An angry Donald Trump removed a senior adviser after his wife demanded her sacking, with more heads set to roll in a White House reshuffle triggered by infighting and setbacks in the midterm elections.
Aides said Mira Ricardel clashed with First Lady Melania Trump’s staff over her visit to Africa last month. Yet it is highly unusual for a first lady or her office to weigh in on personnel matters, especially the president’s national security staff.
The protocol-busting move followed a falling out that press leaks say was partly linked to a dispute over seating arrangements on the plane that took the first lady for a tour of African countries in October. Ricardel was also reportedly blamed for negative news coverage of Melania Trump.
On Tuesday, Stephanie Grisham, the first lady’s spokeswoman, released a statement saying: “It is the position of the Office of the First Lady that she no longer deserves the honour of serving in this White House.”
President Trump’s White House has set records for administration turnover. Ricardel was the third person to hold the post under his administration. No replacement was named.
An ally of national security adviser John Bolton, Ricardel began her service in the Trump administration as associate director in the White House Office of Presidential Personnel, then moved to the Commerce Department last year.
Bolton brought her into the West Wing shortly after taking the job in April.
Ricardel “will continue to support the president as she departs the White House to transition to a new role within the administration,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement. Sanders did not elaborate on what Ricardel’s new job would be.
The start to the second half of Trump’s first term is enveloped in gloom as the president surveys the damage from the midterms, tension with some of the United States’ closest allies, and now turmoil inside the administration.
On Wednesday, he was quoted by right-wing website The Daily Caller saying that a wider reshuffle is coming.
“A lot of people want to come in, a lot of politicians who have had very successful careers want to come in,” he said.
The biggest name on the chopping block, according to multiple US media reports, is chief of staff John Kelly.
A retired Marine Corps general, he has often been referred to as “the adult in the room” during Trump’s drama-prone administration, even if critics say he has done little to temper the president’s most damaging outbursts.
Now Kelly’s days are numbered, according to the unconfirmed but mounting leaks to US media.
His position, tenuous for months, has been undermined further by reports that he also clashed with Melania Trump – a relatively backstage first lady who has rarely made her influence so obviously felt as this week.
Melania Trump was angry that Kelly had refused to promote some of her aides, reports say.
Another expected reshuffle casualty is Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, a Kelly ally who oversees the politically sensitive task of carrying out Trump’s crackdown on illegal immigration.
Trump told The Daily Caller he’ll make “a decision on homeland shortly”.
The president has been in a funk since last week’s midterms that saw Democrats seize control of the House of Representatives, ending the Republicans’ dominance of both chambers of Congress.
While the Republicans held their Senate majority, the Democratic win means the president will for the first time face an opposition that has teeth.
Democrats vow to use their control of powerful House oversight committees to go after Trump’s nebulous personal finances and to protect an explosive probe into whether his 2016 election campaign colluded with Russian agents.
Pressure is mounting from the probe as the special counsel Robert Mueller digs ever more deeply into the president’s inner circle.