Former national security adviser H.R. McMaster said Thursday that President Donald Trump is “aiding and abetting” Russian President Vladimir Putin’s efforts to sow doubt about the American electoral system.
The stern warning from McMaster, who Trump handpicked to lead the White House National Security Council in 2017, came in an interview on MSNBC, after he was asked whether he agreed that the president posed the greatest threat to U.S. election integrity.
“I agree that he is aiding and abetting Putin’s efforts by not being direct about this, right? By not just calling out Putin for what he’s doing,” McMaster said.
“You know, Putin gets away with, I mean, literally murder or attempted murder … because people don’t call him out on it,” he added. “And so they are able to continue with this kind of firehose of falsehood, to sow these conspiracy theories. And we just can’t be our own worst enemies.”
McMaster was referring to the president’s complaints about mail-in balloting and claims of widespread voter fraud in the closing months of the general election campaign. Trump has repeatedly said Democrats are sending millions of “unsolicited” ballots to Americans and that the outcome of the election may not be known for months, if it is ever determined.
But only nine states are automatically mailing all voters ballots this year amid the coronavirus pandemic, and five of those states regularly mail every voter a ballot. Experts acknowledge there are some slightly higher fraud risks associated with mail-in voting compared with in-person voting, but only when proper security measures are not in place.
Cases of election fraud in the United States are exceedingly rare, and there is no proof of the type of mass fraud Trump has alleged. Trump’s own FBI director, Christopher Wray, testified before Congress last month that bureau officials “have not seen, historically, any kind of coordinated national voter fraud effort in a major election, whether it’s by mail or otherwise.”
McMaster’s remarks Thursday represent perhaps his harshest public criticism of the president since he was ousted from the White House in 2018. The Army lieutenant general frequently clashed with Trump on matters of foreign policy and was branded by detractors as not sufficiently conservative.
McMaster was Trump’s second national security adviser, replacing Michael Flynn — who became ensnared by former special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election and potential coordination with the Trump campaign.
Flynn served in the role for just 24 days before he was dismissed in February 2017 for a lack of candor about conversations he had with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. during the presidential transition period before Trump’s inauguration. He reportedly misled Vice President Mike Pence and other administration officials about the details of those talks.