The CIA’s liaison to the White House was abruptly fired from his role after clashing with National Security Council member Ezra Cohen-Watnick, one of three sources who provided documents to House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA). President Donald Trump would use Nunes’ information in an attempt to justify his unsubstantiated claim that former President Barack Obama wiretapped Trump Tower during the 2016 presidential campaign.
The Guardian reports the Marine officer, who was responsible for “bringing relevant White House officials … into the loop about cover operations,” was told in mid-March he did not need to come to work the next day. Former colleagues of the Marine described the move as unprofessional.
“It was the most disrespectful thing they could have done,” a White House official told the Guardian. “He’s a good man. What happened to him was f*cked up.”
Cohen-Watnick’s unlikely rise to central figure in the House Intelligence Committee’s tumultuous investigation in Russian interference in the presidential election began when he worked for former Trump National Security Adviser Mike Flynn. He was brought onto the Trump transition team, then followed Flynn to the NSC.
As RawStory reported last month, H.R. McMaster, tried to sideline Cohen-Watnick after Flynn’s ouster form the NSC, but the 30-year old junior deputy appealed to chief White House strategist Steve Bannon and Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who convinced the president to keep Cohen-Watnick.
Despite Flynn’s resignation, Cohen-Watnick remains loyal to the former Trump adviser; according to the Guardian, he belongs to a “clique” among national security staff bitingly referred to as the “Flynnstones.”
“[Officials at the CIA] hate him. They absolutely despise him,” a former senior intelligence official told the Guardian. One source said Cohen-Watnick is appearing to “operationalize” the NSC, where the council goes around Congress, directly to the White House.
Cohen-Watnick is reportedly one of three White House officials who shared information with Nunes in March. Those documents purported to show evidence that Obama National Security Adviser Susan Rice “unmasked” members of the Trump team during routine surveillance. The process sounds nefarious, but both Republicans and Democrats who have viewed the intelligence Nunes shared with Trump say Rice did nothing wrong. Nunes eventually recused himself from the investigation.
Still, Trump latched onto the Rice surveillance story, using the report to “somewhat” vindicate his unfounded wiretap claim—an accusation the president had recently levied against his predecessor on Twitter. Tuesday, The New Yorker reported that in the aftermath of Trump’s infamous Twitter charge, the White House “put out an all-points bulletin” to “find something that justified the President’s crazy tweets about surveillance.”