White House purging Flynn allies from National Security Council

US president Donald Trump has let a number of staff go in a short space of time. Kevin Lamarque  Reuters

"General McMaster appreciates the good work accomplished in the NSC's Intelligence directorate under Ezra Cohen's leadership", according to a White House statement. "Sometimes he drives me nuts", Trump said this week, according to a White House official. McMaster's previous attempt to remove Cohen-Watnick from the staff had been blocked by Bannon and Trump himself.

Cohen-Watnick's resignation was announced by the White House late Wednesday. On Wednesday, radio host Laura Ingraham tweeted a months-old article from the New York Times about McMaster's "break with the administration on Islam".

When Flynn was forced to resign, having reportedly misled Vice President Mike Pence about his contacts with Russian officials, the new national-security adviser, General H.R. McMaster, promptly began clearing out Flynn's people, among them Dave Cattler, the deputy assistant to the president for regional affairs, Adam Lovinger, a strategic affairs analyst on loan from the Pentagon, and K.T. McFarland, Flynn's deputy.

The source also said that Kelly and General James Mattis, the secretary of defense, have worked out a system where one of them stays in Washington while the other is overseas, in an effort to reduce the pattern of mixed foreign policy and military messages that have emanated from the White House since Trump took office.

Cohen-Watnick had been a favored aide to McMaster's predecessor, Michael Flynn, and like other recently sidelined council members was a major hawk on Iran, having advocated using the USA intelligence community to impose regime change.

McMaster similarly orchestrated the dismissals of a number of other Flynn hires.

It was revealed on Wednesday in news reports that Rich Higgins, who served as director for strategic planning at the NSC, was sacked July 21.

On Wednesday, a White House official confirmed that McMaster had ousted Ezra Cohen-Watnick, the senior director for intelligence at the National Security Council who had been viewed as a Trump loyalist.

Correction: A previous version of this story mistakenly said that Michael Flynn left the White House in January. Now-fired Middle East NSC director Derek Harvey compiled a list of Obama holdovers and took that list directly to the president, who requested that McMaster follow through with Harvey's recommendations.

"This memo McMaster sent to Rice makes it so that she doesn't have to prove a continuing "need-to-know" to have access to classified information and in effect is a White House pardon of Susan Rice and could be used by other Obama officials who conducted targeted unmasking of the campaign as a defense", the official added.

Jordan Schachtel is the national security correspondent for Conservative Review.

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