Senior director Ezra Cohen-Watnick out of National Security Council

Trump Holds Cabinet Meeting With New Chief of Staff

A White House statement said that "General McMaster appreciates the good work accomplished in the NSC's Intelligence directorate under Ezra Cohen's leadership".

President Donald Trump's national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, has reportedly concluded that his predecessor, Susan Rice, did nothing wrong when she tried to learn the identities of officials on Trump's transition team who were mentioned in U.S. intelligence reports past year. White House officials have said the president has yet to decide on any new moves.

All three officials were reportedly members of the more nationalist-minded faction of Trump's administration, aligned with White House officials like Flynn and chief strategist Steve Bannon, who often butted heads with more establishment officials like McMaster - a clash The Weekly Standard described Wednesday night as the "McMaster-Bannon War".

There are concerns certain members of the Obama administration - including Ben Rhodes, who served as deputy national security adviser - abused their power and used the unmasking requests to spy on members of then-candidate Donald Trump's team.

Also gone is Derek Harvey, who held the Middle East portfolio at the NSC, and who also was an Iran hawk, and who may assume another role in the administration. Ask around about Ezra Cohen-Watnick, and people get defensive. Harvey was perceived as too close to Bannon by some White House aides, and Secretary of Defense James Mattis had disagreed with Harvey at times.

Harvey and Cohen-Watnick were known in the White House for their hawkish views on Iran and were regular allies in White House debates on counterterrorism, Middle East policy and Iran policy, US officials said. But now, with Kelly as White House Chief of Staff, even Bannon and Kushner need permission to talk to the president.

In March, it was reported that prior to leaving office on January 20, Rice made numerous requests to reveal Trump campaign and transition officials named in transcripts of conversations picked up by the intelligence community during surveillance of foreign targets.

Cohen-Watnick is the latest Trump loyalist to be fired by Gen. McMaster, whose security council continues to be overwhelmingly staffed with Obama holdovers (almost all of whom have retained their positions).

According to a profile in the Atlantic, Cohen-Watnick liked to argue about the Iraq War at his Maryland high school, had libertarian tendencies while in college, and gradually became more hawkish.

Last summer, reportedly unhappy at the DIA, he turned his attention towards landing a job on Capitol Hill at one of the congressional committees.

Kate Brannen contributed reporting to this article.

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