President Trump is moving toward major shuffles of his cabinet and his West Wing staff, as members of the Trump family are working to leave a mark on personnel decisions after a bruising midterm election cycle, several people familiar with the discussions said on Tuesday.
Mr. Trump is almost certain to fire Kirstjen Nielsen, the secretary of homeland security who has long been a target of the president’s displeasure, three people close to the president said. Mr. Trump talked about dismissing Ms. Nielsen ahead of his trip to Paris for a World War I commemoration.
But inside the White House, removing Ms. Nielsen is also seen as a way for Mr. Trump to push out the White House chief of staff, John F. Kelly, without directly firing him. Nick Ayers, the chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence, has long been seen as a prospective replacement for Mr. Kelly if he leaves.
Another administration official, Mira Ricardel, a foreign policy hard-liner who had been serving as a deputy to the national security adviser, John R. Bolton, was expected to be dismissed, after the first lady, Melania Trump, complained about her to Mr. Kelly, according to a person familiar with the situation.
But in a highly unusual statement about West Wing personnel matters, a spokeswoman for the first lady, Stephanie Grisham, addressed Ms. Ricardel’s status. “It is the position of the Office of the First Lady that she no longer deserves the honor of serving in this White House,” Ms. Grisham said.
As for the chief of staff role, Mr. Ayers is favored by Mr. Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and daughter Ivanka Trump, both of whom serve as West Wing advisers. Mr. Trump’s oldest son, Donald Trump Jr., has told friends he sees Mr. Ayers as “competent,” a stamp the Trump family has not always affixed to people working for their father.
Mr. Ayers did not travel as originally planned with Mr. Pence on his official trip to Asia this week, two White House officials said. And another prospective chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, who already leads two agencies and who had been seen as campaigning for the West Wing job, has told aides he is no longer interested.