Former White House national security adviser H.R. McMaster has verified aspects of an incident in Bob Woodward's book “Fear” detailing that former economic adviser Gary Cohn took a document from President Donald Trump's desk in the Oval Office, but disputed that the president was unaware of it, The Washington Examiner reported on Wednesday.
"I know about that incident and that was wholly appropriate for Gary Cohn, who was a wonderful public servant and a great colleague, to do," McMaster said.
The former national security adviser rejected the book's assessment that Cohn's action was meant to hide the document from Trump, saying the removal was part of White House procedure.
"It wasn't to hide it from the president at all," McMaster said. "I mean, the president knew what this particular argument was. We had a process that was under way that combined the Homeland Security Council, the National Economic Council, and the National Security Council together to assess really what our trade policies ought to be and our objectives ought to be."
If signed by Trump, the document would have withdrawn the US from the US-Korea Free Trade Agreement, which most likely would have harmed American relations with South Korea during a crucial juncture in talks with North Korea.
After publication of the book, Trump condemned the story as "false" and "made up,” adding, "there was nobody taking anything from me,” according to the Daily Caller.
Cohn also put out a statement at the time obtained by Axios that did not outright deny the events, but said they were misportrayed.
“This book does not accurately portray my experience at the White House. I am proud of my service in the Trump Administration," he said.
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