McMaster Fires Top Intelligence Official From National Security Council

  • McMaster Fires Top Intelligence Official From National Security Council

McMaster Fires Top Intelligence Official From National Security Council

A White House official released a statement Wednesday about Cohen-Watnick's departure, confirming that the decision was made by McMaster.

The latest staffer to exit in an apparent McMaster-driven purge is Ezra Cohen-Watnick, he NSC's senior director for intelligence who got fired this week.

According to Circa, White House officials said that the scope of Rice's clearance went beyond what is proper, given the president's concerns that members of his team were unmasked by Rice.

Ezra Cohen-Watnick became a focal point for top national security advisers earlier this year when Central Intelligence Agency leaders raised concerns about him with Trump's national security adviser H.R. McMaster.

"I hereby waive the requirement that you must have a "need-to-know" to access any classified information contained in items you 'originated, reviewed, signed or received while serving, ' as National Security Adviser", reads McMaster's letter.

Another member of the NSC, senior Middle East adviser Derek Harvey, who was also hired by Flynn, was removed from the council last week.

On Wednesday he ousted top intelligence aide Ezra Cohen-Watnick, who he had been trying to remove since at least March.

The White House has engaged in a slow-motion purge of hard-line officials at the National Security Council in recent weeks, angering conservatives who complain that the foreign policy establishment is reasserting itself over a president who had promised a new course. Watnick-Cohen had dug into the Obama surveillance of Trump officials.

McMaster similarly orchestrated the dismissals of a number of other Flynn hires.

According to Politico, career Central Intelligence Agency officials expressed reservations about Cohen-Watnick to McMaster, and pressed for his removal. If anything, the dawning of the Kelly era may have accelerated that war. Harvey and Cohen-Watnick were viewed as allies within the NSC and together had pushed for more aggressive actions against Iranian proxy forces in Syria.

But Trump intervened to save Cohen-Watnick's job at the urging of White House chief strategist Steve Bannon and president's son-in-law Jared Kushner.

Cohen-Watnick's past is still largely a mystery.

The right's disdain for McMaster was only compounded on Thursday afternoon with the release of two reports: one, from Bloomberg's Eli Lake, reported McMaster does not believe Obama national security adviser Susan Rice did anything wrong when she requested the unmasking of Trump campaign staffers. Like many, the attacks of September 11 were a turning point for him, pushing him to turn dreams of being a "spy" into reality.

Kate Brannen contributed reporting to this article.