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GOP Legislatures Look to Curb Democratic Governors’ Power

With their grip on power set to loosen come January, Republicans in several states are considering last-ditch laws that would weaken existing or incoming Democratic governors and advance their own conservative agendas.

In Michigan, where the GOP has held the levers of power for nearly eight years, Republican legislators want to water down a minimum wage law they approved before the election so that it would not go to voters and would now be easier to amend.

Republicans in neighboring Wisconsin are discussing ways to dilute Democrat Tony Evers’ power before he takes over for GOP Gov. Scott Walker.

And in North Carolina, Republicans may try to hash out the requirements of a new voter ID constitutional amendment before they lose their legislative supermajorities and their ability to unilaterally override vetoes by Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper.

Republicans downplay the tactics and point out that Democrats have also run lame-duck sessions, including in Wisconsin in 2010 before Walker took office and the GOP took control of the Legislature. But some of the steps Republicans are expected to take will almost surely be challenged in court, and critics say such maneuvers undermine the political system and the will of the people, who voted for change. 

“It’s something that smacks every Michigan voter in the face and tells them that this Republican Party doesn’t care about their voice, their perspective,” House Democratic Leader Sam Singh said of the strategizing to control the fate of minimum wage increases and paid sick leave requirements.​

​Statewide sweeps

The moves would follow midterm elections in which Democrats swept statewide offices in Michigan and Wisconsin for the first time in decades but fell short of taking over their gerrymandered legislatures. That gives Republicans a final shot to lock in new policies, with Democrats unable to undo them anytime soon.

Michigan’s new minimum wage and sick time laws began as ballot drives but because they were preemptively adopted by lawmakers in September rather than by voters, they can be altered with simple majority votes rather than the support of three-fourths of both chambers.

One measure would gradually raise the minimum wage to $12 an hour and increase a lower wage for tipped workers until it is in line with the minimum. The other would require that employees qualify for between 40 and 72 hours of paid sick leave, depending on the size of their employer.

It is unclear how the laws may be changed to appease an anxious business lobby. The Michigan Chamber of Commerce says mandatory sick time, 10 other states also require it, will place “severe compliance burdens” on employers, including those with paid leave policies currently in place. The group also is urging lawmakers to “be pragmatic, not extreme” and revisit the wage hikes that would make Michigan’s minimum the highest in the Midwest.

Republicans seem unfazed by criticism that scaling back the measures would thwart the will of voters who resoundingly elected Democrat Gretchen Whitmer to replace GOP Gov. Rick Snyder, who reached his term limit. The Michigan Senate’s majority leader, Arlan Meekhof, said changes to the laws are needed to “continue to keep our economy on track and not put a roadblock or hindrance” in the way of businesses.

Lame-duck sessions

Lame-duck sessions, which are commonplace in Congress but rare among many state legislatures, are frenetic, as legislators rush to consider bills that are controversial or were put on the back burner during election season. Michigan’s 2012 session, for example, produced right-to-work laws and a contentious revised emergency manager statute for cities in financial peril, despite voters having just repealed the previous law.

The lame-duck period may be especially intense this year in Michigan and Wisconsin because they are among just four states in which Republicans are losing full control the governorship and both legislative chambers. Lawmakers in the other two states, Kansas and New Hampshire, will not convene until next year.

Six states with a split government now will be fully controlled by Democrats in 2019, and Alaska will be fully controlled by Republicans.

On GOP agendas

Wisconsin Republicans plan to consider a variety of ways to protect laws enacted by Walker. Those include limiting Evers’ ability to make appointments, restricting his authority over the rule-making process and making it more difficult for him to block a work requirement for Medicaid recipients. They might also change the date of the 2020 presidential primary so that a Walker-appointed state Supreme Court justice has better odds to win election.

In North Carolina, GOP legislators may use the session for more than approving additional bipartisan Hurricane Florence relief. They are expected to implement a voter photo ID requirement passed this month by the electorate and to consider other legislation that the Democratic governor would be powerless to stop until Republicans can no longer easily override his vetoes come 2019.

