The photograph taken in the White House Situation Room on May 1, 2011, is among the most memorable images of the decade. It featured Barack Obama and his team monitoring developments as U.S. Special Operations Forces launched a raid on Osama bin Laden.
Not far from the center of the image, standing near the head of the table, was Bill Daley, the president’s chief of staff at the time. He was behind Brigadier General Marshall “Brad” Webb, alongside Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen and White House National Security Advisor Tom Donilon.
None of this was the least bit surprising at the time or now. By most measures, the job of the White House chief of staff is a cabinet-level position of enormous power and influence, and it stood to reason that Daley would in the Situation Room at this critically important time.
Keep this in mind while reading NBC News’ latest report on the current White House chief of staff’s whereabouts over the weekend.
Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney first learned about the U.S. military raid against ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi after the operation was already underway, according to five current and former senior administration officials.
Mulvaney was at home in South Carolina when President Donald Trump wrote on Twitter Saturday night that “Something very big has just happened!” He was briefed on the raid that night, officials said.
The report went on to note, “The White House chief of staff typically would be central to such a momentous gambit for a president, coordinating logistics, public statements and notifications of congressional leaders and allies.”
Andy Card, former President George W. Bush’s longtime chief of staff, said he was “baffled” by the decision to exclude Mulvaney at a critical time.
That’s a fair assessment for a normal White House in which the president’s chief of staff is a competent and effective leader, overseeing a well run West Wing, but in Trump Land, the normal rules clearly don’t apply.
I won’t speculate as to how much longer Mulvaney will remain at his post; it’s possible Trump has come to see himself as his own chief of staff, making Mulvaney’s presence largely irrelevant.
But given the circumstances, the South Carolina Republican – who also serves as the White House budget director – probably shouldn’t make any long-term plans in the nation’s capital.
Postscript: Mulvaney’s recent press conference very likely sealed his fate, but his diminished role didn’t come out of nowhere. Over the summer, for example, Trump lambasted his chief of staff for coughing during an ABC News interview. Politico reported soon after that Trump was “tiring of” Mulvaney.