McMaster confirms Cohn took letter off Trump's desk, calls it 'wholly appropriate'

McMaster confirms Cohn took letter off Trump's desk, calls it 'wholly appropriate'
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Former White House national security adviser H.R. McMaster this week verified aspects of an anecdote in Bob Woodward's latest book about now-former economic adviser Gary CohnGary David CohnThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump targets Iran with new sanctions Trump officials slow-walk president's order to cut off Central American aid: report John Kelly had to break up argument between US trade officials: report MORE removing a document from President TrumpDonald John TrumpNew EPA rule would expand Trump officials' powers to reject FOIA requests Democratic senator introduces bill to ban gun silencers Democrats: Ex-Commerce aide said Ross asked him to examine adding census citizenship question MORE's desk in the Oval Office, but he disputed that the president was unaware of the action.

McMaster, speaking Tuesday at event hosted by the Perry World House, called the Cohn's action "wholly appropriate."

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"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 in his remarks, first reported by the Washington Examiner. "It wasn't to hide it from the president at all. 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," he added.

McMaster's comments refer to a passage in Woodward's book "Fear: Trump in the White House" that said Cohn coordinated with former staff secretary Rob Porter to remove a letter from the president's desk that, if signed, would have declared the U.S.'s intent to vacate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

“I can stop this,” Cohn said, according to the book. “I’ll just take the paper off his desk.”

The anecdote, one of the more embarrassing parts of Woodward's book detailing the Trump presidency, caused a flurry of denials from the White House and from Cohn, though the former Trump adviser did not specifically deny the incident in a statement claiming the book did not "accurately" portray his experience.

“This book does not accurately portray my experience at the White House," he said following initial reports on the incident. "I am proud of my service in the Trump Administration, and I continue to support the President and his economic agenda."

Trump himself called the incident "false" in an interview with The Daily Caller earlier this month.

“[I]t’s just made up,” Trump told the news outlet. “[T]here was nobody taking anything from me.”