That conversation took place during the time when intelligence officials assert that Russia was interfering with the U.S. presidential election through a hacking and influence campaign.

In July, Sessions attended a Heritage Foundation event at Republican National Convention that was attended by some 50 ambassadors. A small group of ambassadors, including Kislyak, approached Sessions and talked to him informally, the Justice Department official told the Washington Post.

“It was short and informal,” spokeswoman Sara Isgur Flores told the Wall Street Journal.

Flores said Sessions spoke to Kislyak in his capacity as a member of the Armed Services Committee, not as a Trump surrogate, and was not trying to mislead fellow senators when he said during his confirmation hearing that he had not had contacts with Moscow.

Later Wednesday night, Sessions said in a statement: “I never met with any Russian officials to discuss issues of the campaign. I have no idea what this allegation is about. It is false.”

During his confirmation hearing, Sessions was asked what he would do if he learned a member of Trump’s campaign had communicated with the Russian government over the course of the 2016 campaign. He responded: “I’m not aware of any of those activities. … I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I did not have communications with the Russians.”

Officials said Sessions did not consider his conversations with Kislyak relevant to the lawmakers’ questions and did not remember the discussion with Kislyak in detail. And as a senior member of the committee, he regularly met foreign ambassadors, his spokeswoman said.

“There was absolutely nothing misleading about his answer,” Flores said.

The Post asked the 26 other members of the Senate Armed Services Committee whether they had met with Kislyak last year. Of the 20 who responded, all said no.

Democrats quickly seized on the revelation to amplify their demand that Sessions recuse himself from any federal investigations into contacts between the Russian government and the Trump campaign. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) went so far as to call for the attorney general to resign.

“When Senator Sessions testified under oath that ‘I did not have communications with the Russians,’ his statement was demonstrably false, yet he let it stand for weeks — and he continued to let it stand even as he watched the President tell the entire nation he didn’t know anything about anyone advising his campaign talking to the Russians,” Cummings said in a written statement.

Democrats had already floated the idea of a special prosecutor to investigate the Trump-Russia ties. Those calls are certain to grow louder now that Sessions has admitted contact with the same Russian official who spoke with Michael Flynn, the former White House national security adviser who resigned after misleading Vice President Pence about discussions with Kislyak.

At least one Republican, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, on Wednesday evening echoed Democrats in saying a special prosecutor might be necessary.

“There may be nothing there,” Graham said in a CNN town hall event. “But if there is something there, that the FBI believes is criminal in nature, then for sure you need a special prosecutor.”

“If there were contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian officials, they may be legitimate; they may be OK. I want to know what happened between the Trump campaign, the Clinton campaign and the Russians.”

The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday evening that the FBI has examined the contacts that Sessions had with Russian officials while he was a Trump campaign adviser. It’s not clear whether the probe of Sessions’s contacts is ongoing or what its outcome was, according to the report.

Flores said Sessions was not aware his communications had been subject to FBI scrutiny.

As attorney general, Sessions oversees the FBI.

Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), who asked Sessions about Russia connections during his confirmation hearings, said he was “troubled” by the report.

“If it’s true that Attorney General Sessions met with the Russian ambassador in the midst of the campaign, then I am very troubled that his response to my questioning during his confirmation hearing was, at best, misleading,” Franken told the Washington Post in a statement on Wednesday.

The new report comes on the heels of the Flynn controversy and continued concerns over potential connections between Trump allies and Russia.

Flynn stepped down after it was reported that he had discussed U.S. sanctions with Kislyak in December of 2016, ahead of Trump’s inauguration, and misled top officials including Vice President Mike Pence about the details.

Trump has repeatedly denied that his campaign staff was in contact with Russian officials, calling it “fake news.”

“I have nothing to do with Russia. I told you, I have no deals there, I have no anything,” Trump said at a press conference last month.

(h/t The Hill)

Trump’s Counterterrorism Adviser Sebastian Gorka Has Links to Anti-Semitic Groups

hen photographs recently emerged showing Sebastian Gorka, President Donald Trump’s high-profile deputy assistant, wearing a medal associated with the Nazi collaborationist regime that ruled Hungary during World War II, the controversial security strategist was unapologetic.

