Melania Trump, like President Donald Trump, has used the power of her office to publicly assail those who have irked her, like publicly torching her husband’s talkative first wife, Ivana,
WASHINGTON — A day after Melania Trump took the extraordinary step of issuing a statement condemning Mira Ricardel, the deputy national security adviser who had made enemies throughout her tenure, Ricardel was spotted in her office on Wednesday, packing her bags.
Hours later, the White House’s chief spokeswoman said Ricardel was indeed leaving her post but that she would still work in the administration — just not under the first lady’s roof.
“Mira Ricardel will continue to support the president as she departs the White House to transition to a new role within the administration,” Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, said in a statement. “The president is grateful for Ms. Ricardel’s continued service to the American people and her steadfast pursuit of his national security priorities.”
When a first lady is crossed by an aide, she usually gets results when it comes time to oust that person. Michelle Obama did it. Hillary Clinton did it. But rather than working behind the scenes, Melania Trump had her own way of getting her point across.
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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 communications director for Trump, said in a forceful statement on Tuesday about Ricardel.
Melania Trump, like President Donald Trump, has used the power of her office to publicly assail those who have irked her, like publicly torching her husband’s talkative first wife, Ivana, and targeting Ricardel, who had gained a reputation throughout the White House for her sharp elbows.
Hours after the East Wing’s statement on Tuesday, aides on the National Security Council, seeking to defend Ricardel, issued a series of talking points about her time there. Among the information distributed was that Ricardel had been confirmed by the Senate last year as undersecretary for export administration. Before she served in the administration, she was a consultant for Trump for America.
Aides also pointed out that she was one of the highest-ranking female members of the administration, and that she had never met Melania Trump.
It turns out she didn’t have to.
A dust-up between Ricardel and several East Wing senior staff members before and during the first lady’s trip to Africa last month ended up eliciting Melania Trump’s attention, and the conflict led to an internal dispute that festered for weeks.
Among Ricardel’s offenses, three people familiar with the situation said, was a dispute over airplane seating — she wanted to have a say over who was given seats on the plane to Africa. She grew angry when a seat for a National Security Council staff member on the plane was pulled to accommodate journalists.
Ricardel also withheld resources from the first lady before she traveled to Ghana, Kenya, Malawi and Egypt last month, according to those people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. Before and during the trip, Melania Trump’s senior staff members operated without logistical information, readily available policy documents or basic communication as they arrived in places where security could be tight and tense, and movements hectic. They said Ricardel was the reason for the delay.
The episode so incensed Melania Trump that she brought up those infractions and others — including her belief that Ricardel was spreading negative stories about her and her staff — to John Kelly, President Trump’s chief of staff. Complaints from Melania Trump and her aides made their way to the national security adviser, John R. Bolton, but the tension continued unaddressed until this week, when Melania Trump’s office all but called for Ricardel’s removal.
The White House and the National Security Council did not answer questions Wednesday about Ricardel’s reassignment. Four administration officials said they were unclear about her next move and speculated among themselves about where an aide who had made few allies during her time at the White House might land.
Donald Trump was initially not happy to learn of the rogue statement issued by the first lady’s office, according to a senior administration official familiar with the president’s reaction. But he eventually came around.
The president, that person said, is proud of his wife’s independent streak.