WASHINGTON (AP) — One of President Donald Trump’s top intelligence directors is the latest person to be fired in a string of shake-ups at the White House and National Security Council.
Ezra Cohen-Watnick became a focal point for top national security advisers earlier this year when CIA leaders raised concerns about him with Trump’s national security adviser H.R. McMaster.
A White House statement Wednesday said, “General McMaster appreciates the good work accomplished in the NSC’s Intelligence directorate under Ezra Cohen’s leadership.”
It said McMaster “has determined that, at this time, a different set of experiences is best-suited to carrying that work forward.”
McMaster moved to replace Cohen-Watnick when the concerns were raised in March, but Cohen-Watnick appealed to Trump’s top advisers, Steve Bannon and Jared Kushner, who got Trump to intervene to save his job.
Cohen-Watnick was a protege of Trump’s initial national security adviser, Michael Flynn, having worked for him at the Pentagon’s intelligence shop.
As the NSC’s senior director for intelligence programs, Cohen-Watnick was one of about a dozen people in the White House with access to a full range of classified information, including details of U.S. covert programs. His position also gives him the ability to request intelligence products from agencies.
In March, The New York Times identified Cohen-Watnick as one of two White House staffers who helped House intelligence committee chairman Devin Nunes view secret reports.
A U.S. official confirmed to The Associated Press at the time that Cohen-Watnick had access to that kind of intelligence materials, but maintained he did not play a role in helping the congressman access the documents.
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