White House national security adviser H.R. McMaster on Sunday did not deny that President Donald Trump discussed his motivation for firing FBI Director James Comey in an Oval Office meeting with Russian officials this month.
McMaster would not directly address details of the meeting, but he did not deny reports that Trump revealed classified intelligence information in that meeting and told the Russian officials that Comey’s firing eased “great pressure” on the White House. McMaster said only that Trump was speaking about his desire to find common ground with the Russians.
“I don’t remember exactly what the president said,” McMaster said in an interview on ABC’s “This Week With George Stephanopoulos.” “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.”
McMaster refused to reveal details of the conversation, which he said was privileged and confidential. He said it is difficult to understand the scope of the conversation based on “a few lines” of notes leaked to members of the press. McMaster sought to reframe the conversation between Trump and the Russian officials after a Washington Post report revealed that Trump shared code-word classified information with the Russians in that meeting. The New York Times also reported that Trump called Comey “crazy, a real nut job” in the meeting and said that his firing lifted “great pressure.”
White House officials have said that the May 10 White House meeting among Trump, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak was a chance to discuss several issues. McMaster said Russia’s behavior is to blame for problems between the two countries.
“The real purpose of the conversation was to confront Russia on areas,” McMaster said. “Like Ukraine and Syria, their support for Assad, and their support for the Iranians.”
But McMaster did not directly answer when asked whether Trump had confronted the officials about Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. 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.”