“I’m a proud American now and I wear that medal now and again,” Gorka told Breitbart News. Gorka, 46, who was born in Britain to Hungarian parents and is now an American citizen, asked rhetorically, “Why? To remind myself of where I came from, what my parents suffered under both the Nazis and the Communists, and to help me in my work today.”

But an investigation by the Forward into Gorka’s activities from 2002 to 2007, while he was active in Hungarian politics and journalism, found that he had close ties then to Hungarian far-right circles, and has in the past chosen to work with openly racist and anti-Semitic groups and public figures.

Gorka’s involvement with the far right includes co-founding a political party with former prominent members of Jobbik, a political party with a well-known history of anti-Semitism; repeatedly publishing articles in a newspaper known for its anti-Semitic and racist content; and attending events with some of Hungary’s most notorious extreme-right figures.

When Gorka was asked — in an email exchange with the Forward — about the anti-Semitic records of some of the groups and individuals he has worked with, he instead pivoted to talk about his family’s history.

“My parents, as children, lived through the nightmare of WWII and the horrors of the Nyilas puppet fascist regime,” he said, referring to the Arrow Cross regime that took over Hungary near the very end of World War II and murdered thousands of Jews.

In the United States, Gorka, who was appointed deputy assistant to the president on January 20, is known as a television commentator, a professor and an “alt-right” writer who describes himself as a counterterrorism expert. A close associate of Stephen Bannon, Trump’s chief strategist, Gorka is now part of Bannon’s key in-house White House think tank, the Strategic Initiatives Group. The newly formed group consists of figures close to Trump and is seen by some as a rival to the National Security Council in formulating policies for the president.

Gorka, who views Islam as a religion with an inherent predilection for militancy, has strong supporters among some right-leaning think tanks in Washington. “Dr. Gorka is one of the most knowledgeable, well-read and studied experts on national security that I’ve ever met,” Joseph Humire, executive director of the Center for a Secure Free Society, told the Forward. Humire has known Gorka for nearly a decade, and considers him “top-notch.”

Born in London to parents who fled Hungary’s post-World War II Communist regime, Gorka has had a career that’s marked by frequent job changes and shifting national allegiances. The U.S. government is the third sovereign state to hire him in a national security role. As a young man, he was a member of the United Kingdom’s Territorial Army reserves, where he served in the Intelligence Corps. Then, following the fall of Communism in Hungary, he was employed in 1992 by the country’s Ministry of Defense. He worked there for five years, apparently on issues related to Hungary’s accession to NATO.

Gorka’s marriage in 1996 to an American, Katharine Cornell, an heir to Pennsylvania-based Cornell Iron Works, helped him become a U.S. citizen in 2012.

A Web of Deep Ties to Hungary’s Far Right

It was during his time in Hungary that Gorka developed ties to the country’s anti-Semitic and ultranationalist far right.

During large-scale anti-government demonstrations in Hungary in 2006, Gorka took on an active role, becoming closely involved with a protest group called the Hungarian National Committee (Magyar Nemzeti Bizottság). Gorka took on the roles of translator, press coordinator and adviser for the group.

Among the four Committee members named as the group’s political representatives was László Toroczkai, then head of the 64 Counties Youth Movement. Toroczkai founded that group in 2001 to advocate for the return of parts of modern-day Serbia, Slovakia, Romania and Ukraine to form a Greater Hungary, restoring the country’s pre-World War I borders.

In 2004, two years before the Movement’s involvement in the 2006 protests, Hungarian authorities opened an investigation into the Movement’s newspaper, Magyar Jelen, when an article referred to Jews as “Galician upstarts” and went on to argue: “We should get them out. In fact, we need to take back our country from them, take back our stolen fortunes. After all, these upstarts are sucking on our blood, getting rich off our blood.” At the time of the article’s publication, Toroczkai was both an editor at the paper and the Movement’s official leader.

Toroczkai currently serves as vice president of Jobbik and is the mayor of a village near the border Hungary shares with Serbia. Last year, he gained notoriety in the West for declaring a goal of banning Muslims and gays from his town.

