Report: CIA’s Liaison To The NSC Fired After Clash With Controversial Aide

Packets containing declassified documents by the Central Intelligence Agency used by Former President Jimmy Carter in his preparation to negotiate what became the first treaty between the Jewish state of Israel and Egypt, sit on a table at an event marking the declassification at the Carter Center, Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2013, in Atlanta. The CIA has declassified 1,400 pages of intelligence related to the Camp David Accords that former President Jimmy Carter negotiated in 1978 with the leaders of Israel and Egpyt. The documents include political and personality profiles of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin that Carter read before the 13-day summit at the presidential retreat. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
David Goldman/AP

Ezra Cohen-Watnick, the White House staffer who reportedly helped funnel intelligence reports to the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, was at the heart of another, much more behind-the-scenes Trump administration drama, the Guardian reported Thursday.

A retired marine serving as the CIA’s liaison to the White House was summarily dismissed in mid-March, sources told the newspaper, after a clash with Cohen-Watnick, the 30-year-old intelligence director for the National Security Council.

“It was the most disrespectful thing they could have done,” an anonymous White House official aware of the incident told the Guardian, praising the professionalism of the former staffer, who has since returned to the CIA. “He’s a good man. What happened to him was fucked up.”

The liaison’s role involved briefing senior White House officials with top secret security clearances about covert operations, according to the report.

The CIA and White House did not provide the newspaper with comment.

Cohen-Watnick, a protégé of ousted national security adviser Michael Flynn, was reportedly almost fired himself amid an internal struggle for control over national security policy in Trump’s White House. Once Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster replaced Flynn, he allegedly tried to fire the young intelligence official but was overruled after Chief White House Strategist Steve Bannon and senior adviser Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, intervened.

Cohen-Watnick was later reported to be one of the sources who played a role in getting Nunes to the White House to view classified intelligence reports that Nunes claimed show the identities of members of Trump’s campaign staff were inappropriately unmasked. Both Republican and Democratic lawmakers who later viewed those same intelligence reports say the documents indicate no improper surveillance, and are instead standard intercepts of conversations that involve individuals targeted under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Allegra Kirkland is a New York-based reporter for Talking Points Memo. She previously worked on The Nation’s web team and as the associate managing editor for AlterNet. Follow her on Twitter @allegrakirkland.

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