Ezra Cohen-Watnick, who served as the senior director for intelligence on the National Security Council, will be advising Sessions on national security matters, one source explained.
Cohen-Watnick gained notoriety in March 2017 for his alleged involvement in providing intelligence materials to House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, who went on to claim that US intelligence officials improperly surveilled Trump associates.
The tale of Nunes' late-night trip
to get the intelligence documents, after abruptly exiting an Uber and heading to the White House grounds, was dubbed by some as "the midnight run."
The saga took place shortly after Trump falsely accused former President Barack Obama of wiretapping his phones during the 2016 election. Trump said he felt "somewhat" vindicated by Nunes' findings, though Nunes never actually said Trump was wiretapped.
CNN reported last summer that former National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster had removed Cohen-Watnick from his post,
but other sources tell CNN he resigned.
According to two sources familiar with the matter, Cohen-Watnick was frustrated after leaving the White House by his portrayal as being in the middle of leaks to Nunes -- something he and those close to him have persistently maintained he was not aware of. He chose to join national security company Oracle.
He was also not familiar with the political figures in the Trump White House, including Jared Kushner and Lt. Gen Michael Flynn, before starting at the NSC, according to those sources.
"He's not political," said one source familiar with his thinking. Cohen-Watnick is "not a Trump guy," the source argued. Cohen-Watnick had been an intelligence analyst with the Defense Intelligence Agency.
Talking Points Memo
reported the hire earlier Wednesday.
Despite his link to Nunes, who has been skeptical of the extent of Russian meddling in the 2016 election, Cohen-Watnick prioritized efforts early in the Trump administration to counter Russian intelligence operations, according to the Washington Post.
By spring 2017, he was reportedly advocating for aggressive moves to counter Russia through US cyber operations and covert influence campaigns.
More recently, Cohen has been in talks with the Department of Justice for several months about a possible position, according to a source familiar with the matter. His first day is Monday.