Two years ago, they reduced Cooper’s powers before he took office. He successfully sued over a law that diminished his role in managing elections. Other suits remain pending.

Michigan’s outgoing governor, Snyder, hasn’t weighed in on the plan to amend the minimum wage and sick leave laws, which would require his signature, unlike when they were passed. He is trying to persuade his fellow Republicans to boost and add new fees for environmental cleanup and water infrastructure upgrades, and he wants the Legislature to help facilitate a deal to drill an oil pipeline tunnel beneath the Straits of Mackinac. The agreement is opposed by Whitmer and the state’s Democratic Attorney General-elect, Dana Nessel.

Supporters of the existing wage and sick time laws have been mobilizing to keep them intact. MI Time to Care, the campaign backing guaranteed paid time off for workers who are sick or need to stay home with an ill family member, launched ads, mailed postcards and went door to door before the election reminding people of their rights under the law that is scheduled to take effect in March.

Chairwoman Danielle Atkinson said the sick leave proposal would have been approved in a “landslide” if it had been on the ballot.

“It’s clearly why the Legislature moved to pass it, and now they should uphold it as the promise that they made to the voters,” she said.

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GOP Legislatures Look to Curb Democratic Governors’ Power

With their grip on power set to loosen come January, Republicans in several states are considering last-ditch laws that would weaken existing or incoming Democratic governors and advance their own conservative agendas.

In Michigan, where the GOP has held the levers of power for nearly eight years, Republican legislators want to water down a minimum wage law they approved before the election so that it would not go to voters and would now be easier to amend.

Republicans in neighboring Wisconsin are discussing ways to dilute Democrat Tony Evers’ power before he takes over for GOP Gov. Scott Walker.

And in North Carolina, Republicans may try to hash out the requirements of a new voter ID constitutional amendment before they lose their legislative supermajorities and their ability to unilaterally override vetoes by Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper.

Republicans downplay the tactics and point out that Democrats have also run lame-duck sessions, including in Wisconsin in 2010 before Walker took office and the GOP took control of the Legislature. But some of the steps Republicans are expected to take will almost surely be challenged in court, and critics say such maneuvers undermine the political system and the will of the people, who voted for change. 

“It’s something that smacks every Michigan voter in the face and tells them that this Republican Party doesn’t care about their voice, their perspective,” House Democratic Leader Sam Singh said of the strategizing to control the fate of minimum wage increases and paid sick leave requirements.​

​Statewide sweeps

The moves would follow midterm elections in which Democrats swept statewide offices in Michigan and Wisconsin for the first time in decades but fell short of taking over their gerrymandered legislatures. That gives Republicans a final shot to lock in new policies, with Democrats unable to undo them anytime soon.

Michigan’s new minimum wage and sick time laws began as ballot drives but because they were preemptively adopted by lawmakers in September rather than by voters, they can be altered with simple majority votes rather than the support of three-fourths of both chambers.

One measure would gradually raise the minimum wage to $12 an hour and increase a lower wage for tipped workers until it is in line with the minimum. The other would require that employees qualify for between 40 and 72 hours of paid sick leave, depending on the size of their employer.

It is unclear how the laws may be changed to appease an anxious business lobby. The Michigan Chamber of Commerce says mandatory sick time, 10 other states also require it, will place “severe compliance burdens” on employers, including those with paid leave policies currently in place. The group also is urging lawmakers to “be pragmatic, not extreme” and revisit the wage hikes that would make Michigan’s minimum the highest in the Midwest.

Republicans seem unfazed by criticism that scaling back the measures would thwart the will of voters who resoundingly elected Democrat Gretchen Whitmer to replace GOP Gov. Rick Snyder, who reached his term limit. The Michigan Senate’s majority leader, Arlan Meekhof, said changes to the laws are needed to “continue to keep our economy on track and not put a roadblock or hindrance” in the way of businesses.

