Many, if not most, bets were on National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster.
US President Donald Trump, right, listens as Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster talks at Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Floride, February 20, 2017. Breitbart attacks quoting "administration officials" alleged McMaster opposed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appearing alongside Trump at the president's recent visit to the Western Wall. Trump wants to get us out of Afghanistan - McMaster wants to go in.
McMaster, it should be noted, was the Trump administration's most senior representative and speaker earlier this year at the Israeli embassy's annual Independence Day event. Cohen-Watnick was involved in providing documents related to the incidental surveillance of members of Trump's transition team to House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes in March. But multiple officials told BuzzFeed News that the main factors were differences between McMaster and Harvey on how the Middle East directorate should be managed as well as some heated discussions about Iran's presence in Syria during policy coordinating meetings. The Trump administration is now weighing a reduction of US military presence instead. However, for those who have consecrated themselves to the priestly rites of Donald Trump's cult of personality, McMaster's staffing changes constitute nothing short of blasphemy. On Thursday, the New York Times reported that the "ouster" of Cohen-Watnick was "intended as a show of confidence from Mr. Kelly to Mr. McMaster".
Cohen-Watnick's removal comes after the revelation by The Atlantic on Wednesday of the dismissal of Rich Higgins, another Iran hawk who was the NSC's director of strategic planning. "After extensive research, Harvey compiled a list of suspected leakers and reportedly delivered it straight to the president, who then took his list to McMaster".
With all of the staff turnover, McMaster has become the target of pro-Trump pundits in the media who view him as a "globalist" out of step with Trump's policies and angling for a military escalation in Afghanistan after 16 years of fighting.
Nearly one month after Lake broke that story, McMaster appears to have sent a letter to Rice informing her that she could maintain her security clearance, according to the conservative news outlet Circa, which obtained a copy of the letter.
Trump's efforts to cool speculation about McMaster's future seems to be another example of how new chief of staff John Kelly is bringing some order to the chaotic White House.
What's more, allies of McMaster "have accused Bannon and his protege Sebastian Gorka, a cable-news mainstay, of waging a concerted campaign to minimize the national security adviser's influence".
Guest host Dana Perino asked if McMaster is on thin ice at the White House.