It turns out there is more than one Trump who can employ a few well-chosen words as a poison dart.

With a bombshell public statement this week, it was first lady Melania Trump who revealed her ability to carry out a political hit. Her extraordinary call for the removal of a top administration official forced the president to banish a top aide, exacerbated tensions within the White House and provided fresh insight into the first marriage.

Above all, the moment showed that the enigmatic first lady is increasingly prepared to flex her muscles. While it was President Donald Trump who repeatedly promised to shake up his Cabinet and staff, it was his wife who forced one of the first moves after the midterm elections. And while first ladies have long held unique positions of influence in the White House, Mrs. Trump’s very public power play was an unusual move befitting an unconventional White House.

“There have been similar activities on a less publicized scale, but it came out after the fact. We’ve never seen a first lady have her office make a public statement like that,” said Katherine Jellison, chair of the history department at Ohio University and an expert on first ladies. “It will be interesting to see if this is the new Melania.”

Jellison and others said the best comparison would be Nancy Reagan’s conflict with White House Chief of Staff Donald Regan. But while that clash eventually became well known, Mrs. Reagan never issued a public statement.

Mrs. Trump, who appeared with her husband Friday at a White House ceremony to honor Medal of Freedom honorees, did not address the controversy directly.

The target of Mrs. Trump’s ire was Deputy National Security Adviser Mira Ricardel, who was said to have clashed with East Wing staff over logistics for the first lady’s trip to Africa last month.

A White House official said Mrs. Trump’s staff spent weeks working through “proper channels” to seek Ricardel’s ouster but that the situation came to a head earlier this week after reporters learned of the friction between Ricardel and the East Wing and began asking questions. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal White House deliberations.

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