White House Denies That McMaster Called Trump 'Idiot' in Conversation With Israeli CEO

Oracle CEO Safra Catz was part of Trump's transition team. Now a report says she told people one of Trump's closest advisers mocked the president in her presence

U.S. President Donald Trump, left, and H.R. McMaster, national security advisor, walk toward Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Friday, June 16, 2017. Trump will announce a ban on Americans and U.S. companies doing business with Cuba's military on Friday in a rollback of the Obama administration’s plan to thaw relations with the island, during a speech Friday afternoon in Miami. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloombergrelations with the island. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg
Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

WASHINGTON - White House National Security Adviser General H.R. McMaster reportedly described U.S. President Donald Trump as an "idiot" and a "dope" in a private conversation with the CEO of one of the largest software companies in the world. McMaster denies making the comments to Safra Catz, the Israeli-born CEO of Oracle, who has also issued a denial after the allegations were reported on Monday by Buzzfeed News.

Catz and McMaster met for dinner in July in Washington, D.C., and discussed a range of national security issues. Catz was born in Israel, grew up in the United States, and is currently one of the most powerful executives in Silicon Valley. Last year, she joined Trump's transition team ahead of his inauguration as president. 

According to Buzzfeed, four people who heard from Catz about the conversation with McMaster, claimed she had told them that McMaster mocked Trump and also made disparaging comments about other senior members of the administration. The White House issued a strong denial of these claims, stating that "actual participants in the dinner deny that General McMaster made any of the comments attributed to him by anonymous sources. Those false comments represent the diametric opposite of General McMaster's actual views. This story is just more fake news." Oracle also issued a denial to the story.

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The sources who claimed to have heard about the conversation from Catz, said she considered McMaster's comments "jaw-dropping" and "inappropriate." Besides allegedly calling the president and "idiot," the sources claimed Catz also recalled McMaster comparing Trump's intelligence to that of a kindergartener. 

It should be noted that in August, gambling tycoon Sheldon Adelson, one of the largest donors to Trump and the Republican Party, and a strong supporter of Israel's right-wing, also mentioned a conversation he had with Catz about her meeting with McMaster. 

Adelson wrote an email on that subject to Mort Klein, the president of the Zionist Organization of America, one of the most right-wing groups in the U.S. Jewish community. In that email, Adelson told Klein that he supports a campaign launched by ZOA calling for McMaster's resignation, due to his positions regarding Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, the Iran nuclear deal and other Middle East policy issues.

Adelson explained that he was at first skeptical about ZOA's campaign against McMaster, but had changed his mind after speaking to Safra Catz. The conversation with Catz, Adelson wrote, "enlightened me quite a bit." He added that following his conversation with Catz, "I now support your effort" to get McMaster out of the White House. 

The ZOA campaign against McMaster took place at the same time that far-right websites and Twitter accounts in the U.S. spread stories alleging that McMaster had expressed anti-Israeli opinions and yelled at Israeli officials. Those stories were strongly denied by the White House and by Israeli officials from different government agencies. Sources in Israel's security establishment totally rejected the accusations against McMaster, and the spokesperson for the Israeli embassy in Washington told Haaretz that "Israel appreciates General McMaster's efforts to strengthen the U.S.-Israel relationship." 

The allegations against McMaster began appearing a short time after he fired a number of people from the National Security Council who were appointed by his predecessor, Michael Flynn, and who were considered close to Trump's extremist political adviser, Steve Bannon. Over the weekend it was revealed Israel's ambassador to the U.S., Ron Dermer, hosted Bannon for dinner over the summer. Dermer called Bannon "a great friend of Israel."

One of those fired by McMaster was Ezra Cohen, a former intelligence officer who was appointed by Flynn to a senior position in the NSC. McMaster tried to get rid of Cohen, whom he considered not qualified for his position, for a number of months, but was reportedly blocked by Bannon. He finally managed to fire Cohen only after John Kelly became Trump's chief of staff in the summer. In September, the website "Just Security" reported that Cohen landed a job at Oracle after being dismissed from the White House by McMaster.