Former U.S. Ambassador Michael McFaul said Friday that National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster was "weakened" because he was excluded from President Donald Trump's meeting in Germany with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
"This is not good for H.R. McMaster," McFaul, who served as ambassador to Russia under former President Barack Obama, told Chuck Todd on MSNBC. "This weakens him within the inner agency – and it's just not good idea.
"Why not have your national security adviser in the most important meeting you've had as president when it comes to foreign policy?"
Besides Trump and Putin, only Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and two translators were present for the meeting, according to news reports.
"When a president meets with a head of state, if there is only a plus-one, it is always the national security adviser," McFaul said. "It should be more than that, precisely, because of the conversation you've just been having.
"You want somebody to take notes.
"That was a job I did when President Obama met with Putin and Medvedev, because you want a transcript of what happened," he added, referencing the 2012 session with then-President Dmitry Medvedev in South Korea.
Notes from the meeting are especially critical because of the "dueling readouts" from Tillerson and Lavrov afterward, McFaul said.
Tillerson told reporters that Trump began the session by expressing U.S. concerns about Russia's election meddling last year, which Putin denied.
He called the discussion on the topic "robust and lengthy."
But Lavrov said that President Trump "accepted" Putin's assurance that Moscow did not interfere in the November election.
"What needs to happen is that Secretary Tillerson, because he's the only on one besides the president who was there, needs to emphatically state what the American side was," McFaul told Todd.
"Otherwise, reading the readouts on both sides suggests that: 'Oh, yeah, it was raised, but it really wasn't raised in a very forceful way.'
"Why isn't the president of the United States raising it as his own concern?" he asked.
"That suggests that there wasn't a very big conversation – and that's a mistake.
"He looks weak in the eyes of Putin," McFaul said, "and he's not defending America's national interests."
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