H.R. McMaster says Trump administration will confront Russia's "destabilizing behavior"

President Trump's national security adviser, Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, said Tuesday that the administration is going to confront Russia's "destabilizing" behavior in terms of its efforts to meddle in U.S. affairs using propaganda and by spreading disinformation.

"The president made clear in his national security strategy and in his speech that he's going to stand up for America no matter who threatens America, and what he's asked us to do with Russia is develop an approach that does three fundamental things," McMaster said in an interview on "CBS This Morning."

First, McMaster said that Mr. Trump has tasked his administration with confronting Russia's "destabilizing behavior... in Europe, in the Middle East, in our own country where they use a sophisticated approach to propaganda and disinformation, where they try to polarize communities within democratic societies and put them against each other."

"They use advanced tools, cyber tools and social media. We're going to confront that destabilizing behavior," he added.

McMaster rejected the notion suggested by former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper that Russian President Vladimir Putin is manipulating Mr. Trump.

"It's just not true. What the president has asked us to do with Russia though, as well, is to deter conflict," he said. "You see that with the peace through strength pillar in the national security strategy, but also to try to find areas of cooperation. You mentioned it up front. Russia and the United States should cooperate on North Korea. There's no way that a nuclear armed North Korea is in Russia's interest."

This comes one day after Mr. Trump outlined his national security strategy

Full transcript below:

NORAH O'DONNELL: Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster is the President's National Security Advisor, he helped in crafting this document, he joins us now from the White House. General, good morning, thank you so much for joining us.

GENERAL H.R. MCMASTER: Good morning. It's a pleasure to be with you.

NORAH: Thank you. Let me just ask you about a bit of news this morning. North Korea has rejected Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's proposal for talks without preconditions. Does that mean the military option is the only one left?

MCMASTER: No, what we're doing is really applying maximum pressure to North Korea to convince Kim Jong Un that this is a dead end, this pursuit of nuclear weapons and an intercontinental ballistic missile--long range ballistic missile which of course poses a grave danger to the whole world.

So what you've seen is an effort led by the President worldwide really though to isolate that regime, to cut off not just what is restricted by the current national -- the current UN Security Council resolutions but to do more. The President has asked all nations to cut off all trade with this rogue regime which you see has never met a weapon it didn't use or proliferate or sell to somebody else. You saw that with the cyber attacks you just discussed and you saw it with the murder of Kim Jong Un's brother in a public airport with a banned nerve agent. So this is a regime that can't get this -- this destructive capability.

NORAH: One of the things that I've noticed is the President spoke with Russian President Putin several times in the last couple of weeks and yet Russia has increased its trade and its oil exports to North Korea. Did the President specifically ask Putin to stop that?

MCMASTER: Yes, the President did ask President Putin to do more. He wants all nations to do more and it just doesn't make sense that Russia would increase trade and alleviate any pressure on the North Korean regime. Of course, North Korea poses a grave direct threat to all nations including China and Russia, but what happens when North Korea gets this capability? What if other nations in the region arm in this way and that's going to be even more destabilizing and of course, as I mentioned, North Korea has never met a weapon it didn't try to sell to somebody else.

ANTHONY MASON: So General, you're saying that there's -- is there any way in which the US can coexist with a nuclear North Korea?

MCMASTER: Anthony, I don't think we can't tolerate that risk. The world can't tolerate that risk. I mean, if North Korea has a nuclear weapon, I mean, who are you going to try to prevent getting one? Look at the behavior of this regime, the hostility of this regime to the whole world.

GAYLE KING: You know, President Trump and Secretary Rex Tillerson have had some high profile disagreements. Does that undermine Rex Tillerson's capability while he's traveling overseas?

MCMASTER: No, the President has made very clear that on North Korea for example, now is not the time to talk. And what he means is, there can't be negotiations under these current conditions. The north has to show initial steps toward denuclearization and the reason for this is previous approaches to negotiating with North Korea have failed miserably. What the regime does is they enter into negotiations, all the while they continue these very destructive programs, these talks often times end in a -- in a weak agreement and then North Korea immediately violates that agreement. The problem is now that their programs have advanced so far we don't have time to do that again and so we can't repeat the failed pattern of the past.

NORAH: I know the President put out a statement about his phone call with Russian President Putin sharing intelligence, which has happened for decades. Right? If we know a terrorist attack is going to happen in another country we try and share that to prevent the loss of life but the statement was viewed as unusual by some experts and last night James Clapper who I know you know well, the former Director of National Intelligence said that Putin knows how to handle an asset and that's what he's doing with the President. What do you make of that charge?

MCMASTER: Well as the President made clear in his National Security Strategy and in his speech that he's going to stand up for America no matter who threatens America and what he's asked us to do with Russia is develop an approach that does three fundamental things. First, confront Russia's destabilizing behavior. In Europe, in the Middle East, in our own country where they use a sophisticated approach to propaganda and disinformation, where they try to polarize communities within democratic societies and pit them against each other. They use advance tools, cyber tools and social media. We're going to confront that destabilizing behavior.

GAYLE: But Mr. Clapper seems to imply that the President is being manipulated - he seems to imply that the President is being manipulated.

MCMASTER: Well it's just not true. What the President has asked us to do with Russia though as well is make sure we can deter conflict. You see that with the peace through strength pillar in the national security strategy but also to try to find areas of cooperation. You mentioned it up front. Russia and the United States should cooperate on North Korea. There's no way that a nuclear armed North Korea is in Russia's interest and the President made that clear to President Putin on the phone call.

GAYLE: All right Lieutenant General, H.R McMaster, Herbert Raymond McMaster. We thank you for joining us. It's always good to have you on this program.

NORAH: Yes, we appreciate it.

MCMASTER: Great to be with you.

  • Rebecca Shabad

    Rebecca Shabad is a video reporter for CBS News Digital.