First lady Melania Trump’s office has released a blistering statement about the top deputy to national security adviser John Bolton, saying Mira Ricardel “no longer deserves the honor” of serving the White House.
The eruption comes after a report by The Wall Street Journal that Trump has chosen to oust Ricardel from her position at the first lady’s request.
“It is the position of the Office of the First Lady that she no longer deserves the honor of serving in this White House,” Melania Trump’s communication director Stephanie Grisham said in a statement directed toward Ricardel.
The first lady’s staff clashed with Ricardel during a trip to Africa last month over plane seating.
Ricardel also denied requests from Melania Trump’s staff to use National Security Council (NSC) resources, people familiar with the matter told the Journal. The staff also reportedly told the president that they suspect Ricardel is the starter of unflattering stories about Melania and her team.
The NSC has declined to comment.
Ricardel — one of Bolton’s first senior-level hires after he became head of the NSC in April — has also tussled with Defense Secretary James Mattis and his staff over Pentagon appointments and policy coordination, according to those familiar with the clashes.
Those tensions, which began early in the Trump administration, gained wider attention earlier this fall.
Prior to the 2016 election, Ricardel was named head of Pentagon appointments on Trump’s transition team. At the time, she reportedly stopped Mattis from hiring certain officials over concerns about their party affiliation or their earlier support for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.
It was “not a secret that when [Ricardel] was the head of personnel there was some disagreement about who should come in,” an administration official told The Hill last month.
Questions have also been raised over the level of coordination across government agencies to implement Trump’s agenda.
Ricardel’s primary duties at the NSC is interagency policy coordination between the council and the State Department and Pentagon, among other agencies, on major policy issues including the administration’s cyber strategy, the military’s role in Syria and responding to Iranian aggression.
“There are people across the interagency with varying degrees of frustration about the current coordination process . . . . given some of the issues that have lingered — cyber, Syria, Iran — big issues out there that require NSC leadership to coordinate,” the administration official said.
Should Ricardel be asked to leave the White House, Bolton will have lost another ally. Bolton’s longtime friend Fred Fleitz last month left his role as chief of staff and executive secretary for the NSC after serving only six months.
So far, Bolton has resisted White House chief of staff John Kelly, who has pushed for Bolton to replace Ricardel and has been looking for ways to force her out for weeks, officials told the Journal. Kelly reportedly cited the first lady’s concerns to Bolton two weeks ago.
Melania Trump and her staff also discussed the issue with the commander-in-chief during the administration’s trip to Paris earlier this week. Trump told his wife that he would remove Ricardel, White House officials said.
BY ELLEN MITCHELL – 11/13/18