One of the Trump White House’s newest hires is Sebastian Gorka, a self-proclaimed expert on radical Islam and frequent Breitbart contributor. For years, he’s also presented himself as an “expert witness” for the government in the trial of Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. But according to an official in the office of the U.S. Attorney in Massachusetts, Gorka never testified at the trial and prosecutors didn’t rely on his expertise in preparing or presenting their case.
Gorka is the former national security editor at Breitbart News, as well as a professor of strategy and irregular warfare at the Institute of World Politics, an independent graduate school in Washington, D.C., with a focus on politics and diplomacy. After consulting for the Trump campaign (while working for Breitbart), he was recently hired as a White House deputy assistant. His wife Katharine, also a Breitbart contributor, also has a new volunteer position in the administration, as a member of the “landing team” for the Department of Homeland Security.
Both the Gorkas have made their names as outspoken and extremely prolific commentators on the dangers of radical Islam; Sebastian has been on Fox News dozens of times to pontificate about ISIS. He’s also the author of a book on jihad (he’s against it), and, in his official biography, claims to have consulted on counterterrorism at the highest levels of government:
SEBASTIAN GORKA, Ph.D., an internationally recognized authority on national security, strategy, and counterterrorism, holds the Major General Matthew C. Horner Distinguished Chair of Military Theory at the Marine Corps University. He is a regular lecturer for U.S. Special Operations Command, the FBI s Counterterrorism Division, and the Green Berets, and he has briefed the CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency, and the National Intelligence Council. A Breitbart News contributor and frequent guest on the Fox networks as well as the BBC, CNN, and Sky News, Dr. Gorka is the chairman of the Threat Knowledge Group and a recipient of the Joint Civilian Service Commendation, awarded by U.S. Special Operations Command.
Together, the Gorkas have run at least three small think tanks dedicated to national security: the Threat Knowledge Group, the Council on Global Security, and, in Hungary, where they previously lived, the Institute for Transitional Democracy and International Security. The webpages for Threat Knowledge Group and the Council on Global Security have been taken offline, as has The Gorka Briefing, Sebastian’s personal website.
An archived version of The Gorka Briefing from 2015, however, shows that Gorka claimed to have served as an “expert witness” in the Tsarnaev case.
That claim is repeated in his biography on the website for the Washington Speakers Bureau, where he’s available for paid speeches on security issues: “Gorka served as an expert witness in the Boston Marathon bombing trial.” The same claim is made in numerous other official bios. In another speaker bio available in numerous places—including the Gorka Briefing—Gorka is described, more accurately, as having served as “as a subject matter expert for the Office of the US Attorney in Boston for the Tsarnaev trial.”
On Fox News, Tucker Carlson has also presented Gorka as an expert witness in the case:
“Our next guest was actually involved in the case,” Carlson said, in a Fox segment that aired in May 2015. He describes Gorka, again, as an “expert witness for the prosecution” in the trial.
Here’s what is true: Gorka did in fact submit an “expert report” to the Boston prosecutor’s office on the Tsarnaev case. (It’s a history lesson-cum-treatise on the “global Jihadist movement” and an argument that Tsarnaev considered himself to be a part of that movement.)
But Gorka didn’t appear at the trial: There’s a witness list and a supplemental witness list in the public court docket, and he’s not on either of them. The U.S. Attorney’s office in Massachusetts confirmed to us that while Gorka’s name appeared on a list of “potential witnesses,” he was in fact never called to the stand, and the briefing materials he submitted were never used in any way during the trial.
“He was certainly on the list of potential witnesses,” an official with the U.S. Attorney’s office said. “But he was never called, nothing he gave us was ever used.”
(While the term “expert witness” is sometimes used in the legal community to describe consultants who file written briefings, it is commonly understood to mean someone who takes the witness stand. Evan Kohlmann, another self-described terrorism expert, was also on a list of potential witnesses in the trial and, like Gorka, submitted a report but was never called. We could find no public bio for Kohlmann that cites him as an expert witness in the trial, or any claims from him to that effect.)
While it’s certainly the case that Gorka was being considered as an expert witness, he clearly didn’t make the cut for the Big Show, which—given the frequency with which he has claimed to have taken the stand—must have come as something of a disappointment.
We’ve emailed Gorka and the White House for comment and will update should they respond.
Anna Merlan is a Senior Reporter with the Special Projects Desk, which produces investigative work across all of Gizmodo Media Group's web sites.