Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen is not the only Trump administration official who may be on the way out. Her patron, White House chief of staff John Kelly, could be next to leave. Based on multiple sources, the Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday that Trump “is considering” removing Kelly, and NBC reported that the former general “may soon depart the Trump administration.”
While Kelly’s imminent departure has been rumored almost since he started the job in August 2017, Nielsen’s ouster may seal it. Nielsen had previously worked as Kelly’s chief of staff when he ran the Department of Homeland Security, and he was largely responsible for her getting the top role. “Trump has told aides that he is aware that forcing out Ms. Nielsen may result in Mr. Kelly quitting,” the Journal reported. Trump has long been frustrated with Nielsen over what he says is ineffective policy at the U.S.-Mexico border.
Another reason Kelly may soon be gone is that he has reportedly clashed with Melania Trump. “Kelly has also gotten on the wrong side of Melania Trump over staffing issues and travel requests. Some of the disputes with the East Wing have escalated to the president,” NBC reported. Kelly has also had disagreements with the Trump family members with formal roles in the West Wing; NBC reported that Kelly has long had “tensions” with the president’s daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner.
The first lady and her staff aren’t afraid to throw their weight around internally, even going after a staff member of Kelly’s rival, national security adviser John Bolton. Melania’s spokesperson Stephanie Grisham told reporters today in a statement, “It is the position of the Office of the First Lady that [Mira Ricardel] no longer deserves the honor of serving in this White House.”
Ricardel, a Bolton deputy, “had a series of run-ins with the first lady’s office,” NBC reported, and the Journal reported that during Melania’s recent Africa trip, there was a dispute between Ricardel and the first lady’s staff “over seating on the plane and requests to use National Security Council resources.” Bloomberg reported that “Ricardel was upset the first lady’s team didn’t have room for her on the plane for Africa trip, and tried to block NSC resources for the trip,” and that Kelly ultimately took Melania’s side. Maybe that will save the chief of staff in the end.