Lame-duck sessions

Lame-duck sessions, which are commonplace in Congress but rare among many state legislatures, are frenetic, as legislators rush to consider bills that are controversial or were put on the back burner during election season. Michigan’s 2012 session, for example, produced right-to-work laws and a contentious revised emergency manager statute for cities in financial peril, despite voters having just repealed the previous law.

The lame-duck period may be especially intense this year in Michigan and Wisconsin because they are among just four states in which Republicans are losing full control the governorship and both legislative chambers. Lawmakers in the other two states, Kansas and New Hampshire, will not convene until next year.

Six states with a split government now will be fully controlled by Democrats in 2019, and Alaska will be fully controlled by Republicans.

On GOP agendas

Wisconsin Republicans plan to consider a variety of ways to protect laws enacted by Walker. Those include limiting Evers’ ability to make appointments, restricting his authority over the rule-making process and making it more difficult for him to block a work requirement for Medicaid recipients. They might also change the date of the 2020 presidential primary so that a Walker-appointed state Supreme Court justice has better odds to win election.

In North Carolina, GOP legislators may use the session for more than approving additional bipartisan Hurricane Florence relief. They are expected to implement a voter photo ID requirement passed this month by the electorate and to consider other legislation that the Democratic governor would be powerless to stop until Republicans can no longer easily override his vetoes come 2019.

Two years ago, they reduced Cooper’s powers before he took office. He successfully sued over a law that diminished his role in managing elections. Other suits remain pending.

Michigan’s outgoing governor, Snyder, hasn’t weighed in on the plan to amend the minimum wage and sick leave laws, which would require his signature, unlike when they were passed. He is trying to persuade his fellow Republicans to boost and add new fees for environmental cleanup and water infrastructure upgrades, and he wants the Legislature to help facilitate a deal to drill an oil pipeline tunnel beneath the Straits of Mackinac. The agreement is opposed by Whitmer and the state’s Democratic Attorney General-elect, Dana Nessel.

Supporters of the existing wage and sick time laws have been mobilizing to keep them intact. MI Time to Care, the campaign backing guaranteed paid time off for workers who are sick or need to stay home with an ill family member, launched ads, mailed postcards and went door to door before the election reminding people of their rights under the law that is scheduled to take effect in March.

Chairwoman Danielle Atkinson said the sick leave proposal would have been approved in a “landslide” if it had been on the ballot.

“It’s clearly why the Legislature moved to pass it, and now they should uphold it as the promise that they made to the voters,” she said.

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Democrats Take Southern California GOP Stronghold

Democrat Gil Cisneros captured a Republican-held U.S. House seat in Southern California on Saturday, capping a Democratic rout in which the party picked up six congressional seats in the state.

In what had been the last undecided House contest in California, Cisneros beat Republican Young Kim for the state’s 39th District seat. The Cisneros victory cements a stunning political realignment that will leave a vast stretch of the Los Angeles metropolitan area under Democratic control in the House.

With Kim’s defeat, four Republican-held House districts all or partly in Orange County, California, a one-time nationally known GOP stronghold southeast of Los Angeles, will have shifted in one election to the Democratic column. The change means that the county — Richard Nixon’s birthplace and site of his presidential library — will only have Democrats representing its residents in Washington next year.

Democrats also recently picked up the last Republican-held House seat anchored in Los Angeles County, when Democrat Katie Hill ousted Republican Rep. Steve Knight.

With other gains, Republicans also lost a seat in the agricultural Central Valley, Democrats will hold a 45-8 edge in California U.S. House seats next year.

The district was one of seven targeted by Democrats across California after Hillary Clinton carried them in the 2016 presidential election.

​Kim couldn’t shake Trump

Cisneros, 47, a $266 million lottery jackpot winner, had been locked in a close race with Kim in a district that has grown increasingly diverse. It’s about equally divided between Republicans, Democrats and independents, as it is with Asians, Hispanics and whites.

Kim, 55, a former state legislator, worked for years for retiring Republican Rep. Ed Royce, who is vacating the seat and had endorsed her.

