WASHINGTON - Three Democratic senators have asked the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security to look into the background of U.S. President Donald Trump's adviser Sebastian Gorka and to possible ties between Gorka and a far-right, anti-Semitic organization in Hungary.
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The senators – Ben Cardin (D-Maryland), Richard Blumenthal (D- Connecticut) and Dick Durbin (D- Illinois) – quoted a report that was published last week in The Forward, in which two leaders of the Vitezi Rend far-right organization said that Gorka was a member.
"The State Department identifies the original Vitezi Rend as a virulently anti-Semitic organization that operated under the direction of the Nazis during World War II," the senators wrote in their letter.
They added that Gorka was "photographed wearing a Vitezi Rend medal on several occasions, including at a presidential inaugural ball earlier this year. He has also identified himself as 'Dr. Sebastian L. v. Gorka' in written testimony before Congress. Experts note that the initial 'v.' is used by sworn members of the Vitezi Rend."
Gorka has explained these behaviors as a tribute to his late father, who was a member of the anti-Communist opposition in Hungary in the 1950s, before escaping the country.
In their letter, the three senators explained that "we are particularly troubled by Dr. Gorka’s reported affiliation with an anti-Semitic organization because of the White House’s own checkered record on religious discrimination. For the first time in decades, the White House’s statement on Holocaust Remembrance Day failed to mention the Jewish victims, an omission which Dr. Gorka publicly defended."
At the end of their letter, the senators urged the relevant authorities to check Gorka's immigration and naturalization process. Gorka became an American citizen in 2012, and the senators would like to know if he mentioned his alleged affiliation with Vitezi Rend during that process.
In a separate letter, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-New York) wrote to Trump, asking the White House to provide information on Gorka's possible connection to the anti-Semitic organization.
"Vitezi Rend was a nationalist organization with an ideology of racial superiority founded by Miklos Horthy, a self-professed anti-Semite, who ruled Hungary from 1920 to 1944. Horthy collaborated with the Nazis and sent hundreds of thousands of Jews to die in Nazi concentration camps. The organization was banned by the Communist regime that ruled Hungary after World War II, but since that regime fell in 1989, two groups have since formed that claim to be the heirs to the original Vitezi Rend, holding the same nationalist and racist views as their predecessor," Nadler wrote.
"One of those groups is the Historical Vitezi Rend. Although Mr. Gorka has denied he is a member, several leaders of the organization claim that he is a formal member and has sworn a lifelong oath of loyalty."
Nadler added that "the uncertainly over Mr. Gorka’s membership in this racist and anti-Semitic organization, and the White House’s silence in answering questions regarding his status, raise further concerns that this issue is not being treated with the urgency it deserves."