Aide Ousted From White House Reappears Again in Administration Job
WASHINGTON — Ezra Cohen-Watnick, the hawkish adviser who has popped up in various Trump administration departments over the past three years, is back in a government building, this time at the Pentagon.
Mr. Cohen-Watnick’s latest position in the Trump administration is deputy assistant secretary of defense for counternarcotics and global threats, Pentagon officials said on Monday. The job, which does not require Senate confirmation, will be Mr. Cohen-Watnick’s third stint in the administration.
His first was at the White House in 2017 and began during the short-lived tenure of President Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn. Mr. Cohen-Watnick did not get along with Mr. Flynn’s successor, H.R. McMaster, and was pushed out.
Perhaps more significant, Mr. Cohen-Watnick was swept up in the tumult of early 2017 when Mr. Trump accused the Obama administration, without evidence, of wiretapping his phones at Trump Tower.
The president’s allegations were bolstered by Representative Devin Nunes of California, then the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, who said he had evidence that Mr. Trump’s communications were incidentally swept up in surveillance of foreigners by American spy agencies.
Mr. Nunes did not divulge the sources of this information, but American officials later told The New York Times that Mr. Cohen-Watnick, at the instruction of two senior White House officials, helped print intelligence reports that later served as Mr. Nunes’s proof. Mr. Nunes later publicly denied that he got the reports from Mr. Cohen-Watnick.
In April 2018, Mr. Cohen-Watnick was named national security adviser to Jeff Sessions, the attorney general at the time. Mr. Sessions resigned, at Mr. Trump’s request, after the November 2018 midterm elections. Mr. Cohen-Watnick then decided to attend law school.
His new post at the Pentagon was first reported by Bloomberg News.
Mr. Cohen-Watnick has held a Defense Department position before. From 2010 to 2014, he worked at United States Southern Command on countering drug and human trafficking and money laundering.