Administration

Trump aide says leaked stories bear 'almost no resemblance to reality'

Many of the behind-the-scenes stories leaked out about President Trump's White House bear "almost no resemblance to reality," senior Trump aide Sebastian Gorka says in an interview with The Hill. 

Gorka, Trump's deputy assistant, pushed back forcefully at the idea that stories based on leaks were credible, characterizing them instead as the creations of journalists looking to write negative narratives based on unnamed sources.

"I come in early in the morning at 7 o'clock, open the newspaper, and often I read stories that talk about events where I was in the room the day before ­- decisions being made, policy questions - and the story bears almost no resemblance to reality," Gorka said.

"Sometimes it's 180 degrees out of whack. I have to say, maybe 80 percent of reportage of the White House is just fallacious."

Gorka, 46, is no stranger to the media.

He worked as a Fox News contributor and national security editor for Breitbart before joining the White House. In coming to work for Trump, he followed in the steps of Stephen Bannon, Breitbart's former chairman who is now White House chief strategist.

Trump's first 30 days in office have been characterized by a running feud with the media and damaging stories based on leaks.

The Washington Post reported, based on unnamed sources, that Trump had hung up on Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull after a contentious discussion. Trump, a source told the Post, said "this is the worst call by far" before he abruptly ended it.

Turnbull disputed parts of the story, telling a Sydney radio station that "the report that the president hung up is not correct."

Separately, The New York Times earlier this month published a memorable inside-the-White House story, with no named sources, that included details about Trump aides conferring "in the dark because they cannot figure out how to operate the light switches in the Cabinet Room."

It also portrayed Trump as watching "television in his bathrobe" at night while he sometimes watched cable television and tweeted. Trump called the piece "total fiction," but the Times has stood by the story.

It's clear the administration is concerned about the leaks, as it has launched an internal investigation.

"We're looking into the situation, yes, and it's very concerning," press secretary Sean Spicer said at a press briefing last week. "We're trying to conduct serious business on behalf of the country."

Spicer himself has been the subject of a number of stories based on the comments of unnamed White House sources. Several of them have suggested that Trump is losing confidence in his press secretary.

This has many thinking that rival factions in the White House are duking it out in print.

Ever since Bannon was named chief strategist and former Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus was named White House chief of staff, outsiders have looked for evidence of friction between the two camps.

But Gorka blames a White House in transition, and not infighting, for the leaks. 

"We have to understand that this is a giant organization," he said. "Under the Obama White House, the National Security Council bloomed to 420 people. Eisenhower had 25, think about that - Reagan had 75. Obama had 420, and lot of those people are still here." 

"We have legacy individuals who are helping in the handover," Gorka continued. "Unfortunately, it seems that some of them are politically inclined and don't really accept a new commander in chief." 

Gorka also blames media organizations that he said still "haven't learned the lessons" of the presidential election. 

"I think that the bulk of media didn't really understand what happened on Nov. 8 when Trump was elected to be president, and they haven't learned the lessons if you look at approval [polls] of the media. They're appalling in general," he said.

Only 32 percent of those polled by Gallup in September said they trusted the press. Among Republicans, the number was 14 percent.

"That really tells you there's general disenchantment with media, the plethora of articles with multiple unnamed sources, that's easy to write," Gorka said.

Gorka's role in the White House is to give advice to Trump on national security, and the former Breitbart editor has shown a willingness to mix it up on behalf of the president on television.

For the last 20 years, Gorka, born in the United Kingdom, has worked on security issues - often in Hungary, where his father was imprisoned during Communist rule.

He and his wife, Katharine Gorka, who served on the Trump transition team for the Department of Homeland Security, started a think tank, the Institute for Transitional Democracy and International Security.

Returning to Washington in 2008, Gorka was administrative dean at the National Defense University for two years and worked as a professor of strategy and irregular warfare at the Institute of World Politics in Washington.

In 2016, he wrote the New York Times bestseller "Defeating Jihad," which focused on what Gorka said was the winnable war against radical Islamic terror.

The background made Gorka an attractive fit for Trump, who during the campaign vowed to "knock the hell out of ISIS."

Gorka has had some influence over one of the biggest moves of Trump's first 30 days in office: his executive order suspending the U.S. refugee program and temporarily blocking entry to the United States for people from seven Muslim-majority countries.

The Trump administration lost a key court battle last week when a San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously voted to uphold a decision suspending the order.

Gorka believes Trump and his order will prevail, and in the interview his message was similar to the one White House policy adviser Stephen Miller made in a series of Sunday talk show appearances.

"The president has the mandate to define who can come into America based upon certain requirements, but if there's national security issue it's his determination to have temporary halt to redefine qualities by which somebody is measured," Gorka said.

"The national security prerogative is the president's prerogative, not the court's and its lay-down statute. It is his mandate."

Gorka said his advice to the president will stop short in some areas. He's not about to tell Trump to stop tweeting.  

"I'm not going to tell the president what to focus on and what not to focus on," he said.

"If I could do what he does at his age, I would be very happy. This is a man like Steve Bannon who is on the go 20 hours a day, he's got more than enough time to deal with whatever he wants to deal with," Gorka said.

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