Aug 2, 2017

McMaster reshuffles National Security Council

Evan Vucci / AP

Since replacing Michael Flynn as National Security Adviser, H.R. McMaster has worked to wrest control of the National Security Council away from the nationalist wing of the administration, carrying out a series of high-profile staffing changes in the process.

The latest move: Ezra Cohen-Watnick, the senior director for intelligence at the NSC, was shown the door today by McMaster, who, according to a White House official, decided that "a different set of experiences is best-suited to carrying that work forward." The White House said that Cohen-Watnick will remain in another national security position in the administration.

Think back: Cohen-Watnick first gained notoriety in March as one of Devin Nunes' purported sources for the alleged unmasking of Trump team associates during incidental intelligence collection by the Obama administration. McMaster reportedly tried to force him out of his position after the CIA deemed him as "a threat," but that move was shot down by Bannon and Jared Kushner after they appealed directly to President Trump.

More of McMaster's attempts to reshape Trump's NSC...

Steve Bannon

Trump's chief strategist controversially held a seat on the NSC during the earliest days of the Trump administration, while Flynn was still at the helm. But in April, soon after McMaster was brought in, he launched a restructuring of the NSC that — among other things — saw Bannon lose his seat at the table, along with his most direct influence on the country's national security policy.

K.T. McFarland

Just days after Bannon lost his seat at the NSC, McMaster also pushed out Deputy National Security Adviser K.T. McFarland, a former Fox News contributor and Flynn ally. McFarland stayed in the administration — her nomination to become ambassador to Singapore is currently pending — but she lost her key national security position.

Tera Dahl

McMaster reassigned Dahl, a deputy chief of staff at the NSC who mostly occupied an administrative role, in early July, per Buzzfeed. Dahl was known to have close ties to Bannon, having previously worked as a columnist at Breitbart News. She had founded a think tank with the wife of NSC aide Sebastian Gorka that warned against the use of "politically correct" terms when discussing terrorism.

Derek Harvey

Last week, McMaster removed Harvey, the NSC's Middle East adviser, from his post, per Foreign Policy. Though the reasoning wasn't immediately made clear, Harvey was brought in by Flynn and was a noted hawk on Iran. He had also drafted a list of Obama-era "holdovers" employed by the NSC, a nod to the "deep state" theory in some conservative circles.

Rich Higgins

News broke earlier today that Bannon ally Rich Higgins, a director of strategic planning for the National Security Council, was fired last month after crafting a memo warning that "globalists and Islamists" were undertaking a "Maoist insurgency" to undermine President Trump via "political warfare," per The Atlantic.

Go deeper

World coronavirus updates

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Axios Visuals

There are no COVID-19 patients in hospital in New Zealand, which reported just 21 active cases after days of zero new infections. A top NZ health official said Tuesday he's "confident we have broken the chain of domestic transmission."

By the numbers: Almost 5.5 million people have tested positive for the novel coronavirus as of Tuesday, and more than 2.2 million have recovered. The U.S. has reported the most cases in the world (over 1.6 million from 14.9 million tests).

U.S. coronavirus updates

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios. This graphic includes "probable deaths" that New York City began reporting on April 14.

Coronavirus antibody tests are still relatively unreliable, and it's unclear if people who get the virus are immune to getting it again, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cautioned on Tuesday.

By the numbers: More than 98,900 people have died from COVID-19 and over 1.6 million have tested positive in the U.S. Over 384,900 Americans have recovered and more than 14.9 million tests have been conducted.

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 9:30 p.m. ET: 5,588,299 — Total deaths: 350,417 — Total recoveries — 2,286,827Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 9:30 p.m. ET: 1,680,625 — Total deaths: 98,902 — Total recoveries: 384,902 — Total tested: 14,907,041Map.
  3. Federal response: DOJ investigates meatpacking industry over soaring beef pricesMike Pence's press secretary returns to work.
  4. Congress: House Republicans to sue Nancy Pelosi in effort to block proxy voting.
  5. Business: How the new workplace could leave parents behind.
  6. Tech: Twitter fact-checks Trump's tweets about mail-in voting for first timeGoogle to open offices July 6 for 10% of workers.
  7. Public health: Coronavirus antibodies could give "short-term immunity," CDC says, but more data is neededCDC releases guidance on when you can be around others after contracting the virus.
  8. What should I do? When you can be around others after contracting the coronavirus — Traveling, asthma, dishes, disinfectants and being contagiousMasks, lending books and self-isolatingExercise, laundry, what counts as soap — Pets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingHow to minimize your risk.
  9. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it, the right mask to wear.

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Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy