In an extraordinary move, Melania Trump called publicly Tuesday for the dismissal of a top White House National Security Council aide.
After reports circulated Tuesday that President Donald Trump had decided to remove Mira Ricardel from her post as deputy national security adviser, 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 honour of serving in this White House." Grisham offered no explanation.
Shortly before the statement came out, 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 that the first lady's office was out for blood after Mira Ricardel argued with the East Wing about seating assignments on Melania's plane ride to Africa and assistance from the National Security Council.
A top aide to National Security Advisor John Bolton, she is also a suspected leaker of negative information, sources told WSJ.
WSJ reported that she had been escorted out of the building later on Tuesday (US time).
But a senior White House official told DailyMail.com the claim was inaccurate.
"This did not happen. She is still here at the WH," the official said in an email.
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.
Mrs. Trump 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 her 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, she replied, "Yes."
President Trump is weighing an administration-wide shakeup as he looks to prepare his White House for divided government, with Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen expected to be among the next to go, perhaps as soon as this week.
Trump has soured on Nielsen and White House chief of staff John Kelly, in part over frustration that his administration is not doing more to address what he has called a crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border, according to two people with knowledge of the issue. But the scope of the contemplated changes is far broader, as Trump gears up for a wave of Democratic oversight requests and to devote more effort to his own re-election campaign.
According to people familiar with the situation, Trump is discussing replacing Kelly with Vice President Mike Pence's chief of staff, Nick Ayers. Kelly, a retired Marine general, has been credited with bringing order and process to a chaotic West Wing, but he has fallen out of favor with the president as well as presidential daughter Ivanka Trump and son-in-law Jared Kushner.
Ayers, a seasoned campaign operative, would restore a political-mindset to the role, but he faces stiff opposition from some corners of the West Wing, with some aides lobbying Trump directly against the move.
Others changes are afoot, as Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke are being discussed for replacement. As well as first lady Melania Trump's office called publicly for the firing of Trump's deputy national security adviser, Ricardel.
For all of the talk of churn, Trump often expresses frustration with aides and then does not take action. Talk of Kelly's exit has percolated for months and he remains in place.
Nielsen had hoped to complete one year in the job and leave in December, but it appeared unlikely she would last that long, said two sources. Both people who had knowledge of the debate spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to speak publicly.
Questions about Nielsen's job security are not new. Earlier this year, she pushed back on a New York Times report that she drafted a resignation letter but did not submit it, after Trump scolded her at a Cabinet meeting.
Nielsen has led the sprawling post-9/11 federal agency since December. She had been chief of staff to Kelly when he was Trump's first Homeland Security secretary. A DHS spokesman would not comment on whether she was leaving.
"The secretary is honoured to lead the men and women of DHS and is committed to implementing the president's security-focused agenda to protect Americans from all threats and will continue to do so," spokesman Tyler Houlton said.
The job requires Senate confirmation. Under Secretary for Management Claire Grady would be the acting head if Nielsen left.