President Barack Obama then- acting White House Chief of Staff Pete Rouse in the East Room on October 1, 2010 (Photo by Tracy A Woodward/The Washington Post) President Obama and interim White House Chief of Staff Pete Rouse in the East Room on Oct. 1, 2010. (Tracy A Woodward/The Washington Post)

Every so often White House observers hear that Obama’s trusted counselor and former interim White House chief of staff Pete Rouse is leaving.

This would  leave a significant hole in the White House operation and is one of the reasons President Obama is said to always push back hard to stop him from going. Rouse, who was Obama’s first Senate chief of staff back in 2005, is the president’s longest-serving senior aide.

After he clinched the Democratic nomination in June 2008, Obama told our colleague Karen Tumulty (then at Time Magazine) what he thought of Rouse. Rouse was “as well connected and well known and as popular and as smart and savvy a person as there is on Capitol Hill. But is completely ego-free. And that just makes for a good team,” Obama said. That’s about the highest compliment you’ll hear anyone get in this town.

So when we heard the rumors percolating up of late — “it may be true this time,” one source said — we thought it worthwhile to make a few calls. Best we can figure is that Rouse, who’s 67, is once more edging toward the door, hoping to leave soon, but no date has been set and nothing’s “imminent.” Of course “imminent” is a somewhat squishy term.