"There's no plan. There's no strategy," Gorka said of Trump's foreign policy last April.
In his current role as deputy assistant to the president, Gorka has become one of Trump's most prominent cheerleaders.
Sebastian Gorka, a top counterterrorism adviser to President Donald Trump, frequently criticized Trump’s approach to foreign policy during the 2016 presidential campaign, at one point saying Trump was “full of bluster” on the issues but had “no depth.”
In his current role as deputy assistant to the president, Gorka has become one of Trump’s most prominent cheerleaders, frequently hitting the radio airwaves to defend the president’s policies and public statements. Gorka’s work for Trump goes back as far as 2015, as federal election commission filings showed that Gorka was paid $8,000 that October to be a policy consultant for the Trump campaign.
But a CNN KFile review of Gorka’s public comments throughout the presidential campaign shows that even after his work for Trump, the former Breitbart national security editor offered stinging critiques of his future boss’ rhetoric on key foreign policy issues from terrorism to Russia and China.
Asked if he would like to comment on his past criticisms of Trump, Gorka said, “That’s fine, no need, thanks,” and hung up on a CNN KFile reporter.
In one appearance on the “The Georgene Rice Show” in April 2016, Gorka offered his assessments of the remaining presidential candidates’ positions on terrorism, calling Trump a “black hole.”
“On the right the Republican side, we have the New York real estate mogul who’s very full of bluster, full of sturm und drang, makes lots of statements about how we’re going to win and how the US army is going to be undefeatable, but there’s no depth,” he said. “There’s no plan. There’s no strategy. So I can’t judge him because he’s really a black hole, so the last one that’s really serious is Senator Cruz.”
At the time, Gorka’s wife, Katharine Gorka, a fellow national security analyst and his close professional collaborator, was serving as an adviser to Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign.
A few days earlier, Gorka made similar comments on another radio show, criticizing Trump’s stance on waterboarding.
“The real estate mogul from New York is a lot of bluster, a lot of loud things to do with waterboarding, etc.” he said on “Let’s Talk with Mark Elfstrand”. “But I just don’t see the detail, I don’t see the mature plan.”
Trump had previously come out in favor of waterboarding during the campaign, a technique that Gorka blasted in the interview as “fundamentally un-American.”
“It’s not what we stand for and the idea that we make it part of policy, when you do that, you really start down a slippery slope and you start to close the gap between us and the bad guys,” Gorka said, later adding that he considered waterboarding ineffective.
During the spring and summer of 2016, Gorka also opposed Trump’s stance on Russia and his praise for Russian president Vladimir Putin. In a May 1 appearance on Fox News, he praised both Trump and Cruz for “shaking the establishment to the core,” but added that “there were problems” with a foreign policy speech Trump had given days before.
“There were problems with that speech, Judge, especially when he spoke about China and Russia and our potential friendship and our shared interests,” he told Jeanine Pirro. “We don’t have shared interests. I’m sorry. [Vladimir Putin] is a KGB colonel. This is the kind of guy who tortured people during the Cold War and wants to destroy us.”
In another Fox News appearance on May 7, he further criticized Trump’s position that the US and Russia have shared interests.
“If you have a broad historical sense you will understand that even if Putin says he’s killing terrorists or even if China says they’re fighting the Uyghur nationalists that doesn’t mean they’re on our side,” Gorka said. “Putin is a former KGB colonel, he’s a thug, he’s a vicious man. He runs a country in which journalists get murdered if they disagree with the Kremlin. China is the world’s last communist dictatorship. It may be running around doing quasi-capitalist things but it is a one party state and to say that we have shared interests. No Mr. Trump, we don’t and we should really stick to the friends we already have.”
Gorka continued this line of criticism in a June 25 interview on “The Don Smith Show,” calling a recent speech Trump delivered “substantive to a degree we haven’t seen before,” but saying he was “really disturbed” by the then-presumptive GOP nominee’s rhetoric on Russia and China.
“It was tough. We know he’s tough because of the border issue and everything else, but yeah, it was internally inconsistent,” Gorka said. “When he talked about the attitude to our allies, to whether they should freeload or not, also when he talked about Russia and China, I was really disturbed. The things he said about how we can work with Russia and China, Russia is not on our side. The head of Russia is a former KGB colonel who wanted to destroy America. China is the world’s most powerful communist nation so the idea, if you think we can work with these guys in meaningful fashion, I think history would prove you wrong. So it’s an improvement. I have to be honest, it’s an improvement, but it’s still problematic and I need a more substantial development of his ideas in the next few weeks and months.”
But despite this previously pessimistic attitude about the potential for America to have a good working relationship with Russia, Gorka has defended Trump’s early outreach to Putin as his adviser and spokesman.
“You don’t get to be as successful a businessman as he is without being eminently pragmatic,” he said of Trump on Breitbart News Daily in February. “And his attitude to how we’re going to get along with Russia is, ‘Look, we’d like to, but if we can’t, that’s also a reality.’ We’ve been very clear about that from the beginning.”
As the campaign wore on, Gorka became more favorable to Trump, saying in August that though he had “a lot of issues with Mr. Trump”, they shared an opposition to political correctness.
“Look, I have a lot of issues with Mr. Trump but I commend him wholeheartedly on one issue,” Gorka said. “His whole message and the phenomenon of Donald Trump is based on the rejection of political correctness.”
On November 7, the day before the election, Gorka argued that while Trump had a “very steep learning curve” on foreign policy, he mitigated his lack of expertise by surrounding himself with “amazing people.”
“He wishes to win this war and he knows we are at war,” he said. “And although he was a businessman who had a very steep learning curve, he wasn’t an expert on national security, that is understood. The fact is he has surrounded himself with some amazing people in the last year.”