President Barack Obama played cards as he awaited the U.S. Navy Seal raid on Osama bin Laden's compound in May 2011, according to his personal assistant and so-called "body man" Reggie Love.
Obama played 15 games of Spades while waiting for the Seals to descend on the terror leader's compound, Love said Wednesday before a UCLA audience.
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Obama was joined by Love, Pete Souza, the White House photographer, and Marvin Nicholson, another personal aide, for the card games in a private room. Over the same period, the president's top security officials crowded into the White House's Situation Room to monitor the events as they unfolded in Pakistan.
"Most people were, like, down in the Situation Room and [President Obama] was, like: 'I’m not going to be down there. I can’t watch this entire thing.' We must have played 15 games of spades," Love said.
Obama subsequently made his way to the Situation Room, where he watched parts of the raid, giving way to the famous picture of him hunched over in his chair in the company of Vice President Joe Biden, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, and now retired former Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, who was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the time.
White House officials have refused to confirm or even comment on Love's account of what the president was doing while one of the most significant events of his presidency unfolded.
Michael Leiter, who was director of the U.S. National Counterterrorism Center and in the room during the operation, confirmed with NBC News that the president had left the White House's Situation Room
at several points during the operation; however was present for the raid itself.
"He was in the room before they landed in [Pakistan] and also in the Sit Room until after the helos were out of [Pakistani] airspace," Leiter, who is now a national security analyst for NBC News, told the network following Love's comments.
"He largely stuck around after that, although there were times he stepped out, but not for especially extended periods – except to work the speech," Leiter added.
Known as Obama's "body man," Love – a 6'4 former college basketball player who joined Obama's senate office in 2007 – left the White House in 2012 to return to business school.
Bin Laden was killed on May 2, 2011
, in a raid on his compound in Pakistan by Navy SEALS.
After the raid, U.S. forces took the al-Qaida leader's body to Afghanistan for identification, then buried it at sea within 24 hours of his death.
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