After just six months on the job, first lady Melania Trump’s top policy aide has left the White House, according to multiple people familiar with the matter.
Reagan Hedlund, a 28-year-old former executive assistant at the National Security Council who recently helped the first lady launch the “Be Best” anti-bullying initiative, departed last week, leaving the already-skeletal East Wing staff even smaller.
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Hedlund, who went by Reagan Thompson until she took her husband’s last name after their April wedding, told POLITICO that she plans to work on foreign policy issues. She declined to provide more details.
“I am very grateful to the first lady for the opportunity to help launch her policy initiative,” Hedlund said. “It was a rare opportunity to contribute at such a high level. It was a difficult decision to leave. However I have decided to return to my roots in the foreign policy world.”
Melania Trump’s staff, which is smaller than some other former first ladies‘ offices, is tight-knit and has a reputation for avoiding leaks. Multiple West Wing aides and others close to President Donald Trump’s administration said they either hadn’t heard about Hedlund’s departure or were unsure of the exact reason for it.
“She is no longer with our office and we wish her our best,” the first lady’s spokeswoman, Stephanie Grisham, told POLITICO in a statement.
Hedlund previously worked for Mike Pompeo, now secretary of state, when he was on the Hill as a Republican congressman representing Kansas.
Hedlund arrived in the East Wing as the first lady was defining her policy portfolio, which includes veterans’ issues, opioid abuse and problems facing children, including bullying.
Melania Trump initially seemed to bristle at performing the traditional duties of first lady, spending the first several months of Trump’s presidency in New York with her son.
But she has slowly taken on a more public role, including giving a speech last year at the United Nations.
Following the May launch of her “Be Best” initiative with a Rose Garden speech, Melania Trump dipped out of public view for weeks following surgery for a kidney condition. Her prolonged absence, during which time her office offered little information about her health, sparked a range of wild conspiracy theories — which in turn drew criticism from her husband.
After nearly a month out of the public eye, she emerged in public again in early June.
She was widely criticized for wearing a coat with the phrase “I really don’t care, do u?” printed on the back en route to visit a migrant children’s shelter in Texas amid public outcry over Trump administration’s policy changes that resulted in thousands of migrant children being separated from their parents.
“People would like to see more of her and understand more about what she wants to accomplish,“ said Anita McBride, former chief of staff to first lady Laura Bush and now executive-in-residence at American University‘s School of Public Affairs. “We’ve come to expect a lot of the role of first lady, period. It may be that she’s still adjusting to the demands and the schedule and trying to maintain a private life in a public role in the White House.“
McBride said that Rosalynn Carter, who worked on mental health issues, was the first first lady to name a policy director, back in the 1970s.
After Hurricane Katrina, Laura Bush visited the Gulf Coast more than 20 times for events like openings of new schools, libraries and job training centers.
More recently, Melania Trump has increasingly telegraphed her independence. Last month, her spokeswoman issued a statement saying in part that she will watch “any channel she wants” after The New York Times reported that the president was upset to find her Air Force One television tuned to CNN during the couple’s official visit to Europe.
Her office announced plans Friday to begin canvassing for entertainers to perform at the White House in December during Christmas celebrations.