Dispatch April 5, 2017

Trump Removed Bannon from the NSC —What About His Protégé?

Since first taking office, Donald Trump has politicized the National Security Counsel (NSC) and appointed Steve Bannon to the NSC’s principals committee. Why? Perhaps because he needed eyes and ears at the NSC to understand what information the U.S. intelligence community has on his campaign’s contacts with Russia.

With public pressure intensifying, Trump just removed Bannon from the NSC. But what about his protégé Ezra Cohen-Watnick?

A friend of Jared Kushner who was hired by Michael Flynn, Cohen-Watnick was protected by Bannon when H.R. McMaster attempted to fire him in March. Last week, Cohen-Watnick was identified as the source behind the Nunes scandal who “sought to use intelligence to advance the political goals of the Trump administration.”

Bannon may be gone, but the question remains: What about Cohen-Watnick?

A troubling set of events involving Cohen-Watnick:

  • January 20, 2017: Ezra Cohen-Watnick is named the NSC’s senior director for intelligence. Soon after being appointed, Cohen-Watnick begins gathering “the cases of incidental collection on Trump campaign operatives.”
  • President Obama’s first senior director for intelligence at the NSC was a hold-over from the Bush Administration with over 10-years of experienceat the CIA.
  • January 26, 2017: Sally Yates tells Trump that Flynn lied about contacts with Russia, but Trump refuses to fire him. Flynn is forced to resign in disgrace on February 13th.
  • January 28, 2017: Trump signs EO appointing Bannon to the NSC’s principals committee and demoting the director of National Intelligence and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs.
  • February 17, 2017: Vice Admiral Robert Harward turned down Trump’s offer to be national security adviser, reportedly because Trump would not let Harward choose his own staff.
  • March 15, 2017: Trump, Bannon, and Kushner personally intervened after H.R. McMaster attempted to fire Cohen-Watnick.
  • March 21, 2017: Cohen-Watnick compiled intelligence reports for Rep. Devin Nunes in a White House scheme to misinform the press.