National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster on Sunday said he does not remember whether President Donald Trump told Russian officials that fired FBI Director James Comey was “a real nut job.”
“I don’t remember exactly what the President said,” McMaster said on ABC News’ “This Week.”
The New York Times reported on Friday that Trump told Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak that Comey was “crazy, a real nut job.”
According to the report, Trump also said he had “faced great pressure because of Russia” that was “taken off” by his decision to fire Comey.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer did not deny the accuracy of the quotes in the Times’ report. McMaster, however, appeared to question them.
“The notes that they apparently have I do not think are a direct transcript,” McMaster said on Sunday. “It’s very difficult to take a few lines, to take a paragraph out of what appear to be notes of that meeting.”
He said the “intent” of Trump’s comments was to say that he “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.”
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Sunday gave a similar explanation for Trump’s comments, though he did not blame media coverage for rocky U.S.-Russia relations.
“I think what the President was trying to convey to the Russians is, ‘Look, I’m not going to be distracted by all these issues that are here at home,'” Tillerson said on “Fox News Sunday.”
McMaster also refused to say whether Trump confronted the officials about Russian interference in the 2016 election.
“There already was too much that’s been leaked from those meetings,” he said. “I’m not going to divulge more.”