McMaster: Trump feels ‘hamstrung in his ability to work with Russia’

National security adviser H.R. McMaster said in an interview broadcast early Sunday that President Trump hoped to find areas of cooperation during a meeting with Russian officials earlier this month.

McMaster was asked on ABC’s “This Week” about a report that Trump referred to former FBI Director James Comey during a meeting with the Russian foreign minister as “crazy” and a “real nut job” and said he “faced great pressure because of Russia.”

“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,” McMaster 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.”

He said that was Trump’s “intention” in that part of the conversation.

McMaster said he didn’t know before Trump’s meeting with the Russian officials that the president was going to bring up Comey’s firing.

“But as I mentioned, he raised it in the context of explaining that that he has been he 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,” McMaster said.

“The subversive activities across Europe. Their support for the not only the Assad regime but for Iran and its activities across the Middle East.”
McMaster reiterated that the real purpose of the conversation was to confront Russia on topics such as Ukraine and Syria and to try to find areas of cooperation such as on counterterrorism and the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
“And so, that was the, 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,” he said.
Still, when asked whether he agrees with White House press secretary Sean Spicer that Comey was “grandstanding” and “politicizing,” McMaster said: “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, in places like Syria in particular,” he added.
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