In a state where President Donald Trump is unpopular, Kim sought to create distance with the White House on trade and health care. Her immigrant background — and gender — made her stand out in a political party whose leaders in Washington are mostly older white men.

“I’m a different kind of candidate,” she had said.

It wasn’t enough. Democratic ads depicted her as a Trump underling, eager to carry out his agenda.

Cisneros first-time candidate

Cisneros, a first-time candidate, described his interest in Congress as an extension of his time in the military — he said it was about public service. He runs a charitable foundation with his wife.

On health care, he talked about his mother who went without insurance for 16 years.

“That should just not happen in this country,” he had said.

While the election delivered mixed results around the U.S., it affirmed California’s reputation as a Democratic fortress.

Democrats are on track to hold every statewide office — again. The party holds a supermajority in both chambers of the Legislature and a 3.7-million advantage in voter registration.

There wasn’t even a Republican on the ballot for U.S. Senate.

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Democrats Take Southern California GOP Stronghold

Democrat Gil Cisneros captured a Republican-held U.S. House seat in Southern California on Saturday, capping a Democratic rout in which the party picked up six congressional seats in the state.

In what had been the last undecided House contest in California, Cisneros beat Republican Young Kim for the state’s 39th District seat. The Cisneros victory cements a stunning political realignment that will leave a vast stretch of the Los Angeles metropolitan area under Democratic control in the House.

With Kim’s defeat, four Republican-held House districts all or partly in Orange County, California, a one-time nationally known GOP stronghold southeast of Los Angeles, will have shifted in one election to the Democratic column. The change means that the county — Richard Nixon’s birthplace and site of his presidential library — will only have Democrats representing its residents in Washington next year.

Democrats also recently picked up the last Republican-held House seat anchored in Los Angeles County, when Democrat Katie Hill ousted Republican Rep. Steve Knight.

With other gains, Republicans also lost a seat in the agricultural Central Valley, Democrats will hold a 45-8 edge in California U.S. House seats next year.

The district was one of seven targeted by Democrats across California after Hillary Clinton carried them in the 2016 presidential election.

​Kim couldn’t shake Trump

Cisneros, 47, a $266 million lottery jackpot winner, had been locked in a close race with Kim in a district that has grown increasingly diverse. It’s about equally divided between Republicans, Democrats and independents, as it is with Asians, Hispanics and whites.

Kim, 55, a former state legislator, worked for years for retiring Republican Rep. Ed Royce, who is vacating the seat and had endorsed her.

In a state where President Donald Trump is unpopular, Kim sought to create distance with the White House on trade and health care. Her immigrant background — and gender — made her stand out in a political party whose leaders in Washington are mostly older white men.

“I’m a different kind of candidate,” she had said.

It wasn’t enough. Democratic ads depicted her as a Trump underling, eager to carry out his agenda.

Cisneros first-time candidate

Cisneros, a first-time candidate, described his interest in Congress as an extension of his time in the military — he said it was about public service. He runs a charitable foundation with his wife.

On health care, he talked about his mother who went without insurance for 16 years.

“That should just not happen in this country,” he had said.

While the election delivered mixed results around the U.S., it affirmed California’s reputation as a Democratic fortress.

Democrats are on track to hold every statewide office — again. The party holds a supermajority in both chambers of the Legislature and a 3.7-million advantage in voter registration.

There wasn’t even a Republican on the ballot for U.S. Senate.

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Clock Ticks Toward Sunday Deadline for Florida Recounts

The Sunday deadline for the end of the Florida election recounts is approaching, with Republican Gov. Rick Scott continuing to hold a lead over Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson for a seat in the U.S. Senate. 

As of Saturday afternoon, Nelson trailed by about 12,000 votes, with no major changes expected. 

The Florida governor’s race was essentially decided after a machine recount Thursday resulted in a 0.4 percentage-point lead for Republican Ron DeSantis over Democrat Andrew Gillum, enough of a margin to avoid a hand recount. Florida law requires a hand recount if a machine count finds the margin of victory is less than 0.25 percent.

