November 15, 2018
Insiders at the White House might be humming Ariana Grande’s “thank u, next,” as—just a week after requesting the resignation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions—the president prepares once again to reconfigure his cabinet and West Wing staff.
First on the list of goners is almost certainly Kirstjen Nielsen, the secretary of Homeland Security. She has long been a target of Trump’s tirades, three people close to the president told The New York Times for a November 13 report. Indeed, the POTUS had floated the idea of dismissing Nielsen ahead of his trip to Paris for World War I commemoration ceremonies.
And if Nielsen goes, one of her strong supporters may be ousted, too. Internally at the White House, the Times said, removing Nielsen is perceived as a way for President Trump to push out White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, without directly firing him.
Although, the news outlet said, Trump and Kelly supposedly arrived at a plan earlier this year for the chief of staff to stay through the 2020 election, the POTUS privately has hinted that he would not bet on Kelly remaining in his job that long.
Kelly’s likely successor already is in the queue: Nick Ayers, the chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence, long has been seen as a prospective replacement for Kelly, if and when he makes his exit—and is favored by the president’s family members, Ivanka Trump, Donald Trump Jr., and Jared Trump.
Finally, another administration official who is at or near the departures gate, following a run-in with First Lady Melania Trump, is Mira Ricardel, who serves as a deputy to National Security Adviser John Bolton.
Ricardel, who previously worked at the Pentagon and on Capitol Hill, had disparaged two members of the East Wing staff during the FLOTUS’s trip to Africa last month, a Times source said. She also is rumored to have tangled with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on issues of policy and Pentagon personnel.
The rift with Melania Trump hit the headlines this week when—in a highly unusual statement about West Wing personnel matters—a spokesperson for the first lady, Stephanie Grisham, addressed Ricardel’s status. “It is the position of the Office of the First Lady that she no longer deserves the honor of serving in this White House,” Grisham said.
Since the president hates interpersonal confrontation, he often delays dismissals and then delegates them to Kelly. How these next staff changes will be handled is anybody’s guess.
Research contact: @maggieNYT
Editor’s update (11/15): Mira Ricardel now has been removed from her national security job in the White House and will continue to serve the administration in another role.