Posted by: coastcontact | May 21, 2017

Obfuscate

To obscure, muddy, cloud, and conceal.  Those were the objectives of two guests on ‘This Week with George  Stephanopoulos.”  US National Security Advisor H. R. McMaster and Newsmax Media CEO Christopher Ruddy who is now as an ABC News contributor.

I have put in bold what I think are some of the most interesting parts of this interview program.

RUDDY: So many stories, fake news stories, are becoming fact here. Where in the Russia investigation has there ever been an allegation that the president had done anything wrong with the Russians? Where is there any evidence?

Or in other words the New York Times and The Washington Post are creating fake news.

The real thing to read is the transcript of  Stephanopoulos talking to McMaster today, May 21, 2017 his Sunday morning talk show.

STEPHANOPOULOS: General McMaster, thanks for joining us today. I want to get to the trip, but first some questions about that meeting you all had with the Russian foreign minister. “New York Times”, as you know, reporting that here’s what the president said in the meeting. “I just fired the head of the FBI. He was crazy, a real nut job. I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s take off.”

Is that what the president said?

H.R. MCMASTER, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Well I don’t remember exactly what the president said. And the notes that there apparently have I do not think are a direct transcript. 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.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Did you know he was going to report that to the Russians? And what did you think when you heard it?

MCMASTER: Report what, George?

STEPHANOPOULOS: The — what you he said about James Comey. That he fired him and why.

MCMASTER: Well, the firing had been in the news. But I didn’t know in advance that the president was going to raise it, but as I mentioned he raised it in the context of explaining that that he has been — feels as if he’s been unable to find areas of cooperation with Russia, even as he confronts them in key areas where they’re being disruptive, like Syria for example, and the subversive activities across Europe. Their support for the — not only the Assad regime but for Iran and its activities across the Middle East.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Did you understand how this might look though to an average American right no? You have the President of the United States telling the Russian foreign minister, in their first meeting, that that the pressure is off because he’s fired the FBI director investigating Russian interference in the campaign. Does that seem appropriate to you?

MCMASTER: As you know, it’s very difficult to take a few lines, to take a paragraph out of what are — what appear to be notes of that meeting. And to be able to see the full context of the conversation.

As I mentioned last week, the really purpose of the conversation was to confront Russia on areas, as I mentioned, like Ukraine and Syria, their support for Assad and their support for the Iranians.

We’re trying to find areas of cooperation in the area of counterterrorism and the campaign against ISIS.

And so that was the intent of that conversation was to say what I’d like to do is move beyond all of the Russia news so that we can find areas of cooperation.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So, did the president confront them on their interference in our election? This was their first meeting?

MCMASTER: Well, there already was too much that’s been leaked from those meetings. And one of the things that I’m most concerned about is the confidence, the confidentiality of those kind of meetings, as you know, are extremely important. And so, I am really concerned about these kind of leaks, because it undermines everybody’s trust in that kind of an environment where you can have frank, candid, and often times unconventional conversations to try to protect American interests and secure the American people.

STEPHANOPOULOS: I understand your concern about leaks, but I could an see the — the feeling of perhaps someone likely on your staff or in your community who leaked this thinking they had a duty to leak it because you have this apparent contradiction.

The president disparaging the person who was investigating the Russians, but not confronting the Russians who interfered in our election.

MCMASTER: Well, as you know, the initial leak that came out was a leak about concerns about revealing intelligence source and methods, information that’s not even part of the president’s briefing. And so in a concern about divulging intelligence, they leaked actually not just the information from the meeting, but also indicated the sources and methods to a newspaper? I mean, it doesn’t make sense, George.

STEPHANOPOULOS: I take your point on that, although there’s also the question of whether or not it was right for the president to give that information to the Russians. But I just asked a direct question. Did the president confront the Russians on their interference in our election?

MCMASTER: Well, I’m not going to divulge more of that meeting. 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.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, let me ask just one final question, then, on that meeting. Sean Spicer has spoken out, the president’s press secretary. He said by grandstanding and politicizing the investigation into Russian’s actions, James Comey created unnecessary pressure on our ability to engage and negotiate with Russia.

You’re the president’s national security adviser, do you agree that the former FBI’s director grandstanding and politicizing, those are Sean Spicer’s words, hurt our ability to deal with Russia?

MCMASTER: I think what’s been hurting our ability to deal with Russia more than any other factor, has been Russia’s behavior. But since President Trump has taken action in Syria, we think that there may be opportunities to find areas of cooperation in places like Ukraine, places like Syria in particular.

STEPHANOPOULOS: After your first press conference on that meeting, your friend and former colleague, retired Colonel John Neagle told NPR that you’re in an impossible situation, because the president expects you to defend the indefensible. What’s your reaction to that?

MCMASTER: I don’t think I’m in an impossible situation. I think what the president expects and what is my duty to do as national security adviser and as an officer in our army is to give my best advice, to give my best, candid advice. Nobody elected me to make policy. What my job is, is to give the president options, to integrate the efforts across all of our agencies and departments. And then once the president makes decisions, to help him execute those decisions to protect and advance the interests of the American people.