Gillum conceded the race Saturday afternoon, posting a video on Facebook in which he congratulated DeSantis on the win. DeSantis’ campaign did not immediately respond to the announcement.

Florida counties have until noon on Sunday to finish their hand recounts. The race for state agriculture commissioner between Democrat Nikki Fried and Republican Matt Caldwell also was undergoing a recount. 

On Friday, Stacey Abrams, the Democratic candidate in Georgia’s governor’s race, ended her challenge in the closely fought election but vowed to bring a lawsuit against what she called the state’s “gross mismanagement” of the vote. 

Abrams told a news conference on Friday, “Let’s be clear: This is not a speech of concession” to Republican Brian Kemp. She acknowledged, however, that she had no further recourse under the law to fight the election results.  

In accepting Abrams’ decision to end her campaign, Kemp said, “Hardworking Georgians are ready to move forward.” He praised Abrams’ “passion, hard work and commitment to public service.” 

The close race drew national attention in part because of Abrams’ effort to become the first African-American female U.S. governor. Election officials said voter turnout was nearly as high as it was in the 2016 presidential race. 

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Clock Ticks Toward Sunday Deadline for Florida Recounts

The Sunday deadline for the end of the Florida election recounts is approaching, with Republican Gov. Rick Scott continuing to hold a lead over Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson for a seat in the U.S. Senate. 

As of Saturday afternoon, Nelson trailed by about 12,000 votes, with no major changes expected. 

The Florida governor’s race was essentially decided after a machine recount Thursday resulted in a 0.4 percentage-point lead for Republican Ron DeSantis over Democrat Andrew Gillum, enough of a margin to avoid a hand recount. Florida law requires a hand recount if a machine count finds the margin of victory is less than 0.25 percent.

Gillum conceded the race Saturday afternoon, posting a video on Facebook in which he congratulated DeSantis on the win. DeSantis’ campaign did not immediately respond to the announcement.

Florida counties have until noon on Sunday to finish their hand recounts. The race for state agriculture commissioner between Democrat Nikki Fried and Republican Matt Caldwell also was undergoing a recount. 

On Friday, Stacey Abrams, the Democratic candidate in Georgia’s governor’s race, ended her challenge in the closely fought election but vowed to bring a lawsuit against what she called the state’s “gross mismanagement” of the vote. 

Abrams told a news conference on Friday, “Let’s be clear: This is not a speech of concession” to Republican Brian Kemp. She acknowledged, however, that she had no further recourse under the law to fight the election results.  

In accepting Abrams’ decision to end her campaign, Kemp said, “Hardworking Georgians are ready to move forward.” He praised Abrams’ “passion, hard work and commitment to public service.” 

The close race drew national attention in part because of Abrams’ effort to become the first African-American female U.S. governor. Election officials said voter turnout was nearly as high as it was in the 2016 presidential race. 

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Melania Trump’s Moment: First Lady Flexes Muscles in Big Way

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.”

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.”

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Melania Trump’s Moment: First Lady Flexes Muscles in Big Way

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.”

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.”

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Federal Judge Orders White House to Return Press Pass to CNN Reporter

A federal judge ordered the White House to temporarily reinstate a Cable News Network correspondent’s press credentials, marking what press freedom advocates say is a win for the news media. CNN filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration last week, after the White House revoked the credentials of a reporter who sparred with the president during a press conference. The case could have broad repercussions for First Amendment rights of journalists, as VOA’s Elizabeth Cherneff explains.

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Federal Judge Orders White House to Return Press Pass to CNN Reporter

A federal judge ordered the White House to temporarily reinstate a Cable News Network correspondent’s press credentials, marking what press freedom advocates say is a win for the news media. CNN filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration last week, after the White House revoked the credentials of a reporter who sparred with the president during a press conference. The case could have broad repercussions for First Amendment rights of journalists, as VOA’s Elizabeth Cherneff explains.

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