NSC’s Senior Intelligence Director Ezra Cohen-Watnick Fired

National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster pauses while speaking to members of the media outside the West Wing of the White House, Monday, May 15, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Andrew Harnik/AP

Ezra Cohen-Watnick, the senior intelligence director for the White House’s National Security Council, was fired Wednesday.

A White House official confirmed that Cohen-Watnick “left the National Security Council” at National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster’s behest.

“He has determined that, at this time, a different set of experiences is best-suited to carrying that work forward,” the official said in a statement. “General McMaster is confident that Ezra will make many further significant contributions to national security in another position in the administration.”

Cohen-Watnick, dubbed “the man McMaster couldn’t fire,” was a protégé of ousted National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and ally of  White House chief strategist Steve Bannon.

McMaster reportedly tried to fire him in March after replacing Flynn, but Bannon and Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, intervened in Cohen-Watnick’s favor.

Cohen-Watnick was the latest casualty in a string of firings at the NSC. McMaster (pictured above) replaced Fox News commentator K.T. McFarland as his deputy in May, reportedly without seeking White House approval first. He also reportedly fired Rich Higgins, a staffer who worked in the council’s strategic planning office on July 21, after Higgins authored a memo claiming Trump was under attack by “globalists and Islamists” and “cultural Marxists.” McMaster also fired Derek Harvey, Trump’s top Middle East adviser, in late July.

In mid-March, Cohen-Watnick was reportedly involved in the summary dismissal of the CIA’s liaison to the White House. Later that month, he reportedly played a role in providing House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA) with classified intelligence reports purportedly demonstrating that Trump and members of his transition were incidentally caught up in U.S. surveillance of foreign nationals.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Esme Cribb is a newswriter for TPM in New York City. She can be found on Twitter @emquiry and reached by email at esme@talkingpointsmemo.com.
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