In January 2007, inspired by the 2006 protests and his experience with the Hungarian National Committee, Gorka announced plans to form a new political party, to be known as the New Democratic Coalition. Gorka had previously served as an adviser to Viktor Orbán, now Hungary’s right-wing nationalist prime minister. But following Orbán’s failed attempts to bring down Hungary’s then-Socialist government, Gorka grew disenchanted with Orbán’s Fidesz party.

In his email exchange with the Forward for this article, Gorka explained: “The Coalition was established in direct response to the unhealthy patterns visible at the time in Hungarian conservative politics. It became apparent to me that the effect of decades of Communist dictatorship had taken a deeper toll on civil society than was expected.”

Gorka co-founded his political party with three other politicians. Two of his co-founders, Tamás Molnár and Attila Bégány, were former members of Jobbik. Molnár, a senior Jobbik politician, served as the party’s vice president until shortly before joining Gorka’s new initiative, and was also a member of the Hungarian National Committee during the 2006 protests, issuing statements together with extremist militant figures such as Toroczkai.

Jobbik has a long history of anti-Semitism. In 2006, when Gorka’s political allies were still members of Jobbik, the party’s official online blog included articles such as “The Roots of Jewish Terrorism” and “Where Were the Jews in 1956?”, a reference to the country’s revolution against Soviet rule. In one speech in 2010, Jobbik leader Gabor Vona said that “under communism we licked Moscow’s boots, now we lick Brussels’ and Washington’s and Tel Aviv’s.”

In founding the New Democratic Coalition, Gorka and the former Jobbik politicians aimed to represent “conservative values, decidedly standing up to corruption and bringing Christianity into the Constitution,” according to the party’s original policy program. At the time, Hungary’s constitution was secular.

The party’s founders did not see themselves as far right or anti-Semitic.

“I knew Gorka as a strongly Atlanticist, conservative person,” Molnár, the former Jobbik vice president and co-founder of Gorka’s party, told the Forward in a phone conversation. He added that he could not imagine Gorka having anti-Semitic views.

Molnár first met Gorka at a book launch event for Gorka’s father, Pál Gorka, in 2002. The younger Gorka and Molnár became friends, bonding over their shared interest in the history of Hungary’s 1956 revolution and the fact that both had parents who were jailed under the country’s Communist regime.

Molnár became involved with Jobbik in 2003, in the far-right party’s early days, and quit in 2006. In his words, “Jobbik went in a militant direction that I did not like.”

Gorka rejects the notion that he knew any of his political allies had connections to the far right.

“I only knew Molnár as an artist and Bégány as a former conservative local politician (MDF if I recall),” Gorka wrote in response to a question regarding the Jobbik affiliations of his former party co-founders. “What they did after I left Hungary is not something I followed.” (MDF is an acronym for the Hungarian Democratic Forum, a now-defunct center-right party.)

In fact, both Molnár and Bégány were members of Jobbik before, and not after, they founded the new party with Gorka. Molnár was Jobbik’s high-profile vice president until September 2006, before he, Gorka and Bégány launched the New Democratic Coalition in early 2007.

Gorka appeared at a press conference with Molnár on September 21, 2006 — one day after Molnár resigned his position as Jobbik’s vice president. Gorka was also photographed on September 23, 2006, wearing a badge with the Hungarian National Committee’s logo as he was standing next to Molnár at a podium while Molnár briefed the press on the Committee’s activities. At the time Gorka was making these public appearances with the Hungarian National Committee’s leadership, extreme-right leader Toroczkai was already a top member of the Committee.

Bégány, meanwhile, had indeed been a member of MDF for a time, but in 2005 he joined Jobbik and served formally as a member of Budapest’s District 5 Council representing the far-right party. Bégány’s formal party biography, posted on the Jobbik website in 2006, said it is his “belief that without belonging to the Hungarian nation or to God it is possible to live, but not worth it.” Like Molnár, Bégány left Jobbik only a few months before starting the new party with Gorka.

Molnár, Bégány and the Hungarian National Committee were not Gorka’s only connection to far-right circles. Between 2006 and 2007, Gorka wrote a series of articles in Magyar Demokrata, a newspaper known for publishing the writings of prominent anti-Semitic and racist Hungarian public figures.