So, I find no difficulty at all serving our nation and serving the president in my current capacity.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But if the president did put you in that position as you wrote about with President Johnson and Vietnam, would you resign? Would you push back?

MCMASTER: Well, you know there was middle ground there during the Vietnam period. What occurred in that period is many of the president’s senior advisers, civilian, and military, didn’t give their best advice, because they concluded that what would be appropriate for them to do given what Johnson expected, President Johnson expected, was to tell him the advice he wanted to hear. I don’t think the president expects that from me, and certainly I don’t think I’d be fulfilling my duties and responsibilities unless I gave him not just my candid advice, that’s really not my job either — is to integrate and coordinate across the departments and agencies to give him the best advice from across our government and with our key multinational partners.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But it sounds like one of the difficulties of this meeting –and I do want to get on to the trip — is that when the president disparaged James Comey, when he gave that information to the Russians who had interfered in our campaign, when he apparently did not confront the Russians over this, he didn’t even ask your advice.

MCMASTER: Well, George, what I’d like to talk about is where I am right now, in Saudi Arabia. I mean I think I answered the questions concerning the media and I’d like to move on while we still have time.

STEPHANOPOULOS: We definitely will have time. So, you — did the president ask your advice about this before he talked about James Comey?

MCMASTER: The president always asks for advice before these sorts of sessions, but the subject of the FBI investigation to my recollection didn’t come up. But really, that conversation, although I don’t want to talk about any more of the specifics from within it, covered a broad range of subjects, most of which had to do with areas in which we think Russia’s behavior’s been unacceptable and is increasing risk to international security, is supporting those who are helping to create a humanitarian crisis in Syria and across the region. That would be the Assad regime and Iran. But then also look for areas where we can cooperate and begin to move toward a resolution of conflicts in Ukraine, in Syria, and then to be able to cooperate more effectively in our counter terrorism campaigns.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Let’s talk broadly about the goal of this trip. The president said you had a very good start. What exactly do you want to accomplish?

MCMASTER: Well, really three main things. The first is to advance the security of the American people. And to recognize that to do that, America needs allies and partners to deal with the very complex problems that we are dealing with. And of course in this region, those are two main and interconnected problems, the problem of transnational terrorist organizations, some of which now, like ISIS, control territory and populations and resources. But then how that problem is connected more broadly to the problem of Islamist extremism and the brainwashing of youths with really an irreligious ideology that is meant to foment hatred and justify violence against innocents.

And the second problem of Iran and Iran’s actions across the region, which we believe are aimed at keeping the Arab world perpetually weak and mired in a very destructive civil war. And you see that in Syria, obviously, a great human cost, but you see it in Yemen as well. You see it to a certain extent in Iraq.

And so security, cooperation, counterterrorism, but also counter-extremism is a big part of it.

STEPHANOPOULOS: As you know, the Saudis…

MCMASTER: The second part of it…

STEPHANOPOULOS: Go ahead

MCMASTER: The second part of it is economic cooperation, being able to get better access to markets, develop trade relationships, to create American jobs. There are a lot of important signings that happen in that connection.

And the third is to foster — this is just for this leg of the trip — better defense cooperation in the region and to encourage additional burden-sharing, responsibility-sharing with allies and partners so Americans don’t foot the full bill for security in this region and globally as well.

STEPHANOPOULOS: The Saudis have been in the past consistent backers of extremists around the world, around the region and around the world. Are you convinced that they’re truly ready to change?

MCMASTER: Well, we’re going to ask them to convince us. And so there’s some very good first steps being taken with the establishment of the center for combating global extremism, or terrorist extremism. We’ll have to see what the results are.

But I think the willingness to talk about it is somewhat different than it has been in the past. And as you know ,the record is poor going back to the ’60s and ’70s and beyond. And even today. And so what we need is we need to convene leaders across all religions, and that is a big theme of this trip, is to promote tolerance and cooperation across our religions to identify these terrorists for who they are — the enemies of all civilized people, irreligious criminals who use a perverted interpretation of religion to advance their criminal and political agendas.

And that’s the tone and tenor of the conversations that occurred today, which I think that is encouraging. Now I think there have to be concrete steps taken. Funding has to be cut off to these madrassas and mosques that are fomenting hatred and intolerance. Funding has to be cut off to terrorist organizations through effective threat finance measures, and that’s a big part of the initiative as well.

And so we’ll see. I mean, I think the expectation is that there — results — that we deliver results together. That’s what we’ve said that we expect of each other, and that will be a big part of the conversation tomorrow when the group of leaders expands dramatically to include not only the Gulf Cooperation Council but also about 50 nations of predominately Muslim and Islamic populations.

STEPHANOPOULOS: General McMaster, thanks for your time this morning.

MCMASTER: Thank you, George.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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