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Transcript: General HR McMaster on “The Face of the Nation”, 22 November 2020



Below is a transcript of an interview with former National Security Adviser HR McMaster, aired on Sunday, November 22, 2020, in Face of the Nation.


MARGARET BRENAN: Now we go to President Trump’s former national security adviser, HR McMaster. The retired army general has a new book, Battlefields: The Struggle to Defend the Free World. Good morning to you.

CHIEF LIEUTENANT HR MCMASTER: Good morning, MARGARET. It’s great to be with you.

MARGARET BRENAN: I’m glad to have you. Joe Biden is the newly elected president. President Trump has no viable legal path to judge his path to 270 electoral votes. But he continues to cast doubt on the election and to cast doubt on the American public. How corrosive is this for our national security?

MCMASTER: Well, that̵

7;s it – it’s very corrosive, MARGARET, and what worries me is that the president is playing in the hands of our opponents. You know, what I’m writing about in Battlegrounds is how Russia really doesn’t care who wins our election, as long as a large number of Americans doubt the legitimacy of the outcome. And I think what we all need to do at this point is to demand better from our political leaders, in this case, especially from the president, not to play into the hands of our opponents and- and to divide us further. and reduce our confidence in our democratic principles and institutions and processes.

MARGARET BRENAN: The president fired Chris Krebs, the official in charge of election security over the past few days, after saying there was no evidence that any American voting system had been compromised. This contradicts the president’s legal team. Krebs called this week’s press conference “the most dangerous hour and 45 minutes in American history and probably the craziest.” Is he exaggerating it?

MCMASTER: I think he’s exaggerating. We have to be confident. Now, of course, I think it was just a parody of firing Chris Krebs, because really what the administration had to do is attributed to the huge improvements that the Trump administration has made in our 2016 election security. Chris Krebs played a big role of overall efforts for this. Hey, MARGARET, it’s Thanksgiving. We should be grateful to the creators of our constitution because they designed our form of government based on the worst-case scenario, the worst-case scenario based on the bloody wars in 17th-century England. . So, we have a transition in place that will happen without really – says the word of the executive. Right? The president has no say in the transition itself.

MARGARET BRENAN: Afghanistan. I know that you strongly feel the conflict there and our troops that continue to serve. This week, President Trump halved the number of US troops from 4,500 to 2,500 by mid-January, although violence is on the rise, although the Taliban have not severed ties with al Qaeda. Is the president giving the Taliban victory at the exit?

MCMASTER: Yes, MARGARET. In fact, what I think President Trump has done paradoxically doubles all the shortcomings of the Obama administration’s approach to Afghanistan by inventing the enemy we would prefer instead of the real enemy we face in Afghanistan. An enemy who – who – who – if they win, if the Taliban take control of large parts of Afghanistan, provide a safe haven and a base to support terrorist organizations that want to carry out a massacre against us on the scale of 9/11, we will be far away less safe and- and vulnerable for these groups. And I think what happened was giving priority to withdrawal over our interests, which led to the fact that we actually empowered the Taliban. I mean, if we were going to leave, just leave, but don’t force the Afghan government to release 5,000 of the most disgusting people on Earth. No-no-don’t make this assumption that there is this bold line between the Taliban and these other terrorist organizations. Hey, we saw today with these rocket attacks in Kabul and – and the images of – hundreds of young girls fleeing from these – these rocket attacks. We saw him with, you know, an attack on a maternity hospital, where they shot pregnant mothers and – and killed babies. We saw the attack on the American University in Afghanistan. I mean, what does sharing power with the Taliban look like? Does this mean that any other school for girls is bulldozed? Does this mean that there are mass executions at the football stadium every other Saturday? I think it is – what we do is disgusting. And – and I hope – the Biden administration will reassess it based on what –

MARGARET BRENAN: Yes.

MCMASTER: – in it for us. I mean, MARGARET–

MARGARET BRENAN: Well …

MCMASTER: That’s not a theoretical case, is it? We know what happened on September 11th.

MARGARET BRENAN: The conflict with China is fast. You were the architect of Trump’s strategy. Is Joe Biden inevitably heading for a conflict with China?

MCMASTER: No, and I think what the Trump administration has done has really set us up to be competitive with China. And this must be a form of transparent competition. We know that the assumption on which previous Chinese policy was based was wrong. Right? China, accepted in the international order, will play by the rules and, as it progresses, will liberalize its economy and liberalize its form of government.

MARGARET BRENAN: Yes.

MCMASTER: The exact opposite is happening. And so it is important to compete as a way to avoid confrontation with China.

MARGARET BRENAN: All right, HR McMaster, it’s good to understand your insights. Thank you. We will be back immediately.


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