The newspaper’s editor-in-chief, András Bencsik, is notorious in Hungary for his own long-standing anti-Semitic views. In 1995, the Hungarian Jewish publication Szombat criticized Bencsik for writing that “the solid capital, which the Jews got after Auschwitz, has run out.” That same year, Szombat noted, Bencsik wrote in Magyar Demokrata, “In Hungary the chief conflict is between national and cosmopolitan aspirations.” In Hungarian society, “cosmopolitan” is generally a code word for Jews.

In December 2004, the U.S. State Department reported bluntly to Congress that, “the weekly newspaper Magyar Demokrata published anti-Semitic articles and featured articles by authors who have denied the Holocaust.”

In the summer of 2007, Bencsik became one of the founders of the Hungarian Guard, a now-banned paramilitary organization known for assaulting and intimidating members of Hungary’s Roma community. The perpetrators in a spate of racially motivated murders of Roma in 2008 and 2009 were found to have connections to the Guard.

Gorka’s articles for Magyar Demokrata focused not only on decrying Hungary’s then-Socialist government, but also on highlighting the perceived injustices of the Treaty of Versailles, the post-World War I agreement that led to the loss of two-thirds of prewar Hungary’s territory.

“We fought on the wrong side of a war for which we were not responsible, and were punished to an extent that was likely even more unjust — with the exception of the dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire — than any other punishment in the modern age,” Gorka wrote in a 2006 article in Magyar Demokrata.

Asked about his choice of journalistic outlets, Gorka wrote, “I am […] unfamiliar with Bencsik. I believe it was one of his colleagues who asked me if I wanted to write some OpEds.” Gorka told the Forward that his writing at the time shows “how everything I did was in the interests of a more transparent and healthy democracy in Hungary. This included a rejection of all revanchist tendencies and xenophobic cliques.”

Gorka’s claim to be unfamiliar with Bencsik must be weighed against his deep immersion in Hungarian politics and Benscik’s status as a major figure in Hungary’s right-wing political scene. At the time, Gorka gave public interviews as an “expert” on the Hungarian Guard, which Bencsik helped to found. In one 2007 interview, Gorka clarified his own view of the Guard, saying, “It’s not worth talking about banning” the group. Despite its extreme rhetoric against minorities, Gorka said, “The government and media are inflating this question.”

An Affinity for Nationalist Symbols

It was in mid-February that Gorka’s affinity for Hungarian nationalist and far-right ideas first came to the American public’s attention. Eli Clifton of the news website Lobelog noticed from a photograph that the new deputy assistant to the president had appeared at an inauguration ball in January wearing a Hungarian medal known as Vitézi Rend. The medal signifies a knightly order of merit founded in 1920 by Admiral Miklos Horthy, Hungary’s longtime anti-Semitic ruler and Hitler’s ally during World War II. Notwithstanding this alliance, and the group’s designation as Nazi-collaborators by the U.S. State Department, many within Hungary’s right revere Horthy for his staunch nationalism during the overall course of his rule from 1920 to 1944.

Breitbart, the “alt-right” publication, where Gorka himself served as national security editor prior to joining the White House staff, defended his wardrobe choice, writing on February 14 that, “as any of his Breitbart News colleagues could testify, Gorka is not only pro-Israel but ‘pro-Jewish,’ and defends both against the threat of radical Islamic terrorism.”

“In 1979 my father was awarded a declaration for his resistance to a dictatorship, and although he passed away 14 years ago, I wear that medal in remembrance of what my family went through and what it represents today, to me, as an American,” Gorka told Breibart on February 15, as the controversy regarding his choice to wear a Horthy-era medal intensified.

But the medal was not the first time Gorka expressed appreciation for symbols that many associate with Hungary’s World War II-era Nazi sympathizers. In 2006, Gorka defended the use of the Arpad flag, which Hungary’s murderous Arrow Cross Party used as their symbol. The Hungarian Arrow Cross Party killed thousands of Jews during World War II, shooting many of them alongside the Danube River and throwing them into the water. Gorka told the news agency JTA at the time that “if you say eight centuries of history can be eradicated by 18 months of fascist distortion of symbols, you’re losing historic perspective.”

Gorka’s Unlikely Transformation

After the failure of his new party in 2007, Gorka moved to the United States and over the past 10 years has worked for the Department of Justice, Marine Corps University, National Defense University, and Joint Special Operations University.

