By Mary Elizabeth Margolis

Top Items

Sebastian Gorka Ousted from White House

New reports indicate that Sebastian Gorka is likely to be removed from his current position as President Trump’s counterterrorism advisor. This news comes following revelations of Gorka’s affiliation with the Hungarian antisemitic group “Historical Vitézi Rend” and the exposure of his public support for an extremist paramilitary force associated with Hungary’s neo-fascist Jobbik party. In early April Human Rights First called on the administration to dismiss Gorka, and to make clear that it condemns all forms of antisemitism and intolerance. It is unclear whether Gorka will maintain a position outside of the White House.

White House May Host Duterte

President Trump announced that he has invited Rodrigo Duterte, the authoritarian president of the Philippines, to visit the White House. Duterte has spoken openly of having committed human rights abuses, including extrajudicial killings. Duterte will not be the first serial human rights abuser to be invited to the White House by President Trump, as Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi visited last month, and the White House has announced that it plans to host Turkish strongman Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in mid-May. Human Rights First notes that hosting authoritarian leaders and failing to press them publicly to address human rights abuses is an abdication of American leadership and undermines long-term U.S. national security interests.

Eyes on Chechnya

Reports continue to surface of horrific attacks on gay men being perpetrated by the authorities in Chechnya, Russia. More than one hundred men have been rounded up, detained, tortured, and some even killed. The State Department and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley have condemned the violence and called for an investigation, but there is much more that should be done. Human Rights First continues to call on the Trump Administration to assist those men who fear for their lives and need to escape Russia by providing protection and assistance.

Quote of the Week

“The United States and other responsible nations should do more to ensure that all people are protected and those who harm them are held responsible. We should use our voice on the global stage to call attention to these horrifying acts and to ensure they are condemned in the appropriate way, and ultimately in the hopes that they will be stopped.”

—Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) speaking out against attacks on gay men in Chechnya

We’re watching

Russian asylees in the United States read testimonials from gay men who were detained and tortured in Chechnya.

We’re Reading

Teen VogueYahoo News, and The Kansas City Star report on the abduction and torture of gay men in Chechnya.

Brian Dooley writes in The Guardian about the state of democracy and academic freedom in Viktor Orban’s Hungary.

Forward reports that Sebastian Gorka, deputy assistant and senior counter-terrorism advisor to President Trump, is leaving his role in the White House.

Reuters writes that the United States extended sanctions on Belarus for another six months.

Forbes reports on how many Americans are inadvertently supporting human trafficking networks.

The New York Times writes that Secretary of State Tillerson is in no rush to fill nearly 200 State Department posts.

The Washington Blade reports on Karla Avelar’s nomination for the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders.

We’re Watching

Russian asylees in the United States read testimonials from gay men who were detained and tortured in Chechnya.

On the Hill

TUESDAY, MAY 2, 2017

The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing entitled, “Responses to the Increase in Religious Hate Crimes.” 10:30 AM, Dirksen Senate Office Building 226.

The House Committee on Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations will hold a hearing entitled, “Winning the Fight Against Human Trafficking: The Frederick Douglass Reauthorization Act.” The hearing will feature Kristin Leary, Senior Advisor at Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives; Jo Becker, Advocacy Director of the Children’s Rights Division at Human Rights Watch; Tim Gehring, Policy and Research Manager at the International Justice Mission. 2:00 PM, Rayburn House Office Building 2172.


The House Committee on Homeland Security will hold a hearing entitled, “Denying Terrorists Entry into the United States: Examining Visa Security.” 2:00 PM, Capitol Visitor’s Center Room 210.

Around Town

MONDAY, MAY 1, 2017

The Heritage Foundation will hold an event entitled, “Is It Time for Congress to Pass an ISIS-Specific AUMF?” The event will feature Senator Todd Young (R-IN); Stephen Preston, General Counsel of the Department of Defense (2013-2015) and General Counsel of the CIA (2009-2013); Charlie Savage, Pulitzer Prize Winning Journalist for The New York Times; Cully Stimson, Manager of the National Security Law Program & Senior Legal Fellow at the Center for National Defense. 12:30 PM, The Heritage Foundation, Allison Auditorium, 214 Massachusetts Ave NE, Washington, D.C.

TUESDAY, MAY 2, 2017

The Center for American Progress will hold an event entitled, “Civil Liberties and Counterterrorism in the Trump Era.” The event will feature Mary DeRosa, former Deputy Counsel to the President for National Security and Legal Adviser of the National Security Council; Lara Flint, former Chief Counsel for National Security on the Senate Judiciary Committee; Suzanne Spaulding, former Undersecretary for the National Protection and Programs Directorate at DHS; The Hon. Patricia Wald, former Chief Judge for the US Court of Appeals in the District of Columbia Circuit. 12:00 PM, Center for American Progress, H Street Northwest, Washington, D.C.


The NYU Law School’s Center on Law and Security and Center for a New American Security will host an event entitled, “New Terrorism Threats and Counterterrorism Strategies.” The event will feature Hon. Nicholas Rasmussen, Director of the National Counterterrorism Center; Elizabeth Rosenberg, Senior Fellow and Director of the Energy, Economics and Security Program at CNAS; Dr. Aaron Brantly, Cyber Fellow at the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point; Dr. Audrey Kurth Cronin, Professor at the School of American Service at American University; Hon. Matthew Olsen, Former Director of the National Counterterrorism Center; Aaron Zelin, Richard Borow Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. 9:30 AM, NYU Washington, DC, Abramson Family Auditorium (B-1 Level), 1307 L Street NW, Washington, D.C.