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National security adviser Robert O'Brien. Photo: Mandel Ngan/Getty Images

National security adviser Robert O'Brien said Tuesday that President Trump did not ask him to remove Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman nor his brother Yevgeny from the National Security Council, insisting the brothers were “absolutely not retaliated against.”

Why it matters: Vindman was a key witness during House impeachment hearings, and Trump justified his ouster by calling him "insubordinate."

What they're saying: O'Brien said of the Vindmans, "It was just time for them to go back, their service was no longer needed."

  • He noted that they were not fired, but rotated out of the White House ahead of schedule. He confirmed they would be replaced.
  • Speaking at the Atlantic Council think tank, O'Brien said the president was entitled to a team he has confidence in and that wants to execute his policies.
  • He added that the decision to remove the Vindmans was his: "Those were my decisions, and I stand by them."

Speaking to a group of reporters in the White House on Tuesday, Trump said on Alexander Vindman: "We sent him on his way to a much different location. And the military can handle him any way they want."

  • The president added that chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley "can have him and his brother also."
  • When pressed on how the military would handle Vindman's reassignment, Trump said, "That's going to be up to the military, we'll have to see. But if you look at what happened, they're going to certainly, I imagine, take a look at that."

Go deeper: Alexander Vindman "escorted" from White House, lawyer says

Go deeper

1 min ago - World

German election: Exit polls show close race to succeed Angela Merkel

SPD leader Olaf Scholz. Photo: Alex Kraus/Bloomberg via Getty Images

BERLIN — The first exit poll from Sunday's German elections shows the center-left Social Democrats (SPD) and the center-right Christian Democrats (CDU) in a dead heat at 25%, leaving the race to succeed Angela Merkel in the balance.

The state of play: A second exit poll showed the SPD narrowly ahead, and that's the one they displayed at SPD campaign headquarters, causing the room to erupt in cheers. Official results will roll in throughout the evening.

Abbott says he'll hire Border Patrol agents who whipped at migrants

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) on Sunday defended the actions of U.S. Border Patrol agents who charged at Haitian migrants on horseback, blaming the Biden administration for not preventing them from crossing the border.

Why it matters: Abbott's remark on "Fox News Sunday" comes amid increased backlash over the incident, with President Biden saying, "I promise... those people will pay,” and the Department of Homeland Security launching an investigation.

Everyone wants to be an influencer

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The number of people looking to become online influencers has exploded during the pandemic.

Why it matters: Almost anyone can find themselves in a position to become an influencer, and brands are throwing billions of dollars at online content creators.