- H.R. McMaster confirmed that Gary Cohn took documents off of President Donald Trump’s desk that would have pulled the US out of a major trade deal with South Korea.
- The explosive story was a key detail in veteran journalist Bob Woodward’s new book, “Fear: Trump in the White House.”
- But McMaster argued that the move was not designed to hide the document from Trump.
- The White House and Trump have pushed back on Woodward’s reporting.
H.R. McMaster, President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser, confirmed the most explosive allegation from Bob Woodward’s new book about President Donald Trump’s White House.
According to the Washington Examiner, McMaster confirmed Gary Cohn, Trump’s former top economic adviser, did in fact steal documents off of the president’s desk in an effort to prevent Trump from pulling the US out of key trade deals.
Asked about the anecdote in Woodward’s book, “Fear: Trump in the White House“, that Cohn stole documents that would have pulled the US out of the US-Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS), McMaster confirmed the report and argued it was the right thing to do.
“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,” he said at an event hosted by Perry World House on Wednesday.
Pulling out of KORUS would have had significant economic consequences and likely would have harmed the US-South Korea relationship during a critical juncture in talks with North Korea.
Cohn told colleagues at the time that the theft was necessary and that Trump would forget about the idea, according to the book. Woodward also reported that Cohn snatched a document that would have pulled the US out of the Noth American Free Trade Agreement from the president’s desk, too.
McMaster did push back on the book’s assessment that the move was designed to hide the document from Trump, instead saying the removal was the product of the White House document process.
“It wasn’t to hide it from the president at all,” McMaster said, according to the Examiner. “I mean, the president knew what this particular argument was. We had a process that was underway 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.”
The White House has pushed back against the book, calling it “nothing more than fabricated stories.” Trump also disputed the idea that Cohn stole documents from his desk.
Cohn released a statement at the time of the book’s release saying Woodward did “not accurately portray my experience at the White House”. But in the statement and subsequent appearances, Cohn did not directly dispute the document theft story.
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