WASHINGTON – In an extraordinary move, Melania Trump called publicly Tuesday for the deputy national security adviser to be dismissed.
After reports circulated Tuesday that President Donald Trump had decided to remove Mira Ricardel from her post at the National Security Council, Stephanie Grisham, the first lady's spokeswoman, released a statement that 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."
Shortly before the statement was issued, Ricardel was among a group of administration officials and other individuals who stood behind President Trump at a White House ceremony celebrating Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights.
The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday that the first lady's staff and Ricardel had clashed during Mrs. Trump's visit to Africa in October over such things as seating on the airplane and requests to use the council's resources.
A White House official told The Associated Press that Ricardel wanted to travel to Africa with the first lady but was denied seating on the airplane because there was no room for her and several others who initially expected to make the trip. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss White House personnel matters, said Ricardel then threatened not to send any NSC staff.
Ricardel also is known to have clashed with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis over Pentagon political appointee choices since early in his tenure. And Pentagon officials have said privately they believe Ricardel had a hand in spreading rumors this year about Mattis falling from favor with the White House and perhaps departing.
Asked by a reporter today about Mrs. Trump's office saying Ricardel no longer deserves to work in the White House, Mattis said, "I don't comment on other people's staffing issues."
A spokesman for the National Security Council had no immediate comment.
Mrs. Trump is very protective of her husband and is considered to be an influential adviser, as many first ladies have been with their spouses.
She is also one of the most private first ladies in recent memory, which made the public announcement about her displeasure with a top West Wing official all the more surprising.
In an interview with ABC News during the five-day trip to Ghana, Mali, Kenya and Egypt last month, the first lady said there are people in the White House whom she and the president cannot trust. She declined to name anyone but said she had let the president know who they are.
"Well," she said, "some people, they don't work there anymore."
Asked if some untrustworthy people still worked in the White House, Mrs. Trump replied, "Yes."
Anita McBride, who was chief of staff to first lady Laura Bush, said there's a lesson in the current first lady's public pronouncement.
"The president supports Mrs. Trump's activities and her work, which should be the signal to the rest of the staff to support her, too," McBride, who has worked for three Republican presidents, said via email.
AP Writer Bob Burns contributed to this report.
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