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

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 12 p.m. ET: 30,241,377 — Total deaths: 947,266— Total recoveries: 20,575,416Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 12 p.m. ET: 6,681,251 — Total deaths: 197,763 — Total recoveries: 2,540,334 — Total tests: 91,546,598Map.
  3. Politics: Trump vs. his own administration on virus response.
  4. Health: Massive USPS face mask operation called off The risks of moving too fast on a vaccine.
  5. Business: Unemployment drop-off reverses course 1 million mortgage-holders fall through safety netHow the pandemic has deepened Boeing's 737 MAX crunch.
  6. Education: At least 42% of school employees are vulnerable.
2 hours ago - Economy & Business

Anxious days for airline workers as mass layoffs loom

Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants, during a Sept. 9 protest outside the Capitol. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

The clock is ticking for tens of thousands of anxious airline employees, who face mass reductions when the government's current payroll support program expires on Sept. 30.

Where it stands: Airline CEOs met Thursday with White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, who said President Trump would support an additional $25 billion from Congress to extend the current aid package through next March.

House Democrats ask DOJ watchdog to probe Durham's Trump-Russia investigation

Attorney General Bill Barr. Photo: Kamil Krzaczynsky/AFP via Getty Images

Four Democratic House committee chairs on Friday asked the Justice Department's inspector general to launch an "emergency investigation" into whether Attorney General Bill Barr and U.S. Attorney John Durham, his appointee, are taking actions that could "improperly influence the upcoming presidential election."

Catch up quick: Last year, Barr tapped Durham to conduct a sweeping investigation into the origins of the FBI's 2016 Russia probe, after he and President Trump claimed that it was unjustified and a "hoax."