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H.R. McMaster in the Oval Office on Feb. 2. Photo: Zach Gibson / Pool / Getty Images

The reason John Kelly and White House communications officials insisted late last week that McMaster wasn't going anywhere for now — despite a WaPo story saying he was done — was because the president told them to say that. And they genuinely thought he’d take some time to ease McMaster out.

What I'm hearing: An administration source told me that the aides thought Trump probably believed that in the moment..."He’s impulsive. He makes snap decisions but they're weird snap decisions ... He publicly ruminates for six months and then says: 'I have to do this right now.'"

Yesterday's timeline:

  • Afternoon: Trump met with Bolton.
  • Afterward: Told H.R. by telephone that he'd made his decision.
  • Around 5 p.m.: Senior communications officials found out definitively, though they'd been hearing throughout the day that it might be happening.
  • 6:26 p.m. — Trumps tweets: "I am pleased to announce that, effective 4/9/18, @AmbJohnBolton will be my new National Security Advisor. I am very thankful for the service of General H.R. McMaster who has done an outstanding job & will always remain my friend. There will be an official contact handover on 4/9."

And earlier in the day ... N.Y. Times: "John Dowd resigned ... as President Trump’s lead lawyer ... as Mr. Trump signaled that he ... wanted a sit-down with investigators."

Go deeper

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Tal Zaks, chief medical officer of Moderna, tells "Axios on HBO" that a COVID-19 vaccine could be available for children by the middle of next year.

Be smart: There will be a coronavirus vaccine for adults long before there is one for kids.

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Sen. Kelly Loeffler to return to campaign trail after 2nd negative test

Sen. Kelly Loeffler addresses supporters during a rally on Thursday. Photo: Jessica McGowan/Getty Images

Sen. Kelly Loeffler's (R-Ga.) campaign announced Monday that she "looks forward to getting back out on the campaign trail" after testing negative for COVID-19 for a second time, following earlier conflicting results.

Why it matters: Loeffler has been campaigning at events ahead of a Jan. 5 runoff in elections that'll decide which party holds the Senate majority. Vice President Mike Pence was with her on Friday.

Updated 7 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Key government agency says Biden transition can formally begin

General Services Administrator Emily Murphy. Photo: Alex Edelman/CNP/Getty Images

General Services Administrator Emily Murphy said in a letter to President-elect Joe Biden on Monday that she has determined the transition from the Trump administration can formally begin.

Why it matters: Murphy, a Trump appointee, had come under fire for delaying the so-called "ascertainment" and withholding the funds and information needed for the transition to begin while Trump's legal challenges played out.