Report: Trump overrules national security adviser in order to keep Jewish NSC aide

Josefin Dolsten

(JTA) — President Donald Trump reportedly overruled a decision by National Security Adviser Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster in order to keep a Jewish National Security Council aide in his current position.

McMaster had told Ezra Cohen-Watnick, senior director for intelligence programs at the NSC, that he would be moved to a different position at the NSC after CIA officials had pushed for his ouster, according to Politico.

Trump overruled the decision on Sunday after Cohen-Watnick, 30, appealed to White House advisers Stephen Bannon and Jared Kushner, Trump’s Jewish son-in-law, Politico reported, citing “two people with knowledge of the episode.” Cohen-Watnick had become close with Bannon and Kushner while working on the Trump transition team, according to Politico.

Cohen-Watnick was recruited to the transition team by McMaster’s predecessor, Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who resigned as national security adviser last month after acknowledging that he had misled administration officials about a phone call he had with the Russian ambassador in December. Cohen-Watnick had worked under Flynn at the Defense Intelligence Agency.

A Washington consultant told Politico that Cohen-Watnick and Flynn “saw eye to eye about the failings of the CIA human intelligence operations,” and that the “CIA saw him as a threat, so they tried to unseat him and replace him with an agency loyalist.”

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Ohr Kodesh Congregation, a Conservative synagogue outside Washington, D.C., listed a pre-wedding event for Cohen-Watnick and his then-fiancee, Rebecca Miller, in a newsletter sent out in November.