President Trump is mulling a high-level cabinet shakeup, with White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen potentially on the chopping block, as reported by the Wall Street Journal. Kelly was at the center of a high-profile blowup with John Bolton at the White House a few weeks ago, reportedly in defense of Nielsen, who is close to Kelly and had received criticism by other members of the Trump administration for her handling of the South American immigrant caravan.
White House officials have said that President Trump has already decided to replace Nielsen but is waiting to determine a suitable replacement before making the change. President Trump’s aides have acknowledged that the president understands that removing Nielsen may prompt the resignation of Kelly. Should that come to pass, President Trump has Nick Ayers, who is the Chief of Staff for Mike Pence, in mind to replace Kelly. However, many within the administration are opposed to the selection of Ayers, with several advisers reportedly urging the president not to chose Ayers during the flight from Paris to Washington.
Publicly, President Trump has declined to comment on any potential changes. “We’ll be talking about it,” he told reporters at the White House on Tuesday afternoon.
“This is how the president works,” one White House official said. “He’s doused a bunch of people in gasoline and he’s waiting for someone to light a match.”
One change that President Trump has already made is the removal of Deputy National Security Adviser Mira Ricardel, who reportedly has a contentious relationship with first lady Melania Trump. Melania Trump allegedly clashed with Ricardel during her recent trip to Africa over issues as trivial as seating on a plane to as serious as Ricardel’s refusal to allow the use of National Security Council resources. Melania Trump’s team also believes that Ricardel is the source of some of the negative stories about the first lady and her staff.
The first lady is not the only combative relationship that Ricardel has had within the Trump administration. She also clashed with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, former National Security Council Chief of Staff Fred Fleitz as well as Chief of Staff John Kelly. Kelly has allegedly pushed National Security Adviser John Bolton to replace Ricardel for weeks. President Trump finally decided to remove Ricardel from the administration at the urging of the first lady during his trip to Paris last week.
Aside from his disagreement with Bolton on the subject of the migrant caravan, Kelly also clashed with President Trump on the issue. Kelly supported Nielsen’s suggestion to get the United Nations involved and became frustrated when President Trump suggested having his son-in-law Jared Kushner become involved in negotiations with Mexico to try to stop the caravan.