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.
READ MORE: Mira Ricardel out as Trump’s deputy national security adviser after Melania feud
“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.
WATCH: Melania Trump says she doesn’t always agree with president
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.
On Tuesday, the East Wing issued a terse and head-snapping statement about Ricardel: “It is the position of the Office of the First Lady that she no longer deserves the honor of serving in this White House.”
A day later, Ricardel was gone from the White House.
READ MORE: White House aide’s job in jeopardy after Melania Trump issues scathing statement
The statement from Mrs. Trump’s office caught some senior White House officials by surprise. A White House official who was not authorized to speak publicly said there was a widespread feeling that the highly public spat reflected poorly on the West and East wings, reinforcing the idea that the administration is volatile and making the first lady look vengeful.
Both President Trump’s spokeswoman and National Security Adviser John Bolton issued glowing statements about Ricardel. The White House insisted she would move into a new administration role, though it was not clear what that position would be. Privately, insiders acknowledged that there was no way for Ricardel to stay in the West Wing once the first lady made her feelings known.
As the week closed, it appeared clear that the situation had heightened already fraught tensions between the two wings of the White House, with senior officials from Chief of Staff John Kelly and Bolton on down unhappy with how Ricardel, a Trump loyalist, was treated.
WATCH: Melania Trump says she’s one of the ‘most bullied people in the world’
Mrs. Trump is considered an influential adviser to her husband. In an ABC News interview last month, she 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 added, “some people, they don’t work there anymore.”
Asked if some untrustworthy people still worked in the White House, Mrs. Trump replied, “Yes.”
The first lady has consistently pushed the boundaries of what is an entirely voluntary role. She opted to stay in New York for the first months of the administration so that the couple’s son Barron could conclude the school year and she has kept up a limited public schedule since arriving in Washington.
WATCH: Melania Trump dodges question on hat worn during Kenya safari
She has also taken pains to set herself apart from the rest of the White House and her husband. She launched an education campaign focused on bullying, despite the fact that the president is famed for verbal combat. She took an ambitious trip to Africa, not long after her husband was pilloried for labeling African nations as “s—hole countries.”
Clearly unafraid to make a deft pushback at times, the first lady’s office last summer put out a statement praising NBA superstar LeBron James’ charitable efforts after the president fired off a tweet questioning the basketball player’s intelligence. And when The New York Times reported that Trump was irate that his wife’s TV aboard Air Force One was tuned to CNN, her office issued a statement saying Mrs. Trump watches “any channel she wants.”
As for the matter of fighting cyberbullying when her husband gets rapped for his cyber habits, the first lady told an online safety conference on Thursday that “It is not news or surprising to me that critics and the media have chosen to ridicule me for speaking out on this issue, and that’s OK.”
READ MORE: Melania Trump, Michael Jordan praise LeBron James after Donald Trump insults him
Before her husband reversed himself and put a halt to family separations at the border, Mrs. Trump’s office put out a statement saying the first lady “hates” to see families separated and expressing hope that “both sides of the aisle” can reform the nation’s immigration laws.
Mrs. Trump then drew attention for heading to Texas to visit migrant children at the southern border in a jacket emblazoned with the words “I don’t really care. Do U?” She later told ABC News that she wore the jacket “for the people and for the left-wing media who are criticizing me. And I want to show them that I don’t care.”
The first lady this week also made it clear she doesn’t need outside help carving out her role in the White House, after her predecessor Michelle Obama said that Mrs. Trump had never called her for advice or help in the job.
“Mrs. Trump is a strong and independent woman who has been navigating her role as first lady in her own way,” spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham wrote via email. “When she needs advice on any issue, she seeks it from her professional team within the White House.”
Catholic Bishops react to military coup in Mali
Contrary to the expectations of the people, the leadership of the Episcopal Conference of Mali (CEM) has termed the Tuesday, August 18 military coup in the West African nation as “regrettable” and “a big failure for our democracy” and called for a change of mentality if the country has to put an end to coups.
In an interview with ACI Africa Wednesday, August 19, made available to RECOWACERAO NEWS AGENCY, RECONA, the President of CEM, Bishop Jonas Dembélé said that the governance challenges the country is facing can be managed through dialogue.
“The military coup that led to the ousting of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta is regrettable because we are in a state of law and democracy. This is the second time that Mali has had a military coup as a result of the way in which the country is governed. It is a big failure for our democracy even if there were reasons for it,” Bishop Dembélé told ACI Africa.
“It is true that our country has serious challenges including bad governance, the poor management of the economy, corruption, insecurity and so on,” Bishop Dembélé said and probed, “Why is it that we Malians have not managed to engage in dialogue to be able to discuss these problems and face up to these challenges responsibly?”
“Our leaders, our people lack transparency, they hate those who speak the truth and advocate for good governance. This mentality must change for our country to move on,” the Prelate told ACI Africa August 19.
