- Former Trump national security adviser H.R. McMaster said Trump missed "a layup" by not directly condemning white supremacy during the first presidential debate.
- Rather than condemn white supremacy and far-right extremism, Trump told the far-right group Proud Boys to "stand back and stand by" before condemning "Antifa and the left."
- "Condemning white supremacists should be a layup for any leader," McMaster told The Atlantic.
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Former White House national security adviser H.R. McMaster, a retired Army lieutenant general, told The Atlantic the president missed what "should be a layup" by not condemning white supremacy during the first presidential debate.
During the first presidential debate, moderator Chris Wallace asked Trump if he would condemn white supremacy. He said he was willing to, but rather than do so, he told the Proud Boys, a far-right group, to "stand back and stand by" before arguing that the real problem is "Antifa and the left."
Speaking to The Atlantic this week, McMaster said Trump's response was inadequate. "To use a sports analogy, condemning white supremacists should be a layup for any leader," he said.
He characterized Trump's blunder during the debate as "a missed opportunity" that "gives space to these groups that foment hatred and intolerance."
"No leader should encourage any group that is based on a narrow identity that aims to supersede our identity as Americans," McMaster argued, adding that "we need leaders who can bring us back together and generate confidence in our identity as Americans and as human beings."
The retired general, who said that white-supremacist groups pose a real national security threat, told The Atlantic that "our leaders should give voice to those of us who reject extremists and intolerance."
A recent draft DHS assessment, which multiple media outlets obtained and reported in early September, said that white supremacist extremists post the most "persistent and lethal threat" in the US today.
While Trump has been criticized for not speaking out against white supremacy, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany argued Thursday that not only did Trump condemn it during the debate, but that he "has condemned white supremacy more than any president in modern history."
Another issue that arose during the first presidential debate,was Trump again casting doubt over whether he would accept the outcome of the election if it was not in his favor.
Asked if democracy can survive this election, McMaster said that he believes it can. "Our Founders wrote the Constitution with every crisis they could imagine in mind," he told The Atlantic. "I have confidence in that system. It's going to work."
McMaster served the Trump administration as a senior adviser to the president for a little over a year before he was forced out in spring 2018 and replaced by John Bolton. Since leaving the administration, McMaster has largely kept his thoughts about the president to himself.