Meanwhile, on the latest episode of the soap opera that is the Trump administration, first lady Melania Trump is now making staff decisions.
Specifically, Melania has had enough of John Bolton deputy 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,” a statement from the first lady’s communications director Stephanie Grisham reads.
This is a long-running drama, but the last straw apparently came when Ricardel dared to argue with Melania’s staff over plane seats when the first lady traveled to Africa last month. That reportedly followed clashes over the first lady’s use of NSC resources. “She drew the first lady’s wrath after threatening to withhold resources during Melania’s trip to Africa unless Ricardel was included in her entourage,” one person familiar with the matter told Bloomberg.
Beyond that, Ricardel has a history of clashing with Jim Mattis, who she tried to prevent from hiring people who were viewed as disloyal to the President. “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,” CNN recounts.
Ultimately, Ricardel landed the National Security Council spot in April after Bolton took over for H.R. McMaster who resigned. As Foreign Policy wrote at the time, “Ricardel came with unassailable credentials as a Trump supporter”. Her work on the campaign and during the transition was expected to “help bolster Bolton’s status with a president fixated with loyalty”, FP went on to say, in the same article, before cautioning that “it could also create more friction between Mattis and the rest of the new national security team.”
On Tuesday afternoon, shortly after the first lady’s remarks, Ricardel was fired and escorted from the White House, one official said. That account was later disputed.
The first lady’s unprecedented statement comes on a day when the rumor mill is alive with staff shakeup chatter. Earlier, NBC reported that John Kelly might be on his way out after similar disagreements with Melania.
“Melania had told the president earlier in 2018 that Kelly had repeatedly turned down requests to promote some of her aides, even as Kelly’s staff received promotions”, NBC says, citing two White House officials, who also said the President then “directed Kelly to approve the first lady’s requests after learning of the disputes.”
On Monday evening, the Washington Post reported that Trump is set to remove Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, who, sources say, the President wants gone “as soon as possible.” NBC reminds you that Kelly pushed for Nielsen’s confirmation over Trump’s protestations.
There are also rumors that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross is about to get the proverbial boot and of course Jeff Sessions was forced to resign last week.
For his part, Kelly’s job has been a source of continual speculation for White House watchers (which, in the Trump era, is all of us). According to NBC’s sources, Mike Pence’s chief of staff Nick Ayers is the top contender to replace the General if he is indeed forced out.
In light of the above, it’s worth remembering that Bolton and Kelly engaged in what was variously described as a profane shouting match last month over Trump’s immigration policies. Now, Bolton is about to lose a deputy and Kelly is apparently on the verge of losing his job, and it’s all at the behest of Melania.
But remember, she “really doesn’t care”. Do you?
All of this is just further evidence to support the contention that the White House is anything but a “well oiled machine”, as Trump described it following the anonymous Op-Ed published in The New York Times back in September.