• Trump aide ousted by first lady says service was 'an honor'

    By: ZEKE MILLER, Associated Press

    Updated:
    WASHINGTON (AP) - A White House aide pushed out by first lady Melania Trump said Thursday that it had been "an honor" to serve in President Donald Trump's administration and that she admires the first family.

    Mira Ricardel, the deputy national security adviser, departed the White House on Wednesday, a day after the first lady's office issued an extraordinary statement calling for her ouster.

    "I admire the President and First Lady and have great respect for my colleagues who are dedicated to supporting the President's policies," Ricardel said in a statement to The Associated Press. "I admire the President and First Lady and have great respect for my colleagues who are dedicated to supporting the President's policies, and I look forward to working with them in the months ahead."

    Ricardel was said to have clashed with the first lady's staff over her trip to Africa last month. Aides had said Ricardel had pushed for a seat to be reserved on the first lady's plane for a National Security Council representative to brief her during the trip.

    A White House official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive internal matter, said Ricardel never met the first lady and dismissed reports that Ricardel was trying to secure a seat for herself on the first lady's trip.

    On Tuesday, Stephanie Grisham, the first lady's spokeswoman, released a statement saying: "It is the position of the Office of the First Lady that she no longer deserves the honor of serving in this White House."

    The East Wing statement caught senior White House officials by surprise, and White House aides were frustrated with how Ricardel, a Trump loyalist and one of the highest-ranking women in the administration, was being treated. As the statement was issued, Ricardel was standing, smiling, alongside President Donald Trump at an event in the Roosevelt Room.

    An ally of national security adviser John Bolton, Ricardel began her service in the Trump administration as associate director in the White House Office of Presidential Personnel, then moved to the Commerce Department last year. Bolton brought her into the West Wing shortly after he took the job in April.

    Bolton told staff in an email Thursday that he appreciated Ricardel's service. He is traveling in Asia this week alongside Vice President Mike Pence.

    "I am deeply grateful for all Mira has done on behalf of the NSC, her deep knowledge of the national security issues we confront daily, and her unwavering commitment to the President," Bolton told staff.

    Trump's White House has set records for administration turnover. Ricardel was the third person to hold the post under Trump.

    Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Wednesday that Ricardel will "transition to a new role within the Administration." It was not yet clear what her new position would be.

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