McMaster hints at break from Trump campaign rhetoric on 'radical Islamic terrorism'

President is expected to soften some of the harsh anti-Muslim rhetoric.

ByABC News
May 20, 2017, 5:21 PM

— -- As part of his first foreign trip as president, Donald Trump on Sunday will deliver a major speech to leaders of more than 50 Middle Eastern countries, which his national security adviser, Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, hinted could break from his past rhetoric on Islam and terrorism.

During the 2016 presidential campaign, then-candidate Trump was tough on what he called "radical Islamic terrorism," and bashed his Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama for not using the phrase.

Trump used the phrase in a commencement speech to Coast Guard cadets this week, previewing his address in Saudi Arabia Sunday by saying, "I'll speak with Muslim leaders and challenge them to fight hatred and extremism and embrace a peaceful future for their faith… We have to stop radical Islamic terrorism."

ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos pressed McMaster during an exclusive interview on whether the president plans on using the phrase during his first speech overseas in the Muslim world.

"I think what the president does, is he listens to people. He listens to people in the region and a big part of this, this isn't America just on transmit here in the Middle East. This is the president asking questions, listening, learning, and of course the president will call it whatever he wants to call it," McMaster said in an interview that will air Sunday on "This Week."

"I think it’s important that whatever we call it, we recognize that these are not religious people, and in fact, these enemies of all civilization, what they want to do is to cloak their criminal behavior under this false idea of kind of a religious war," McMaster added.

According to a draft of the speech obtained by the Associated Press, the president is expected to soften some of the harsh anti-Muslim rhetoric he used during the campaign, with no specific mention of the phrase "radical Islamic terrorism."

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told the Associated Press that Trump had not seen the draft of the speech, and "he continues to take input and is writing a final version.”

Earlier this week, McMaster said "the speech is intended to unite the broader Muslim world against common enemies of all civilization and to demonstrate America's commitment to our Muslim partners."

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