White House aide Mira Ricardel removed after high-profile row with Melania Trump

WASHINGTON (BLOOMBERG, AFP) – A senior White House official whom First Lady Melania Trump demanded be removed from her post has been transferred, the Trump administration said on Wednesday (Nov 14).

Deputy National Security Adviser Mira Ricardel “will continue to support the president as she departs the White House to transition to a new role within the administration”, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement on Wednesday.

“The president is grateful for Ms. Ricardel’s continued service to the American people and her steadfast pursuit of his national security priorities.”

Sanders did not say what Ricardel’s new job would be, and she did not respond to follow-up questions.

Melania Trump issued an unusual public statement demanding that Ricardel leave the White House after clashes between National Security Adviser John Bolton’s top deputy and the first lady’s staff over her trip to Africa last month.

Ricardel threatened to withhold National Security Council resources for the trip unless she or another NSC staffer were included in the first lady’s entourage, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Melania Trump and Ricardel have never met, the person added.

Asked on Tuesday about reports Melania Trump sought Ricardel’s ouster, her spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham 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.”

Bolton hired Ricardel in April from the Commerce Department. She previously worked in the Defense Department under President George W. Bush.

While Bolton likes her, according to Trump administration officials, Ricardel is widely disliked among other White House staff.

She’s regarded as inflexible and obsessed with process, which some officials complain has complicated coordination between the NSC and Cabinet agencies.

Ricardel’s ouster comes as Trump considers a range of changes to his administration. He said on Wednesday in an interview with the Daily Caller that he’ll soon “be making a decision” on Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, who has reportedly fallen out of favour with the president over what he’s described as an illegal immigration “crisis” at the US border with Mexico.

But Nielsen remained in her job on Wednesday, two days after the Washington Post first reported that Trump planned to remove her, and she travelled to the border with Defense Secretary James Mattis to review the work of US soldiers Trump deployed before the midterm elections last week.

Nielsen is a close ally of White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, who preceded her at the Department of Homeland Security. It’s possible her departure may lead to his, though he has said he will serve through Trump’s re-election contest in 2020.

Trump was seen talking to Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff, Nick Ayers, at an Election Night gathering last week, according to two people familiar with the matter – an encounter that’s fed rumours among Trump associates that Ayers may replace Kelly.

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