First lady Melania Trump is openly calling for the ouster of one of the top officials on the National Security Council — a rare public rebuke that comes as the president weighs a broader shake-up of the West Wing after last week’s midterm elections.
Melania Trump’s office said in a blunt statement on Tuesday that Mira Ricardel, the deputy to national security adviser John Bolton, does not belong in the White House anymore.
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“It is the position of the Office of the First Lady that she no longer deserves the honor of serving in this White House,” Stephanie Grisham, the first lady’s spokesperson, said of Ricardel in a statement.
While the statement didn’t elaborate, The Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday that President Donald Trump has decided to fire Ricardel at Melania’s urging after clashes regarding the first lady’s recent solo trip to Africa.
Staff in the East Wing tussled with Ricadel “over seating on the plane and requests to use National Security Council resources” on the Africa trip, and some on the first lady’s staff have suspected Ricardel is to blame for some negative stories about Melania Trump, according to the Journal report.
The Journal also reported that Bolton has resisted entreaties from White House chief of staff John Kelly to fire Ricardel.
Ricardel did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Kelly’s own influence in the White House could be waning as reports emerge that he himself is on the chopping block for his own disagreements with Bolton and tension with other members of the Trump family, including daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner.
But officials in the Pentagon have also reportedly clashed with Ricardel — including Defense Secretary Jim Mattis — over personnel and policy differences, leading to a deterioration of relations between the Pentagon and the NSC.
Ricardel’s tension with Mattis existed for some time, and Mattis sees Trump less than he used to since Bolton and Ricardel have been at the NSC. Ricardel, along with Bolton, also has “a very closed style. It’s literally closed-door as opposed to open-door” under former national security advisor H.R. McMaster, said a person familiar with the matter.
The NSC’s atmosphere currently is “much more close-hold, much more skeptical of the staff who works for them in some ways,” the person said.
Asked whether NSC staffers liked working for Bolton and Ricardel, the source said: “I don’t think there’s a lot of warm and fuzzy stuff going on. … There’s no ice-cream socials and there’s not hanging around the big table in the national security adviser’s office at the end of the day shooting the breeze. … It’s not as enjoyable day to day.”
Eliana Johnson contributed to this report.