It was a remarkable moment, even for a white house that repeatedly made comparisons with a reality TV program.
Melania Trump, who has kept a relatively low profile as first lady, has this week expressed a staggering reprimand from one of Donald Trump's main national security officials, who publicly called for her resignation.
The assistant in question, Mira Ricardel, was the deputy of John Bolton, the national security advisor of the president, since April. The tension between Ricardel and the first lady's staff was maturing for weeks after a series of disputes during Melania Trump's visit to Africa last month.
The feud was dramatically visualized on Tuesday evening when Stephanie Grisham, the spokeswoman for the first woman, told reporters: "It is the position of the First Lady Office that she no longer deserves the honor of living in this White House. to serve. "
The statement quickly caused a media firestorm, at a time when the Trump government braced itself for a major upheaval in the aftermath of a bruise for the president and his party in last weeks' midterm elections.
But it also meant a crucial moment for Melania Trump, who, despite largely distance from the public eye, showed a rare willingness to test her influence from the offices of the East Wing.
Although Nancy Reagan scandalously orchestrated the removal of the staff of her husband Ronald Reagan, Don Regan, few political observers could recall a similar case in which a first lady blended so openly into the West Wing business.
"It is unprecedented that a first lady makes a statement in which she demands that her husband fires someone, which is overwhelming," said Kate Andersen Brower, author of First Women: The Grace and Power of America's Modern First Ladies, a book that investigates presidential spouses.
"I also find it strange, because if you have real power as first lady, you do not have to be so transparent, it's called kissing and your influence is behind closed doors."
The cracks started during the first trip abroad of Melania Trump, which last month was the first lady, which meant stops in Ghana, Malawi, Kenya and Egypt. Her staff collided quickly with Ricardel, who threatened to withhold the resources of the National Security Council for the trip, according to sources familiar with the case. Ricardel was reportedly frustrated by the lack of seats for her or NSC staff on Melania Trump's government plane – causing mutual consternation, even after the first lady returned to the US.
But Ricardel, a force in the Trump administration, had few allies. She also hit heads with the Chief of Staff of the White House, John Kelly, and the defense department, Jim Mattis. Some in the White House believed that Ricardel was responsible for leaking non-flattering stories about the Trump administration. Only Bolton, who was traveling with Vice President Mike Pence during the resignation of Ricardel, remained in her corner.
Ricardel officially left the White House on Wednesday, one day after Melania Trump's statement sent shock waves over Washington.
The first lady has been a source of fascination since the inauguration of Trump, initially chosen to stay in New York, while the son of the couple, Barron, ended his school year.
The presence of Melania Trump was so scarce in the first months of Trump's presidency that the media his daughter and senior adviser, Ivanka Trump, the de facto first lady & # 39; called.
Even since she settled in the White House, Melania Trump has avoided the limelight. She seldom gave an interview, performed limited public appearances and, unlike the former first lady Michelle Obama, she still has to talk during the day or late at night to catch a glimpse of the private life of her family.
"She is so private that she is withdrawn," says Andersen Brower.
The signature of Melania Trump as first lady is demonstrably "Be Best", a campaign aimed at raising awareness about bullying and promoting the well-being of young people. But the project is often ridiculed because some say it is the inherent hypocrisy, given her husband's predilection for bullying and belittling political opponents and others.
Sometimes Melania Trump embraces the controversy that so often affects the current government, if not fired.
In June the first lady harvested the headlines for wearing a jacket with the text & # 39; It really does not matter to me, do I do? & # 39; During a visit to children separated from their parents on the border between the US and Mexico, under the immigration policy of her husband with a "zero-tolerance" policy. Melania Trump had previously distanced herself from her husband's policies and at least publicly disagreed with the president's approach at least a few times.
Her attempt to remove Ricardel seemed a new attempt to force the president's hand, although Melania Trump never met the NSC assistant in person.
Lost in the story was the importance of Ricardel's role in shaping the agenda for Trump's foreign policy – and strengthened how abnormal it was for a first lady to intervene.
"It is not hyperbolic to say that it is one of the most crucial and indispensable functions within the national security bureaucracy," said Ned Price, who served with the employees of Barack Obama's National Security Council.
"That person is responsible for first developing and then guiding the foreign policy of the president and the national security agenda and responsibilities, from the senior work level all the way to the Oval Office.
"To expel someone in this way, it is a sign of dysfunction, it is a sign of chaos, it is a sign of the quality of soap opera in this White House," he added. "But there will be real consequences for our national security process given the crucial role this person would have played."
In a rare interview with ABC News last month, Melania Trump confessed some of those who worked for her husband.
"It is more difficult to govern," she said, noting that she occasionally issued a warning to Trump: "You should always keep your backs in mind."