Bishop Dembélé who is a frontline member of RECOWA-CERAO urged the military officials “to ensure a return to democracy as promised but most especially ensuring the new leadership of the country put the people first and tackle the security challenges facing the nation.”
Asked about the role of the Church in the current crisis, the 57-year-old Prelate noted, “For us the Catholic Church in Mali, our role is to preach peace; our role is to preach dialogue. We shall continue in this path of dialogue for peace just like Cardinal Jean Zerbo and some religious leaders initiated.”
“In a state of law, power is not in the hands of certain individuals but to the people. The anger of our people led to this crisis, but we must work for peace and reconciliation in Mali,” Bishop Dembélé said.
He continued in recollections, “The Bishops in Mali have always issued messages before every election in our country sounding the alert and inviting the government to organize transparent elections, ensure good governance and better management of resources.”
“But it seems our messages are never taken into consideration that is why we find ourselves in this situation today,” the Local Ordinary of Kayes Diocese told ACI Africa and added, “If the opinion of the Episcopal Conference of Mali is needed to mediate in bringing back stability and peace in the country, then we are ready.”
As a way forward, the Bishop urged the people of God in Mali to “seek the path to conversion” and to accept dialogue in the spirit of truth and honesty.
“We all want change in our
country, but this change can only be possible if individually we seek the path to conversion. It is for Malians be they Muslims or Christians or members of traditional religion, to do an examination of conscience and accept personal and community conversion in order to engage in sincere dialogue,” he said.
The Malian Prelate added, “Now there is this coup d’état to demand change we really wonder where change should come from. As long as we don’t change our behavior, our mentality, we will always have a repeat of the current situation.”
On Tuesday, August 18, President Keita announced his resignation and dissolved parliament hours after mutinying soldiers detained him at gunpoint, Aljazeera reported.
“For seven years, I have with great joy and happiness tried to put this country on its feet. If today some people from the armed forces have decided to end it by their intervention, do I have a choice? I should submit to it because I do not want any blood to be shed,” President Keita said August 18 during the televised address to the nation.
Rev. Fr. George Nwachukwu
RECOWACERAO NEWS AGENCY, RECONA
Harris accepts VP nomination
Senator Kamala Harris formally accepted the Democratic nomination for vice president on Wednesday following a scathing speech by former President Barack Obama, who said the fate of the nation” depends entirely on the outcome of this election.”
Both Mr. Obama and Harris stressed the importance of voting, with Harris saying “we’re all in this fight together.” Harris sounded an optimistic note by highlighting her personal history and the promise of America, saying she was “so inspired by a new generation.”
“Make no mistake, the road ahead will not be not easy,” she said. “We will stumble. We may fall short. But I pledge to you that we will act boldly and deal with our challenges honestly. We will speak truths. And we will act with the same faith in you that we ask you to place in us.” She called Mr. Trump a “predator” in a speech that came after Mr. Obama issued his most forceful rebuke of his successor to date, saying Mr. Trump “hasn’t grown into the job because he can’t.”
“This president and those in power — those who benefit from keeping things the way they are — they are counting on your cynicism,” Mr. Obama said. “They know they can’t win you over with their policies. So they’re hoping to make it as hard as possible for you to vote, and to convince you that your vote doesn’t matter.
That’s how they win. That’s how they get to keep making decisions that affect your life, and the lives of the people you love. That’s how the economy will keep getting skewed to the wealthy and well-connected, how our health systems will let more people fall through the cracks. That’s how a democracy withers, until it’s no democracy at all.”
Mr. Obama and Hillary Clinton, speaking earlier in the night, both said they had hoped Mr. Trump would rise to the occasion. But they both stressed what they called his failures while in office, with Mr. Obama saying Mr. Trump has shown “no interest in treating the presidency as anything but one more reality show that he can use to get the attention he craves.”
Mali coup leaders vow to hold elections as history repeats itself
The Malian soldiers who forced President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita to resign in a coup promised early Wednesday to organize new elections after their takeover was swiftly condemned by the international community.
In a statement carried overnight on state broadcaster ORTM, the mutinous soldiers who staged Tuesday’s military coup identified themselves as the National Committee for the Salvation of the People led by Colonel Major Ismael Wagué.
“With you, standing as one, we can restore this country to its former greatness,” Wagué said, announcing that borders were closed and that a curfew was going into effect from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m
The news of Keita’s departure was met with jubilation by anti-government demonstrators in the capital, Bamako, and alarm by former colonial ruler France and other allies and foreign nations.
The U.N. Security Council scheduled a closed meeting Wednesday August 19, 2020 afternoon to discuss the unfolding situation in Mali, where the U.N. has a 15,600-strong peacekeeping mission. Keita, who was democratically elected in a 2013 landslide and re-elected five years later, still had three years left in his term.
But his popularity had plummeted, and demonstrators began taking to the streets calling for his ouster in June.
West African regional bloc ECOWAS had sent mediators to try and negotiate a unity government but those talks fell apart when it became clear that the protesters would not accept less than Keita’s resignation.
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