Former colleagues in the States questioned the quality of Gorka’s work on Islam, and said that he shied away from publishing in peer-reviewed journals, according to the Washington Post.

Retired Lt. Col. Mike Lewis told the Post that when Gorka was lecturing to members of the armed forces, he “made a difficult and complex situation simple and confirmed the officers’ prejudices and assumptions.”

But Humire, of the Center for a Secure Free Society, defended Gorka’s worldview. “Since I’ve known him he has been emphasizing a point that is not properly understood by most conventional counterterrorism experts,” said Humire, “that the modern battlefield is fought with words, images, and ideas, not just bombs and bullets. If you study asymmetric war, this emphasizes the mental battle of attrition and the moral battle of legitimacy over the physical battle for the terrain. Dr. Gorka understands this at a very high level and has taught this to our war fighters for several years,” said Humire.

Over the past few weeks, Gorka has become an informal spokesman for the White House, appearing on radio and television shows to defend Trump’s rhetoric and policy choices — including those that are relevant to the Jewish community.

Asked during a February 6 talk show to acknowledge that it was “questionable” for the White House to leave out any specific mention of Jews as the Nazis’ target in its Holocaust Remembrance Day statement, which referred only to “innocent people” being victimized, Gorka called the criticism “asinine”.

“No, I’m not going to admit it,” he said. “It’s absurd. You’re making a statement about the Holocaust. Of course it’s about the Holocaust because that’s what the statement’s about. It’s only reasonable to twist it if your objective is to attack the president.”

It remains unclear whether the White House ever took a deep look into Gorka’s activities in Hungary. Six White House staffers have reportedly been dismissed for failing FBI background checks; Gorka was not among them.

In 2002, Hungary’s intelligence service denied Gorka a security clearance. Gorka was nominated by the right-wing Fidesz party as its candidate to be an expert in an investigation into allegations that then-Prime Minister Péter Medgyessy had served as a counterintelligence officer during the Communist era. At the time, Gorka’s earlier ties to British intelligence were considered a concern, and he was ultimately not allowed to take part in the investigation.

Gorka’s friends and close associates in the United States do not believe that he is ideologically part of Hungary’s far right.

“I am pretty certain that SG [Sebastian Gorka] has some major differences with aspects of what you call the far-right,” Alejandro Chafuen, who has known Gorka for nearly two decades, wrote the Forward in an email exchange. However, Chafuen, who serves as president of the U.S.-based Atlas Network, added that he does not know whether these ideological differences also include Gorka’s perspective on minority issues and historical memory.

Meanwhile, Gorka’s former political partners in Hungary are pleased with his successes in Washington.

“I am happy, because this could be good for Hungarian-American relations,” said Molnár, the former Jobbik vice president and co-founder of Gorka’s short-lived party, in his conversation with the Forward. “But I was surprised…No Hungarian public figure has ever been so close to the White House.”

(h/t Forward)

Trump Ally With Zero Experience to Review Intelligence Agencies

President Trump is planning to ask a member of his economic advisory council to lead a review of the U.S. intelligence community, The New York Times reported on Wednesday.

According to the newspaper, Stephen Feinberg, a co-founder of Cerberus Capital Management, has informed his company’s shareholders that he is currently considering a move to join the Trump administration.

Feinberg also maintains strong ties to top Trump officials, including chief strategist Stephen Bannon and senior adviser Jared Kushner, who is also President Trump’s son-in-law.

Both officials declined to comment on The New York Times report.

Top intelligence officials told the Times they fear that the businessman is being prepped for a position within the intelligence community.

According to the paper, Feinberg’s only national security experience stems from his company’s involvement with a private security company and two gun manufacturers.

The possible review of intelligence agencies comes in the wake of Trump’s renewed feud with the intelligence community over leaks that led to the ousting of national security adviser Michael Flynn.

“From intelligence, papers are being leaked, things are being leaked; it’s criminal action. It’s a criminal act, and it’s been going on for a long time before me, but now it’s really going on,” Trump said Wednesday.

“The real scandal here is that classified information is illegally given out by ‘intelligence’ like candy. Very un-American!” the president also tweeted.

House Oversight Committee Chairman Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), on Wednesday formally asked the Justice Department’s inspector general to further investigate the leaks.

