In a stunning move, Melania Trump calls for ouster of a top national security aide
First lady Melania Trump, in a remarkable move carried out by her spokeswoman, publicly pushed for the ouster of deputy national security adviser Mira Ricardel.
“It is the position of the Office of the First Lady that (Ricardel) no longer deserves the honor of serving in this White House,” the first lady’s communications director Stephanie Grisham said in a statement on Tuesday.
The statement amounted to a stunning public rebuke by a first lady of a senior official serving in her husband’s administration. It came after reports surfaced earlier Tuesday indicating Ricardel would be pushed out of her post after less than seven months on the job.
Neither Ricardel nor spokespeople for the National Security Council responded to CNN requests for comment.
Reflecting the fast-moving nature of the events, soon after a Wall Street Journal report surfaced Tuesday afternoon alleging Ricardel was fired and escorted off the White House grounds, a senior White House official denied the story to reporters.
The official said Ricardel was still in her office Tuesday afternoon. The official declined to speculate further about Ricardel’s future in the administration.
Her potential departure would leave national security adviser John Bolton without one of his key allies in the administration, a deputy who has also shared his penchant for bureaucratic infighting.
It was those sharp elbows that sources said led to the first lady’s stinging statement, with Ricardel most recently feuding with members of the first lady’s staff over her trip to Africa. One person familiar with the matter said Ricardel quarreled with the first lady’s staff over seating on the plane and use of National Security Council resources.
A White House official accused Ricardel of being dishonest about the feud and subsequently leaking stories to try to cover her behavior.
And before her spat with the East Wing, Ricardel butted heads repeatedly with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, a rivalry that was well-known within the Trump administration. Her disputes with Mattis preceded her time as deputy national security adviser, going back to the presidential transition when Ricardel sought to block Mattis from hiring certain people who had been critical of Trump or were viewed as insufficiently loyal to Trump.
Tensions have also been rising between Ricardel and chief of staff John Kelly and his deputy Zach Fuentes in recent weeks, according to people familiar with the matter. Kelly and Fuentes believe Ricardel was leaking negative stories about them to the press, the people said.
The dispute made it difficult for Ricardel to land in a top post in the Trump administration, though she was ultimately tapped for the position of undersecretary of commerce for export administration. Ricardel then joined the National Security Council as Bolton’s deputy in April after he was named national security adviser.
Ricardel has been key to Bolton’s efforts to restructure the National Security Council and to help Bolton secure his place as an influential adviser to the President on all foreign policy matters.