Bolton aide exits White House after high-profile clash with first lady

Top National Security Council official Mira Ricardel is exiting her post after an extraordinary, high-profile clash with first lady Melania Trump.

The White House said in a statement Wednesday that Ricardel will “transition to a new role within the administration,” but did not specify her new job.

{mosads}“The president is grateful for Ms. Ricardel’s continued service to the American people and her steadfast pursuit of his national security priorities,” said White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

The announcement capped off a tense day of speculation about Ricardel’s future after the first lady’s office took the unusual step of publicly calling for her ouster. It appears to be a compromise solution, since national security adviser John Bolton reportedly fought to save Ricardel, his top deputy.

But her removal from the White House is a sign of growing upheaval within the White House and shed light on how the first lady’s office has become involved.

East Wing staff reportedly clashed with Ricardel over seats on government aircraft during Melania Trump’s trip to Africa last month. The first lady’s team then accused Ricardel, who helped coordinate the visit, of spinning negative stories about Melania Trump.

“It is the position of the Office of the First Lady that she no longer deserves the honor of serving in this White House,” Stephanie Grisham, a spokesman for Melania Trump, said in a statement Tuesday.

That triggered an awkward deadlock at the White House. Ricardel remained at work on Tuesday as Bolton objected to her ouster and was reportedly at the office on Wednesday before her transition was announced.

Bolton brought Ricardel on board in May to serve as his No. 2 on the National Security Council. She earned a reputation as an enforcer and fierce bureaucratic infighter, clashing with White House chief of staff John Kelly and Defense Secretary James Mattis.

But it appears Ricardel’s conflict with Melania Trump was the final straw. During her trip to Africa in October, the first lady told ABC News that she told her husband there are people on his team that she did not trust.

“Well, some people, they don’t work there anymore,” the first lady said of those people, who added there are still people in the West Wing that do not have her trust.

“It’s harder to govern. You always need to watch your back,” she said.

The blow-up over Ricardel comes as Trump is weighing a broad staff shakeup that could include Homeland Security Secretary Kristjen Nielsen and Kelly, who is one of her fiercest defenders in the administration.

Updated 7:22 p.m.

Tags James Mattis John Kelly Melania Trump trump white house

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