“We have serious concerns about the potential protection of classified information here. … The release of classified information can, by definition, have grave effects on national security. In light of this, we request that your office begin an immediate investigation into whether classified information was mishandled here,” the lawmakers wrote.

(h/t The Hill)


Trump Aide Derided Islam, Immigration And Diversity, Embraced An Anti-Semitic Past

A senior national security official in the Trump administration wrote under a pseudonym last year that Islam is an inherently violent religion that is “incompatible with the modern West,” defended the World War II-era America First Committee, which included anti-Semites, as “unfairly maligned,” and called diversity “a source of weakness, tension and disunion.”

Michael Anton, who served as a speechwriter for President George W. Bush, joined President Donald Trump’s administration earlier this year as a staffer on the National Security Council. But in the year leading up to the 2016 election, Anton operated as an anonymous booster of then-candidate Trump. Using the pen name Publius Decius Mus (the name of a self-sacrificing Roman consul), Anton promoted Trump’s anti-Islam, anti-immigration platform on fringe websites. The Weekly Standard revealed Publius to be Anton last week.

As Publius, Anton is best-known for his September 2016 article, “The Flight 93 Election,” which argued that, like the passengers on the aircraft hijacked by al Qaeda on Sept. 11, 2001, Americans in 2016 needed to “charge the cockpit” and prevent Hillary Clinton from winning the election — or die. The article, which ran in the Claremont Review of Books, was circulated widely on conservative and white nationalist websites. The New Yorker declared it “the most cogent argument for electing Trump” but cited the responses by Ross Douthat of The New York Times that he’d “rather risk defeat at my enemies’ hands than turn my own cause over to a incompetent tyrant” and by Jonah Goldberg of National Review that its central metaphor is “grotesquely irresponsible.”

“The Flight 93 Election” wasn’t Anton’s only — or most provocative — defense of his future boss. In March, six months before the Flight 93 piece began circulating, Anton published a longer and lesser-noticed essay, “Toward a Sensible, Coherent Trumpism,” in the Unz Review, a website that hosts both far-right and far-left commentary. Journal of American Greatness, a blog that closed last year, republished the 6,000-word piece, and Breitbart, a news site known for promoting white supremacist and anti-Semitic views, which openly supported Trump’s election, ran an excerpt. (American Bridge, a Democratic opposition research group, noted the Journal of American Greatness version of the essay in an email to The Huffington Post.)

According to an editor’s note on the Journal’s website, a “(semi-)prominent conservative think-tank” — presumably the Claremont Institute—rejected the piece because its arguments against immigration were grounded in emotion rather than logic. (The institute’s Claremont Review of Books did not immediately respond to a request for comment.)

Anton devoted 1,000 words of the March essay to defending Trump’s “America first” slogan, which is eerily reminiscent of the America First Committee, a group that urged the U.S. to stay out of World War II, sometimes by invoking anti-Semitic stereotypes. When American Jews urged the U.S. to intervene on behalf of Jews facing genocide in Nazi Germany, AFC spokesman (and famed aviator) Charles Lindbergh accused them of “agitating for war.” Jewish Americans’ “great danger to this country lies in their large ownership and influence in our motion pictures, our press, our radio, and our government,” Lindbergh said in 1941.

Lindbergh’s comments were shocking, even at a time when outright anti-Semitism was more publicly acceptable. “The voice is the voice of Lindbergh, but the words are the words of Hitler,” The San Francisco Chronicle wrote in an editorial.

But the America First Committee, according to Anton, was “unfairly maligned” and the whole episode represents only “an alleged stain on America’s past.”

The White House did not respond to a request for comment. Anton did not respond to a request for comment before publication. He addressed this article four days later in an interview with the editors of the website American Greatness, where he is a former contributing editor. The website appears to be run by the same team as the now-defunct Journal of American Greatness blog.

The America First Committee was “primarily an isolationist movement, but there were anti-semitic elements that supported it,” he told American Greatness in the interview published Sunday. “What the Left has tried to do ― with much success, unfortunately ― is retcon the committee as primarily an anti-Jewish group when that’s not what it was,” he continued.

