First Lady Melania Trump is reportedly behind the rumored ousters of President Trump’s chief of staff and deputy national security adviser, multiple White House sources said Tuesday, suggesting that the first lady is a force to be reckoned with in the White House and not someone to be trifled with.
After clashes with Mrs. Trump, both Chief of Staff John Kelly and Deputy National Security Adviser Mira Ricardel are on their way out the door, according to the sources.
Trump is also thinking about replacing Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen with former ICE director Thomas Homan, according to Politico.
Melania has “unbelievable political instincts” and “her husband takes her counsel very seriously,” former White House press secretary Sean Spicer told Fox News’ Martha MacCallum Tuesday evening, adding that he would never cross her.
According to NBC News, John Kelly crossed her over staffing issues and travel requests.
Some of the disputes with the East Wing have escalated to the president, the seven people familiar with the clashes said.
“There have been instances where the East Wing staff were not treated as equals to the male-dominated decision makers in Chief Kelly’s office,” one White House official said. “Promotions were denied then finally granted after months of requests,” the official said.
Melania Trump raised concerns with her husband earlier this year, amid the height of the controversy over his alleged affair with porn actress Stormy Daniels, that Kelly had repeatedly denied her requests to promote some of her aides, two White House officials told NBC News.
The requests languished for months as Kelly insisted there weren’t enough available positions for the first lady’s aides to have senior titles, these people said. During this same period however, West Wing officials working for Kelly received promotions, the White House officials said.
Having learned of the dispute, the president was furious and told Kelly to give the first lady, who has a smaller East Wing staff than her recent predecessors, what she wanted, these people said. “I don’t need this shit,” Trump told Kelly, according to one person familiar with the conversation.
Trump is reportedly considering Nick Ayers, Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff, for the position, according to NBC’s sources.
Additionally, in what is being called “an extraordinary move for a first lady,” Melania Trump’s office Tuesday afternoon publicly called for Ricardel’s firing.
Stephanie Grisham, the first lady’s communications director, said in a statement that Ricardel should no longer serve in the NSC. “Ricardel has repeatedly angered the East Wing,” NBC reported.
Melania Trump conveyed the incidents to President Donald Trump, people familiar with the disagreements said. The confrontations included Ricardel demanding NSC staff have seats on the first lady’s plane during her trip to Africa last month, people familiar with the disagreements said.
“It is the position of the Office of the First Lady that she no longer deserves the honor of serving in this White House,” Grisham said in the statement.
When asked by MacCallum if the first lady’s statement was unusual, Spicer laughed, “Yeah! Very much so!” He explained that the first lady chooses her statements and causes “very deliberately.”
“When she speaks, it’s for a reason,” Spicer added.
“She gives constant advice to her husband. She’s an unbelievable political strategist,” Spicer said. “I would think that this wasn’t the first rodeo — or encounter that they had,” he continued, pointing out that Ricardel, a suspected leaker, must have really worn out her welcome for the first lady to make such a public statement.
Spicer said the takeaway from all of this was, “Don’t underestimate the first lady — ever.”
“When she speaks, take it seriously,” he said. “She’s very savvy when it comes to the media and the political strategy of her husband, and I would never in my life cross her. And the idea that it came to a public statement tells you that this particular person didn’t get the hint.”