The office of first lady Melania Trump is calling for the ouster of deputy national security adviser Mira R. Ricardel, amid reports of tensions between Ricardel and White House officials.
“It is the position of the Office of the First Lady that she no longer deserves the honor of serving in this White House,” the first lady’s spokeswoman, Stephanie Grisham, said in a statement Tuesday.
A National Security Council spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
A senior White House official said Ricardel is expected to be fired, but she was still at her desk Tuesday afternoon.
National security adviser John Bolton tapped Ricardel in April to serve as his deputy, hailing her “track record of successfully managing teams and diverse organizations, as well as addressing complex issues.” Ricardel had previously worked as an undersecretary of commerce and had also held positions at the State and Defense departments.
Yet Ricardel had frequently clashed with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis while leading President Trump’s transition, current and former officials told The Washington Post last month, and her reemergence at the White House prompted suspicion at the Pentagon that she was undermining Mattis.
Three current and two former White House officials said Tuesday that Ricardel had berated people in meetings, yelled at professional staff, argued with the first lady and spread rumors about Mattis.
White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly has sought for months to oust Ricardel, calling her a problematic hire in the West Wing, and Mattis has told advisers that he wants her out as well, the officials said.
Asked late Tuesday afternoon whether he agreed with the first lady that Ricardel should leave her position, Mattis declined to comment.
“I don’t comment on other people’s staffing issues,” he said.
The news comes amid broader turmoil within the Trump administration following last week’s midterm elections. Trump last week forced the resignation of Jeff Sessions as attorney general, and on Monday, The Washington Post reported that the president has decided to remove Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. Kelly’s own future within the administration is shaky as well.
But even in an administration marked by frequent turnover, Grisham’s statement on Tuesday stood out. It is unusual for the first lady’s office to weigh in on personnel matters elsewhere in the White House, particularly in the realm of national security.
Ricardel was among the officials who attended a Diwali celebration with President Trump in the Roosevelt Room of the White House earlier Tuesday afternoon.
And the first lady made no mention of the tumult in a tweet late Tuesday afternoon in which she shared photos of herself greeting visitors at the White House and noted that it was World Kindness Day.
“On this #WorldKindessDay I had fun surprising visitors to the @WhiteHouse! Thank you to all who come through and visit this magnificent home. #BeBest,” she said.
Dan Lamothe contributed to this report.