Throughout the essay published last year, Anton argues that immigration inevitably hurts the U.S. Here’s one passage:

[One] source of Trump’s appeal is his willingness — eagerness — gleefulness! — to mock the ridiculous lies we’ve been incessantly force-fed for the past 15 years (at least) and tell the truth. “Diversity” is not “our strength”; it’s a source of weakness, tension and disunion. America is not a “nation of immigrants”; we are originally a nation of settlers, who later chose to admit immigrants, and later still not to, and who may justly open or close our doors solely at our own discretion, without deference to forced pieties. Immigration today is not “good for the economy”; it undercuts American wages, costs Americans jobs, and reduces Americans’ standard of living. Islam is not a “religion of peace”; it’s a militant faith that exalts conversion by the sword and inspires thousands to acts of terror — and millions more to support and sympathize with terror.

Anton acknowledged in the March essay that Trump may have gone too far proposing a ban on all Muslims from entering the U.S. — surely business travelers from Dubai should be allowed in, he argued. But he praised Trump for his broader effort to limit the number of Muslims who are allowed to live in America. It is obvious, he wrote, that “Islam and the modern West are incompatible…. Only an insane society, or one desperate to prove its fidelity to some chimerical ‘virtue,’ would have increased Muslim immigration after the September 11th attacks. Yet that is exactly what the United States did. Trump has, for the first time, finally forced the questions: Why? And can we stop now?”

Pew estimated last year that about 1 percent of the U.S. population is Muslim.

Anton wrote that he accepts that “not all Muslims are terrorists, blah, blah, blah, etc.” But even so, he asked, “what good has Muslim immigration done for the United States and the American people?”

Over the past 20 years, immigration has had a positive effect on long-term economic growth in the U.S. and minimal effect on the wages and employment levels of individuals born in the U.S., a panel of prominent economists concluded last year.

In the American Greatness interview published on Sunday, Anton said that America has previously benefited from immigration, but that time has passed. “My view is that we long ago passed the point of diminishing returns and high immigration is no longer a net benefit to the existing American citizenry,” he said.

Anton’s heterodoxies aren’t limited to issues of immigration. It’s not America’s job to “democratize the world,” he argued in the March essay. “The Iraq War was a strategic and tactical blunder that destroyed a country (however badly governed), destabilized a region, and harmed American interests.” But like Trump, who initially supported the invasion of Iraq but has repeatedly claimed otherwise, Anton’s position on the war seems to have shifted over the years: According to The Weekly Standard, he was part of the team within the Bush administration that pushed for the invasion. (After this article was published, Anton told American Greatness that he supported the invasion of Iraq, but now believes it was a mistake. He added that he believes the subsequent troop surge was the right thing to do and that the U.S. withdrew too soon.)

“As the experience of Europe has decisively shown, we in the West don’t have the power to change Muslims,” he wrote last March. “The reverse is true: when we welcome them en masse into our countries, they change us — and not for the better.”

Anton’s apocalyptic warnings about Islam, immigrants and diversity echo the ideology of Steve Bannon, who ran Breitbart News before becoming Trump’s chief strategist. Although Trump has also staffed his White House with establishment Republicans, including two former Republican National Committee leaders in Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and Press Secretary Sean Spicer — it is Bannon’s worldview that appears to guide high-level policy decisions.

Bannon reportedly played a key role in creating Trump’s travel ban. When the Department of Homeland Security concluded that the ban shouldn’t apply to legal permanent U.S. residents, Bannon pushed back, CNN reported. (Days later, the White House announced that green card holders were exempted from the travel ban.)

The Journal of American Greatness, the blog that republished Anton’s essay, was taken down in mid-2016, but its posts are still viewable using a digital archive tool.

“The inspiration for this journal was a profound discomfort with the mode of thought that has come to dominate political discourse — an ideological mode that makes nonsense of the reality of American life,” the journal’s editors wrote in a farewell note to readers. “The unanticipated recognition that we have received, however, also makes clear that many others similarly felt the desirability of breaking out of conservatism’s self-imposed intellectual stagnation.”

The blog had started as “an inside joke,” they noted. But at some point, they wrote, it “ceased to be a joke.”

