BuzzFeed cites no fewer than five sources on this, including four who claim to have heard the account directly from the CEO herself. A sixth source unrelated to the dinner says he’s heard McMaster disparage Trump’s intelligence also. That’s a lotta sources.
Counterpoint, though: Would McMaster really be so brazen and stupid to commit a firing offense like this, goofing on Trump in front of someone he didn’t know he could absolutely trust? It’d be uncharacteristically reckless.
Over a July dinner with Oracle CEO Safra Catz — who has been mentioned as a candidate for several potential administration jobs — McMaster bluntly trashed his boss, said the sources, four of whom told BuzzFeed News they heard about the exchange directly from Catz. The top national security official dismissed the president variously as an “idiot” and a “dope” with the intelligence of a “kindergartner,” the sources said.
A sixth source who was not familiar with the details of the dinner told BuzzFeed News that McMaster had made similarly derogatory comments about Trump’s intelligence to him in private, including that the president lacked the necessary brainpower to understand the matters before the National Security Council…
Indeed, three of the sources said that McMaster disparaged multiple members of the administration to Catz, including Tillerson, Secretary of Defense James Mattis, former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon, and President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner. Of Kushner, one source told BuzzFeed News, McMaster said he had no business being in the White House and should not be involved in national security issues.
The NSC denies that McMaster said anything insulting about Trump. So does Catz. So does Ken Glueck, Oracle’s senior VP, who was also at the dinner with McMaster. But hold on: BuzzFeed has two other sources who say that officials within the administration threatened to retaliate against people at Oracle if they confirmed what McMaster had said. Glueck calls that “ridiculous” but then he would, wouldn’t he?
Here’s a curious coincidence:
Interesting wrinkle: Ezra Cohen-Watnick, removed from his National Security Council post by McMaster, is now working at Oracle. https://t.co/ngn5glpVmt
— Kate Brannen (@K8brannen) November 20, 2017
Remember Ezra Cohen-Watnick? He’s the former NSC staffer who helped put Devin Nunes in contact with another intel official who pointed him towards allegedly unorthodox “unmasking” requests by the Obama administration. Coincidentally or not coincidentally, he’s also the man whom McMaster tried to remove shortly after becoming NSA, only to be blocked by Steve Bannon and Jared Kushner. Cohen-Watnick hung on until the ascendance of John Kelly as chief of staff; with his friend Kelly running the show in the White House, McMaster finally had the green light to purge the Bannonites on the NSC, starting with Cohen-Watnick, and did so. That sparked a nasty whispering campaign against McMaster by Bannonites replete with allegations that he has a drinking problem. And now, lo and behold, the whispering campaign has come to Oracle, Cohen-Watnick’s new firm. Go figure.
Something worth thinking about, though, if you suspect this is Cohen-Watnick’s revenge on his old nemesis, McMaster. Obviously he’ll be the prime suspect within Oracle itself of having leaked to BuzzFeed about what McMaster supposedly said to Catz. And the embarrassment this will cause Catz is apt to ruin any chance she has at working for the administration. Would a smart guy like Cohen-Watnick risk his new job so soon just to pay McMaster back? Maybe? Knowing how often Trump and McMaster have clashed privately, maybe Cohen-Watnick figured all it would take is a little push to send his enemy over the cliff. If Oracle dumps him, he’ll land on his feet in some Bannon-Mercer operation if worse comes to worst.
Exit question: Is it really all that unlikely that McMaster would badmouth Trump behind his back to people he should know better than to blab in front of? He wouldn’t be the first cabinet official to do so.