Melania Trump is one of the most private First Ladies in recent memory — which just makes it all the more bizarre that she’s currently embroiled in a major spat with a top White House aide.
The President’s wife has publicly demanded the dismissal of Deputy National Security Adviser Mira Ricardel.
Stephanie Grisham, the first lady’s spokeswoman, released a statement that said: “It is the position of the Office of the First Lady that she no longer deserves the honour of serving in this White House.”
Ms Grisham offered no explanation for the statement, but reports are tracing it back to conflict that arose during her recent trip to Africa.
Shortly before the statement came out, Ms Ricardel was among a group of administration officials and other individuals who stood behind Donald Trump at a White House ceremony celebrating Diwali, the Hindu Festival of Lights.
Now, she looks set to be fired.
WHY IS MELANIA SO FURIOUS?
Reports have claimed the First Lady’s staff clashed repeatedly with Ms Ricardel during her much-publicised visit to Africa last month.
According to The Wall Street Journal, they clashed over such things as seating on the aeroplane and requests to use the council’s resources.
The First Lady’s team also told Mr Trump they suspected Ms Ricardel was behind some of the negative stories about Ms Trump and her staff.
A spokesman for the National Security Council had no immediate comment.
Two sources familiar with the matter told Reuters she complained to her husband that she was unhappy with how she was being treated by Ms Ricardel.
The sources said Ms Trump explicitly asked the President to oust Ms Ricardel.
Another source familiar with Ms Ricardel’s White House performance said the Deputy National Security Adviser also ran afoul of much of the National Security Council staff and “sort of alienated everyone” except for Mr Bolton, the veteran conservative foreign policy expert who has been Ms Ricardel’s immediate superior.
Ms Ricardel worked on the Trump presidential campaign and was picked by National Security Adviser John Bolton to be his deputy earlier this year.
Mrs Trump is very protective of her husband and is considered to be an influential adviser, as many First Ladies have been with their spouses.
She is also one of the most private first ladies in recent memory, which made the public announcement about her displeasure with a top West Wing official all the more surprising.
In an interview with ABC News during her five-day trip to Ghana, Mali, Kenya and Egypt last month, the First Lady said there are people in the White House whom she and the president cannot trust.
She declined to name anyone but said she had let the president know who they are.
“Well, some people, they don’t work there anymore,” she said. Asked if some untrustworthy people still worked in the White House, she replied, “Yes”.
JOHN KELLY AND KIRSTJEN NIELSEN ON THE CHOPPING BLOCK
Ms Ricardel isn’t the only senior White House official facing the axe.
White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen could also be seeing the last of the administration, as Mr Trump prepares to conduct a major post-election shake-up.
In Mr Kelly’s case, this is partly due to the fact that he got on Ms Trump’s bad side over staffing issues and travel requests, according to an NBC News report.
“There have been instances where the East Wing staff were not treated as equals to the male-dominated decision makers in Chief Kelly’s office,” a White House official said. “Promotions were denied then finally granted after months of requests.”
The East Wing refers to the First Lady’s office.
The report claims she raised concerns with her husband earlier this year, when the media attention surrounding his alleged affair was Stormy Daniels was at its peak.
She told Mr Trump that Mr Kelly had repeatedly denied her requests to promote some of her aides, the officials told NBC.
A furious Mr Trump eventually told Mr Kelly to give his wife what she wanted. “I don’t need this sh*t,” Mr Trump allegedly said.
It’s so far not known whether Mr Kelly will leave the administration, but according to reports there is talk of replacing him with Vice President Mike Pence’s current chief of staff Nick Ayers.
Part of Mr Trump’s frustration with Ms Nielsen is over her not doing more to address what he has called a crisis at the US-Mexico border, according to two people with knowledge of the issue.
Curbing illegal immigration is Mr Trump’s signature issue — and one he returns to as a way to rally his most loyal supporters.
But anyone who takes over at Homeland Security is likely to run up against the same problems Ms Nielsen faced.
The administration has already tried to clamp down at the border but those efforts have been largely thwarted or watered down due to legal challenges.
Mr Trump also told allies that he never fully trusted Ms Nielsen, whom he associated with President George W Bush, a longtime foe.
He told those close to him that he felt, at times, that her loyalty was more toward her longtime mentor — Mr Kelly — than to himself.
Ms Kelly has previously pushed Trump’s immigration policies, including funding for his border wall and defended the administration’s practice of separating children from parents, telling a Senate committee that removing children from parents facing criminal charges happens “in the United States every day.” But she was also instrumental in stopping the separations.
If the firings go ahead, this will add to the growing list of senior officials to be axed from Mr Trump’s administration.
Just last week, Attorney-General Jeff Sessions announced his shock resignation at the request of the President.
“I came to work at the Department of Justice every day determined to do my duty and serve my country. I have done so to the best of my ability,” Mr Sessions wrote in a letter delivered to the White House last week.
— with wires
Originally published as Melania Trump’s White House spat