Usually you don't think of the director of the federal Office of Management and Budget as someone who's focused on the ins, outs and strategies of the upcoming elections.
But Mick Mulvaney, who has that title in the Trump administration, comes from political office. He was a South Carolina state legislator later elected to Congress as a Tea Party candidate.
"The president asks me all the time, ‘Why did Roy Moore lose?’” Mulvaney said at a meeting of Republican officials and donors in New York City last week, alluding to the failed U.S. Senate candidate from Alabama.
“That’s easy. He was a terrible candidate.”
It turns out someone in the room recorded the remarks, reflecting a familiar Washington D.C. theme. Sitting with Ronna Romney McDaniel, the party's national committee chair, Mulvaney said: "You may hate the president, and there’s a lot of people who do, but they certainly like the way the country is going." he also suggested Sen. Ted Cruz could lose in Texas.
Not only is Mulvaney the budget director with input to decisions that may concern lobbyists in the room, he's also running the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
But comments outside the expected role of Trump loyalists have grown common in a White House where public messaging is often chaotic, disjointed and unpredictable and the exact roles of aides and allies of the president can become blurred along with their loyalties.
The designation of Donald Trump Jr. to run the Trump Organization along with his brother Eric was touted early on as insulation between the business and the presidency.
But Trump Jr. decided to share with ABC News his views of the recent anonymous piece on a "resistance" within the White House.
He told the network he believes the op-ed was written by a “low-level person” — and dutifully echoed suggestions for a Justice Department probe.
“This is a very low-level person who will throw their name on an op-ed, and basically subvert the vote of the American people who elected my father to do this job,” Trump Jr. said.
But The New York Times called the author a senior aide. Has Trump Jr. been conducting a citizen's investigation that revealed the rank of the mystery writer? There's no sign of that so far.
Rudy Giuliani's role as an unpaid legal adviser to Trump also is a bit hazy, since he talks on TV as a political surrogate on issues that go beyond special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia-meddling probe.
Does Steve Bannon belong to the fold after being cast aside as special adviser and condemned by the president on Twitter? On his current publicity tour, he told Fox News of the op-ed piece:
“I don’t think there’s any one author. There are many voices in there . . . I think that’s a much broader conspiracy than people think. I think it’s probably six to a dozen people.”
Tough to say what that is based on, or what role Bannon is playing, or for whom.
Forget all the hue and cry about news media using off-the-record sources. It's hard enough assessing the motives of on-the-record sources when they're acting in an unofficial role.