Ezra Cohen-Watnick To Join DOJ As National Security Adviser To Sessions

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions holds a news conference at the Department of Justice December 15, 2017 in Washington, DC. Sessions called the question-and-answer session with reporters to highlight his department's fight to reduce violent crime.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images North America

Former Trump National Security Council official Ezra Cohen-Watnick is joining the Department of Justice as a national security adviser to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a source familiar with the matter told TPM Wednesday.

Since his departure from the NSC last August, the 31-year-old Cohen-Watnick has worked at the tech company Oracle. The move to the Justice Department has been in the works for months, and Cohen-Watnick will start next week, the source said.

A spokesperson for the Justice Department declined to comment.

Bloomberg, following up on TPM’s initial report, reported that President Trump personally ordered that the Justice Department hire Cohen-Watnick. The White House did not immediately respond to TPM’s request for comment.

During his time at the NSC as the senior director for intelligence programs, Cohen-Watnick was a source of controversy. His ascent to the NSC, after just a few years at the Defense Intelligence Agency, surprised outside observers. His name emerged in the strange episode involving House Intel Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, who made bombastic allegations of improper “unmasking” of Trump associates by the Obama administration, though what role Cohen-Watnick played in the controversy remains in dispute.

Cohen-Watnick left the NSC several months into the tenure of then-National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster in August 2017. McMaster was replaced by National Security Advisor John Bolton, who started at the post this week.

Update: This story has been updated to include additional reporting by Bloomberg on Trump’s role in Cohen-Watnick’s hiring.

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