(h/t Huffington Post)


Trump Was Unfamiliar With the Scope of the President’s Job When Meeting Obama

President-elect Donald Trump celebrated his status as a Washington outsider during his campaign for the presidency, but his lack of familiarity with the US government appears to be coming into view as he transitions to the White House.

During Trump’s private meeting with President Barack Obama on Thursday, Trump “seemed surprised” by the scope of the president’s responsibilities, according to a report from The Wall Street Journal.

Trump’s aides were also apparently unaware that the entire staff of the president working in the White House’s West Wing would need to be replaced, according to The Journal.

Obama reportedly will spend more time counseling Trump about the presidency than most presidents do with their successors.

Trump and Obama were highly critical of each other during the campaign season but appear to have struck a conciliatory tone since Trump’s election, at least publicly.

(h/t Business Insider)

Trump Policy Staffers Quit After Not Being Paid

Many of Donald Trump’s Washington, D.C., policy staffers quit working for the campaign after not being paid or publicly recognized, according to a new report in The Washington Post.

According to former employees, they were told they would be paid when Corey Lewandowski was campaign manager. But Paul Manafort, who replaced Lewandowski in July, said the staffers would remain unpaid.

“It’s a complete disaster,” a campaign adviser told the Post. “They use and abuse people. The policy office fell apart in August when the promised checks weren’t delivered.”

Jason Miller, a campaign spokesman, said that the D.C. policy shop has been “very successful” but added that “no such oral agreements were made” in respect to paying the staffers.

The two leaders of the policy shop, Rick Dearborn and John Mashburn, allegedly promised the workers that the money was coming. The report notes, however, that Dearborn failed to get an approved budget for the D.C. branch after Manafort was appointed.

“I heard it from Dearborn, I heard it from Mashburn. It was understood that we would be paid. The campaign never discussed how much the pay would be. It was never in writing,” another staffer told the newspaper.

“There were some people who were treating it as a full-time job. I suspect that those people were quite astonished when the pay didn’t come through.”

There were also workers who did not hold the policy shop’s leaders responsible.

“Rick Dearborn was always professional and forthcoming with me,” said the former policy coordinator.

“I was certainly under the expectation I would be paid at some point, but I don’t blame Rick Dearborn.”

The list of staffers who left the D.C. policy shop includes Ying Ma, a former staffer to Trump adviser Ben Carson; Tera Dahl, a former assistant to ex-Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.); J.D. Gordon, the shop’s director of national security; and conservative writer William Triplett, among others.

The staffers who remained in the Washington office are now working on a volunteer basis, the report added.

(h/t The Hill)


Trump Surrogate Admits Falsifying Military Service and College Degree

A top Donald Trump surrogate admitted to falsifying some of his professional accomplishments after a contentious confrontation with CNN anchor Victor Blackwell.
South Carolina preacher Mark Burns, who regularly introduces Trump at his campaign events, had listed on his church’s website that he had a Bachelor of Science degree and served six years in the Army Reserve.

Burns, however, was never in the Army Reserve. He was in the South Carolina National Guard, from which he was discharged in 2008, CNN found.

As far as a Bachelor’s degree, North Greenville University told CNN he only attended the school for one semester. Burns admitted that he did not finish his degree when CNN asked him about it.

When CNN confronted Burns about the various professional and social exaggerations he had featured on his biography, Burns first said the page had “obviously” been either “manipulated or either hacked or added.”

But the site host, Wix, said there was no evidence of a hack.

“This is not fair at all,” Burns told Blackwell during the interview. “I thought we were doing a profile and all of a sudden you’re here to try to destroy my character.”

“I’m not here to destroy your character,” Blackwell replied.

At one point, Burns told Blackwell he believed the interview was off the record, to which Blackwell responded, “I didn’t agree to that.”

Burns abruptly ended the interview by walking away.

CNN followed up with the Trump campaign and was provided with a statement from Burns:

“As a young man starting my church in Greenville, South Carolina, I overstated several details of my biography because I was worried I wouldn’t be taken seriously as a new pastor. This was wrong, I wasn’t truthful then and I have to take full responsibility for my actions,” Burns’ statement reads.

Burns said he did not know if he had been vetted by the Trump campaign.

(h/t CNN)


Donald Trump wants to have “extreme vetting” for immigrants, but he can’t even successfully vet his own team.


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