CHUCK TODD: I want to start with these reports. We’ve had our own reporting here at NBC News, The New York Times, I’m sure you’re familiar with both of them, that there’s been a bit of hand-wringing among senior leadership in the military about “what if?” and the fact that the president did bring up the Insurrection Act once already. What can you share and what concerns do you have?
McMASTER: Well, Chuck, I think what’s really clear for the American people to understand is the military will have no role in a transition. In fact, even talking about it, I think, is irresponsible. And that’s maybe why, if you detect some reticence on the part of senior military leaders or those in the Pentagon to talk about it, it’s because it shouldn’t even be a topic for discussion. You know, our founders were very concerned about this, Chuck. You know, I think it’s important to remember that George Washington’s grandparents fled the bloody wars of the 17th century in England. And, of course, it was the specter of Oliver Cromwell that was very much on their minds as they crafted our Constitution and the separation of powers and that very bold line between the military and politics.
TODD: What did you — what went through your head on June 1st when you saw what happened at Lafayette Square?
McMASTER: Well, it was just wrong. It was, you know, more than unfortunate because what we can’t do — and this is really across the political spectrum, Chuck, which really bothers me these days — we can’t try to pull the military into politics. Some of the things the president said I think have been irresponsible. But often times, the reaction to what he says is equally irresponsible. So I think all politicians have a responsibility of keeping that bold line in place. Certainly, the military profession does as well — to be studiously apolitical — so all Americans have confidence in our military institutions and that also there’s never any infringement on our democratic principles and institutions and processes.
TODD: I’m curious, when you hear the president muse about not necessarily agreeing to a peaceful transition of power, take us back. I mean, how did you interpret that? You were in the room with him. You’ve probably heard him say some things that would shock people. How did you interpret those comments, knowing him the way you do?
McMASTER: Well, what I think is that it’s a gift to our adversaries, right, who want to shake our confidence in who we are. Shake our confidence in our democratic principles and institutions and processes. What I write about in “Battlegrounds” is how Russia, for example, has engaged in this campaign of disruption, disinformation and denial. And if the Russians can just use our own words against us, that’s the best way to pull us apart from one another.