The mysterious disappearance of Sean Spicer

(CNN)On Sunday night, the White House sent out its daily schedule -- as it does every day. Except, one thing was different: Sarah Huckabee Sanders, rather than her ostensible boss, Sean Spicer, would be giving the daily press briefing on Monday.

The White House sought to play the substitution as a nothing-burger -- noting that past administrations had used their deputies to fill in as daily briefers when necessary.
Which, like many things that come out of this administration, has a touch of truth to it but is not, technically, true. Deputy press secretaries in the past have filled in when the principal press secretary is otherwise occupied -- as Sanders did when Spicer was on naval reserve duty recently.
But Spicer was in the White House on Monday -- as Sanders confirmed. She added that Spicer is "taking on extra duties" since the White House doesn't have a communications director. (Mike Dubke resigned last week.)
    So. Many. Questions. Is Spicer the de facto communications director now? If so, why didn't the White House say anything about it prior to Sanders backing into a kind of, sort of announcement at the podium today? If not, then why is Sanders saying it?
    Too much conspiracy theory for you? Remember that in politics, like in life, context matters. A lot. And the context here is that a staff shuffle has been promised -- by Trump! -- for weeks now. And, we know from all the great reporting done by CNN and others, that Trump has not been terribly pleased with the job Spicer is doing.
    There was much talk during Trump's foreign trip that Spicer would never return to the briefing podium when the president returned stateside. Spicer did, in fact, get back in the saddle several times last week, but it seemed like his heart was nowhere near into it. He recited talking points, read prepared answers written down in advance and ended the briefings as quickly as he possibly could.
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    By Friday, he had simply ceased answering any questions at all -- referring queries to either the State Department or Trump's personal attorney. Asked whether President Trump believed in global warming -- a question he had been asked several days earlier -- Spicer said he had still not had a chance to talk to the President about it. A follow-up as to whether he would be able to find that time soon had Spicer, again, non-committal.
    To simply not show up for the next briefing after a performance like that one on Friday is sure to raise questions no matter the past history here. Trump knows that. Spicer knows that. Sanders knows that. Hell, anyone who has ever followed politics for more than five minutes knows that.
    Which brings me to this question: Has Spicer reached the end of the line as the main briefer of the press? And, if so, when (if?) will we get formal confirmation? Is Spicer, as Sanders suggested, moving up the chain of command in the White House? Being layered over? Or, and this is totally possible given the unpredictability of this White House, will he be back behind the podium for the rest of the week, acting as though nothing has changed?
    The truth is no one -- up to and including Trump -- may know the answers to any (or all) of those questions.