Political News

NSC official Ezra Cohen-Watnick removed

Posted August 2

A controversial national security aide to President Donald Trump has been removed from his post, the White House said on Wednesday.

Ezra Cohen-Watnick, who served as the senior director for intelligence on the National Security Council, will be reassigned to another area of the administration, a White House official said.

It's the second major departure from the NSC in a week.

The official said H.R. McMaster, Trump's national security adviser, "appreciates the good work" that Cohen-Watnick accomplished in the intelligence division of the NSC, but "has determined that, at this time, a different set of experiences is best-suited to carrying that work forward."

"Gen. McMaster is confident that Ezra will make many further significant contributions to national security in another position in the administration," the official said.

Cohen-Watnick's new post or department was not specified.

Cohen-Watnick served on Trump's transition team and later his administration under Gen. Michael Flynn, Trump's first national security adviser who was ousted from the job after it became clear he misled members of the administration about his interactions with Russian government officials.

Another Flynn appointee, Retired Col. Derek Harvey, was also removed from his post last week. Harvey, a long-time intelligence officer, was appointed by Flynn and continued to serve as the council's senior director for the Middle East under McMaster.

Connection to Nunes

Earlier this year, Cohen-Watnick came under scrutiny for his alleged roundabout role in providing information to GOP Rep. Devin Nunes, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, showing members of Trump's team included in foreign surveillance reports collected by US intelligence.

Cohen-Watnick, along with White House national security lawyer Michael Ellis, are believed to be two of the individuals involved in assisting Nunes in gathering the intelligence materials, US officials told CNN and other news outlets in March.

Nunes refused to identify the sources of his information, and the White House would neither confirm nor deny that Cohen-Watnick or Ellis had aided the Republican congressman. In late June, three months after the controversy, Nunes told CNN in an interview that it was definitely not Cohen-Watnick or Ellis who provided him the information.

But criticism over Nunes' actions led to him temporarily stepping aside his committee's investigation into Russia's election-year meddling.

Cohen-Watnick served at the Defense Intelligence Agency alongside Flynn, who ran that office until 2014.

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