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James Jones to step down as national security adviser
In July, Brennan sent out an e-mail with news of bombings in Iran apparently carried out by Sunni Muslim insurgents. On the recipient list were Emanuel, Rhodes, Donilon and McDonough. Jones, the national security adviser, was not included because, senior officials said, he was traveling in South Asia at the time.
In a series of e-mails, the advisers decided to include the attacks in the presidential daily briefing the next morning. They also recommended that the State Department issue a statement later in the day that would be followed by one from the White House - a process that played out exactly that way.
Unlike Jones, Donilon, who served as Secretary of State Warren Christopher's chief of staff during the Clinton administration, has been a consummate behind-the-scenes player in Washington for decades with little profile beyond the Beltway.
That began to change last month when he traveled to China with Lawrence H. Summers, Obama's chief economic adviser who will be returning to a teaching post at Harvard at the end of the year. Donilon and Summers met with Chinese President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao, among other top officials, during a visit that focused in large part on China's currency.
Jon Alterman, a senior fellow and director of the Middle East Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said Donilon "has had his hands in the middle of every single policy decision this administration has made."
"And if there's any way to avoid a shift in policy, it's to have someone who has been involved in every policy debate and decision take control," Alterman said.
He said Jones viewed his role "as a private emissary of the president," often traveling to Pakistan, Russia and important strategic allies on Obama's behalf.
"Whether Donilon is going to seek that role, and how well he could carry out that role if he does, is something we're going to have to see," Alterman said. "But it seems on the policy level that we are not going to see much of a shift."
Donilon is almost universally described as a "straight shooter" and a tireless worker. But he has had his detractors, including some at high levels.
In Woodward's book, he reported that Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates said Donilon would be a "disaster" as national security adviser. The two were often at odds during the Afghanistan strategy review.
In a Friday news conference, Gates said, "I have had a very productive and good working relationship with Tom Donilon, contrary to what you may have read, and continue to look forward to working with him."
A senior Pentagon official acknowledged that there was tension between Gates and Donilon during the Afghanistan review. But the official said the two had enjoyed a close working relationship over the past several months.
"It was a highly contentious time," the official said. "But the issues have been addressed and overcome."
The official described the reports of tension between the two men as "way outdated."
"Gates is looking forward and not backwards," the official said.
In a statement, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, said he has "benefited greatly" from Jones's "wisdom, experience and mentorship - especially as we have labored together to prosecute two wars and meet a host of security commitments around the world."
Mullen said he has found Donilon "equally dedicated to our national security," and that he "looks forward to an even closer relationship moving forward."
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said in a statement that Jones "will be sorely missed." She called Donilon " a talented and dedicated" public servant, saying he "has a proven ability to translate big-picture vision into concrete action."
Staff writer Greg Jaffe contributed to this report.