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Trump White House's Friday fix: A hurricane, a pardon and the exit of Sebastian Gorka

Sebastian Gorka, who called himself a national security expert and was known for his bombastic defence of Donald Trump, has been ousted from the White House.

world Updated: Aug 26, 2017 20:22 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times, Washington
White House,US President Donald Trump,transgernders in US military
File photo from February 2017 shows Sebastian Gorka, deputy assistant to US President Donald Trump, speaking during the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland. Gorka departed the White House on August 25, 2017 in a shroud of controversy, with conflicting claims about whether he resigned or got the boot. (AFP)

In another news dump, the White House announced President Donald Trump had signed an order banning openly transgender people from the US military, pardoned a controversial Arizona state sheriff and fired an advisor known for his bombastic defence of the president in TV appearances.

All of this, as Texas braced for Hurricane Harvey, a category 4 storm supposed to be the strongest to hit the United States since 2005. It made landfall on Friday night(Saturday morning,India time) and Trump posted several messages on Twitter saying he was monitoring the situation and urging people in its path to be safe.

Later in the evening, as outer circles of Hurricane Harvey made landfall, the White House announced Trump had pardoned Joe Arpaio, a sheriff convicted of criminal contempt of a court order to desist from targeting Hispanics merely on suspicion of them being undocumented immigrants.

Around the same time, TV channels began reporting Sebastian Gorka, an advisor to Trump closely aligned with recently ousted chief strategist Steve Bannon, had resigned. A White House official clarified that “Gorka did not resign, but I can confirm he no longer works at the White House”.

Gorka, who called himself a national security expert, didn’t really have a well-defined role in the White House but frequently appeared on TV news channels to defend Trump and espouse his foreign policy in bombastic language, coupled with combative exchanges with the president’s critics.

His departure had become inevitable after Bannon’s exit last week, and its finalisation on Friday marked another setback for the “nationalist” faction in the White House led by the former chief strategist, and a victory for the ascendant rival faction led by the president’s daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner, both of whom hold official positions as advisers to the president.

As he kept an eye on the storm, Trump also signed an executive order directing the Pentagon to strop recruiting openly transgender people from serving in military, overturning a 2016 order by president Barack Obama, and prohibited gender reassigning medial help, which had benefited Chelsea Manning, who earned internal celebrity/infamy as the source of WikiLeaks’s trove of leaked US documents.

The order, which formalised an announcement by Trump on Twitter in July — that had seemingly caught even the military brass unawares — left it to the Pentagon to determine the fate of those already in service, estimated to be in thousands. It could use military effectiveness to let them go.

“In my judgment,” Trump said in the order, “the previous administration failed to identify a sufficient basis to conclude that terminating thedepartments' longstanding policy and practice would not hinder military effectiveness and lethality, disrupt unit cohesion, or tax military resources, and there remain meaningful concerns that further study is needed to ensure that continued implementation of last year's policy change would not have thosenegative effects.”

First Published: Aug 26, 2017 18:45 IST