On Wednesday night, the White House announced that Ezra Cohen-Watnick, the head of the National Security Council's intelligence programs, had been sacked, the latest of what The New York Times calls National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster's "slow-motion purge of hard-line officials" at the NSC, especially those appointed by his predecessor, Michael Flynn, and allied with White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon and his antiglobalist views.
Derek Harvey, a top Middle East adviser who focused on Iran policy, was dismissed last week, and McMaster fired Rich Higgins, the NSC director of strategic planning, on July 21, after he was reprimanded for writing a memo on perceived threats to Trump and his agenda from "globalists," bankers, "Islamists," the American "deep state," and other perceived Trump enemies, according to The Atlantic, which published excerpts from the memo on Wednesday. Also pushed out last month was Tera Dahl, the NSC deputy chief of staff and a former Breitbart News writer. Soon after his appointment, McMaster had sidelined K.T. McFarland, Flynn's deputy national security adviser and now ambassador to Singapore.
McMaster had tried to fire Cohen-Watnick earlier this year, but was blocked by Bannon and White House senior adviser Jared Kushner; Kushner, who is also Trump's son-in-law, dropped his objection this week, The New York Times reports. Cohen-Watnick gained some notoriety for briefing House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) on classified information about incidental surveillance of Trump campaign officials. "General McMaster appreciates the good work accomplished in the NSC's Intelligence directorate under Ezra Cohen's leadership," the White House said in a statement. "He has determined that, at this time, a different set of experiences is best-suited to carrying that work forward."