Ezra Cohen-Watnick, the senior director for intelligence on the National Security Council, was dismissed Wednesday by National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, according to the White House.
A White House statement said:
General McMaster appreciates the good work accomplished in the NSC’s Intelligence directorate under Ezra Cohen’s leadership. He has determined that, at this time, a different set of experiences is best-suited to carrying that work forward. General McMaster is confident that Ezra will make many further significant contributions to national security in another position in the administration.
Cohen-Watnick’s firing, first reported by Conservative Review, came shortly after two other NSC aides were dismissed: Derek Harvey, director for the Middle East, and Rich Higgins, who served as director for strategic planning.
All three were brought on board by former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. McMaster had previously tried to get rid of Cohen-Watnick, but was overruled by President Trump, White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon, and Senior Adviser Jared Kushner.
The Conservative Review noted that the NSC continues to be “overwhelmingly staffed with Obama holdovers (almost all of whom have retained their positions).”
Harvey once compiled a list of Obama holdovers and took it to the president, who requested that McMaster fire them, but McMaster refused, according to the report.
The report also noted that top Obama officials, such as Robert Malley — Obama’s “ISIS czar,” continue to have access to the NSC and come and go as they please and continue to interact and brief with National Security Council staff.
Harvey was an Iran hawk who wanted to reform the intelligence community and rein in “deep state” bureaucrats with rogue agendas, the report noted.
There have been unprecedented levels of leaking during this administration — more than seven times more than during the former Obama and Bush administrations, according to a Senate report last month.