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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

Biden says he'll make Supreme Court pick by end of February

President Biden speaks on the retirement of Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer in the Roosevelt Room of the White House. Photo: Yuri Gripas/Abaca/Bloomberg via Getty Images

President Biden on Thursday said he will announce the nominee for Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer's replacement by the end of February.

Driving the news: Biden also affirmed that he will nominate a Black woman to replace Breyer, saying "it's long overdue."

Stephen Breyer formally announces retirement from Supreme Court

Photo: Andrew Harnik/AP

Justice Stephen Breyer on Thursday sent a letter to President Biden formally announcing his retirement from the Supreme Court.

State of play: Breyer said his retirement will take effect when the court "rises for the summer recess (typically late June or early July) assuming that by then my successor has been nominated and confirmed."

COVID created an epic U.S. trade gap

Chart: Axios Visuals. Data: Census Bureau/Bureau of Economic Analysis

The details of the blockbuster fourth quarter GDP report released Thursday morning tell a vivid story of how the underpinnings of the world economy have been reshaped by the pandemic.

One example: In the arithmetic around U.S. economic output, trade acted as a more severe drag last year than it has in a generation.