National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster would neither confirm nor deny that President Trump told the Russians that fired FBI Director James Comey was a “nut job,” but he insisted that the comments, as reported, were taken out of context.
McMaster was one of the people present for a meeting with the Russian ambassador and foreign minister earlier this month where the president reportedly revealed sensitive intelligence information and boasted of firing Comey, who was investigating Russia’s ties to Trump’s campaign.
In an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos that aired Sunday, McMaster said, “I don’t remember exactly what the president said. … But the gist of the conversation was that the president feels as if he is hamstrung in his ability to work with Russia to find areas of cooperation because this has been obviously so much in the news. And that was the intention of that portion of that conversation.”
When Stephanopoulos asked whether Trump’s comments seemed appropriate, McMaster responded: “As you know, it’s very difficult to take a few lines, to take a paragraph out of what appear to be notes of that meeting, and to be able to see the full context of the conversation.”
McMaster also wouldn’t speak to whether Trump confronted the Russians about their involvement in last year’s presidential election.
“I’m not going to divulge more of that meeting,” McMaster said. “Those meetings, as you know, are supposed to be privileged, they’re supposed to be confidential, they’re supposed to allow the president and other leaders to have frank exchanges.”
McMaster earlier denied reports that Trump had leaked classified information to the Russians during the May 10 meeting.
Capping a long week of crazy news about the Russia investigation, the New York Times reported Friday that in the same closed-door meeting, Trump said that firing Comey had relieved pressure on him.
“I just fired the head of the F.B.I. He was crazy, a real nut job,” Trump said, according to the source quoted in the Times. “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”
For more of the last week’s worth of reporting on the Trump-Russia scandal, see this timeline.