National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster “chuckled dismissively” at a recent event when addressing President Trump’s tweets about North Korea, according to an eyewitness.
Defense One reported Tuesday:
Lt. Gen. HR McMaster made a rare public appearance Monday at the Institute of the Study of War’s invite-only, off-camera security conference, Defense One’s Kevin Baron writes on location. For a full hour, Trump’s national security adviser talked onstage with Mike Gordon, now of the Wall Street Journal about the president, world events, and his job.
McMaster did a lot of explaining about the White House’s processes and reasoning behind its security decisions, from North Korea to Syria. He also chuckled dismissively about Trump’s tweet-threats to make North Korean leaders disappear. And he pushed back on the notion that he — or anyone — can keep Trump in line.
This comes after “two U.S. officials” told the Los Angeles Times last week that McMaster and other senior aides had repeatedly warned Trump not to personally attack Kim Jong-un in his remarks at the United Nations last week, arguing it could close off the chance for negotiations.
The Times reported, “Some of Trump’s top aides, including national security advisor H.R. McMaster, had argued for months against making the attacks on North Korea’s leader personal, warning it could backfire.”
The “officials” also revealed that Trump’s threat to “totally destroy” North Korea and calling Kim “Rocket Man” on “a suicide mission” were not in the draft of the speech that several senior officials reviewed and vetted.
Roger Stone, a Trump confidant and McMaster critic, speculated one of the officials was McMaster himself:
— Roger Stone (@RogerJStoneJr) September 24, 2017
The White House on Monday disputed the Times’ “narrative” but not the story itself.
“That’s a false narrative. The national security team was involved and engaged throughout the speechwriting process and was very happy with the president’s speech at the U.N.,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Monday.
It is not the first time McMaster has reportedly disagreed with the president. He has tried to get the president to stop using the term “radical Islamic terrorism,” opposed getting out of the Iran nuclear deal, and opposed drawing down troops from Afghanistan.
McMaster has come under scrutiny since his firing of three National Security Council staffers during the summer who had campaigned with Trump.
McMaster and allies have fought back against the criticism, with a McMaster ally calling Breitbart News in July to deny that he had anything to do with the firing of Rich Higgins, a former National Security Council staffer who had penned a memo warning of the president’s political enemies in Washington.
At the Institute for the Study of War event, McMaster also talked about the firings, saying that those staffers thought their role was to advance “a narrow agenda” that “may or may not” be the president’s agenda.
He also said those people are “largely gone” and would not “get around” Chief of Staff John Kelly — which he said was a “good thing.”
According to the report, he said:
Now, there are some people who have maybe misunderstood what their role was…and they thought their role was to advance a narrow agenda that may or may not be the president’s agenda, and to manipulate decisions to advance their agenda. And so, those people are largely gone. And they’re not going to get around John Kelly, for sure. And that’s good. And the president appreciates it, and we all appreciate it.
Concerning North Korea, he said the White House would start talks with Pyongyang — but not like before, and not if they continue to advance missile and nuclear bombs at the same time, according to Defense One.
He also called the Iran nuclear deal “the worst deal” but said the White House wants a “wider deal” that limits its other activities. The president is expected to announce ahead of an October deadline whether he will recertify Iran’s compliance with the deal.