Foreign policy journalists are questioning a report claiming Trump's national security adviser said he has the intelligence of a 'kindergartner'

  • White House National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster reportedly disparaged President Donald Trump at a private dinner this summer.
  • McMaster's positions have made him a target of Trump loyalists.
  • The report about his remarks is only the latest of officials' reported mocking of Trump.


White House National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster mocked President Donald Trump and several other senior members of the White House staff during a private dinner in July, multiple sources with knowledge of the event told BuzzFeed.

Oracle CEO Safra Catz — who was on the executive committee of Trump's presidential transition team — reportedly said McMaster called the president a "dope" and an "idiot" who has the intelligence of a "kindergartner" during a dinner with Catz on July 18 dinner at Washington, DC, restaurant Tosca.

Four of BuzzFeed's sources said they had heard the account directly from Catz, and a sixth source who was unfamiliar with the dinner said McMaster had made similar comments about Trump to him in private.

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Newly named National Security Adviser Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster listens as U.S. President Donald Trump makes the announcement at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida U.S. February 20, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
U.S. President Donald Trump announces his new National Security Adviser Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster (L) at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida U.S. February 20, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
Newly appointed National Security Adviser Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster listens as U.S. President Donald Trump makes the announcement at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida U.S. February 20, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
U.S. President Donald Trump shakes hands with his new National Security Adviser Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster after making the announcement at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida U.S. February 20, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
U.S. President Donald Trump departs the room after announcing his new National Security Adviser Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster (L) who receives a handshake from newly named chief of staff of the National Security Council Gen. Keith Kellogg (C) at Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida U.S. February 20, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
U.S. President Donald Trump shakes hands with his new National Security Adviser Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster after making the announcement at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida U.S. February 20, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
White House National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster (C) and Chief Strategist Steve Bannon (L) attend a joint news conference between U.S. President Donald Trump and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, U.S., April 12, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
White House National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster delivers a statement to reporters at the White House in Washington, U.S. May 15, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
White House national security advisor H.R. McMaster (L) arrives with Press Secretary Sean Spicer (R) to speak to reporters in the White House briefing room in Washington, U.S., May 16, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
White House senior advisor Jared Kushner (2nd R) looks on as Lockheed Martin Chairman and CEO Marillyn Hewson (L) exchanges agreements with a Saudi official after a signing ceremony between Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and U.S. President Donald Trump at the Royal Court in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia May 20, 2017. Also pictured are White House national security advisor H.R. McMaster (L), chief economic advisor Gary Cohn (3rd R) and Chief of Staff Reince Priebus (R). REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. President Donald Trump walks to Marine One with National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster as they depart for a day trip to Miami from the White House in Washington, U.S., June 16, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
U.S. President Donald Trump eats Belgian chocolate flanked by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (L) and National security adviser H.R. McMaster react as they eat Belgian chocolate during their meeting with Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel in Brussels, Belgium, May 24, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
White House National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster joins White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders (unseen) for the daily briefing, to address sanctions on Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro , at the White House in Washington, U.S. July 31, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
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A National Security Council spokesman and senior Oracle officials both denied the report, and several journalists who write about foreign policy and national security have called the details of the story into question.

Shanon Weinberger, executive editor at Foreign Policy, suggested the story had been pitched to other outlets, noting on Twitter, "This story is like expired milk. Pushed to enough potential buyers at increasingly discounted price, someone will eventually buy it. But it still tastes bad."

Kate Brannen, deputy managing editor at Just Security, noted that Ezra Cohen-Watnick — whose ouster from the National Security Council spurred efforts by Trump loyalists to force McMaster out — took a job at Oracle in September. Oracle also hired Josh Pitcock, former chief of staff for Vice President Mike Pence.

"This story smells a bit funky," noted Jenna McLaughlin, an intelligence reporter at Foreign Policy, adding, "At some point, if you've got a bunch of Oracle sources who did not attend an event they're speaking about, with a history of hating McMaster, telling you things... time to question the motivation behind said 'tips.'"

Earlier this month, a former Trump aide claimed to have fabricated a story about New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie that was printed by the New Yorker. 

FILE PHOTO: Flanked by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary James Mattis, U.S. President Donald Trump meets with members of his cabinet at the White House in Washington, U.S., October 16, 2017.  REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque Photo: Reuters

Sources also said McMaster denigrated other administration officials during the July dinner, including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, and Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner.

Some Trump loyalists and aides have been trying to oust McMaster for a while

According to BuzzFeed, details of the dinner first appeared in August, when Republican donor Sheldon Adelson started backing a campaign to oust McMaster, after Catz told him of comments made by McMaster praising the Iran nuclear deal and criticizing Israeli settlements in Palestinian territory, Axios reported at the time.

Catz, who was born in Israel and is a donor to Republican and Democrats and has been considered for several jobs in the Trump administration, told one of the sources that McMaster's remarks were "so inappropriate" as to be "jaw-dropping."

Even before the comments were supposedly made, McMaster was a target for ouster by some of Trump's most loyal aides and supporters. The firing of Cohen-Watnick, who was appointed by McMaster's predecessor, Michael Flynn, later in the summer reportedly intensified that effort. Trump threw water on those machinations in early August, saying McMaster was "a good man and very pro-Israel."

Other officials and political leaders have disparaged Trump's intelligence and comportment in public and private.

In early October, reports emerged that Tillerson had referred to Trump as a "moron" after a National Security Council meeting in which Trump supposedly asked for a "tenfold" increase in the US nuclear arsenal. On October 8, just a few hours after Trump criticized Republican Sen. Bob Corker on Twitter, Corker replied, "It's a shame the White House has become an adult day care center."

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