A senior administration official who briefed reporters Friday originally listed Mulvaney along with 11 others who were expected to travel with the President for his two-day visit to the world’s most populous democracy, but Mulvaney did not board Air Force One with the others Sunday, according to two people familiar with what happened.
Instead he was in London, where during a question-and-answer session at Oxford Union, Mulvaney said: “I disagree with the President every single day. You just don’t hear about it — that’s not my job.”
While there, Mulvaney met with an aide to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson about a decision to allow Huawei equipment to be used in Britain’s 5G wireless network.
A source denied Mulvaney’s absence on the India trip was a sign of his status in the West Wing and only had to do with his illness.
When asked about how he felt about his acting chief of staff before leaving for India Sunday, Trump said: “Yeah. Sure. He’s here now. Sure. No problem.”
Mulvaney is the third person to sit in the chief of staff’s office during Trump’s first term. His predecessors, Reince Priebus and John Kelly, each left after losing influence with the President. While Kelly had sought to enforce strict discipline in the West Wing after a looser approach from Priebus, Mulvaney has eased those restrictions, allowing a more freewheeling style to take hold.
The White House legislative affairs director, Eric Ueland, was also removed from the trip’s manifest shortly before the President left for India, which one official attributed to a communication mix-up.