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McMaster. Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Former Trump national security adviser H.R. McMaster in an interview with The Atlantic lamented that President Trump would not condemn white supremacy at Tuesday's debate, calling it a "missed opportunity" and affirming that white supremacist groups pose a threat to national security.

Catch up quick: Trump was asked at the first presidential debate to condemn white supremacy, but instead told the far-right group Proud Boys to "stand back and stand by." The president has since partially tried walking back his comments, telling reporters that he doesn't know who the Proud Boys are.

  • McMaster left his role in 2018 after approximately a year on the job. He's remained one of the most neutral ex-Trump administration officials, relative to the scores of defectors who have criticized the president since leaving their roles.

What they're saying: McMaster argued, "To use a sports analogy, condemning white supremacists should be a layup for any leader. "

  • "What we’re undervaluing these days is the importance of bringing Americans back together to reinforce our common identity."

The retired Army general added that Trump's refusal to condemn white supremacism "gives space to these groups that foment hatred and intolerance."

  • "And whenever you have a group at one end of the spectrum who define themselves in a particular way, you tend to get an equal and opposite reaction on the other end of the spectrum. ... Our leaders should give voice to those of us who reject extremists and intolerance."

Go deeper

Updated Oct 23, 2020 - Axios Events

Watch: A conversation on the upcoming election

On Friday, October 23 Axios' Mike Allen, Margaret Talev, and Stef Kight hosted a conversation on voter turnout and how national security will play a key role in November's election, featuring Congressional Black Caucus Chair Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.), CEO of Voto Latino María Teresa Kumar and former national security adviser H.R. McMaster.

María Teresa Kumar discussed Voto Latino's registration of 567,000 new voters in six key battleground states, and trends across the Latino electorate.

  • On the growth of eligible Latino voters and its effect on swing states: "Four million more young Latino voters are eligible to vote. Every 30 seconds, a young Latino becomes eligible to vote. So that is why you see such a shifting in our electoral map of what is now considered a toss up."

Rep. Karen Bass unpacked her concerns about the election, voter suppression, and her priorities in the coming weeks.

  • On President Trump's political rhetoric: "I'm really worried about November 4th, frankly, because the president has been so divisive...He doesn't use a dog whistle. He has a bullhorn and he's telling [white supremacist groups] to all come out."
  • On the priorities of the Congressional Black Caucus going into 2021: "Our number one, number two, and number three priorities are COVID. "

Retired Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster discussed Russia's attempts to disrupt U.S. elections in 2016 and 2020, American foreign policy, and his view of Russian President Vladimir Putin's long-term goals.

  • On Russia's election disruption strategies: "Russia is engaged in a sustained campaign of political subversion against us...The broad effort is to use disinformation to shake our confidence in who we are as a people, to polarize our society, to pit us against each other, and to shake our confidence in our democratic principles, institutions and processes."

Thank you Bank of America for sponsoring this event.

Republicans pledge to set aside differences and work with Biden

President Biden speaks to Sen. Mitch McConnell after being sworn in at the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday. Photo: Erin Schaff-Pool/Getty Images

Several Republicans praised President Biden's calls for unity during his inaugural address on Wednesday and pledged to work together for the benefit of the American people.

Why it matters: The Democrats only have a slim majority in the Senate and Biden will likely need to work with the GOP to pass his legislative agenda.

The Biden protection plan

Joe Biden announces his first run for the presidency in June 1987. Photo: Howard L. Sachs/CNP/Getty Images

The Joe Biden who became the 46th president on Wednesday isn't the same blabbermouth who failed in 1988 and 2008.

Why it matters: Biden now heeds guidance about staying on task with speeches and no longer worries a gaffe or two will cost him an election. His staff also limits the places where he speaks freely and off the cuff. This Biden protective bubble will only tighten in the months ahead, aides tell Axios.