Ms. Ricardel had announced the trip before it was fully planned, according to one of the people, and then threatened to pull resources for it after learning that she did not have a seat on Mrs. Trump’s plane. After the trip ended, Ms. Ricardel made accusations of inappropriate behavior by Mrs. Trump’s most trusted staff members, including Lindsay Reynolds, the first lady’s chief of staff — claims that a person close to the first lady said were false.
Mrs. Trump then complained to John F. Kelly, the White House chief of staff, about Ms. Ricardel, and Mr. Kelly raised the issue with Mr. Bolton, two White House officials said. Mr. Kelly is theoretically Mr. Bolton’s boss, but the national security adviser has so far refused to remove Ms. Ricardel, who was spotted in her office late Tuesday afternoon.
A fixture in Republican foreign policy circles, Ms. Ricardel has honed a reputation as a hawk on policy and as a hard-edge bureaucratic infighter. During the early 1990s, she advised Senator Bob Dole on the Balkans, drawing on her own Croatian background, and later worked for Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld in President George W. Bush’s administration.
After supporting Mr. Trump for president, she was named to head his Pentagon transition team. In that capacity, she clashed with Jim Mattis, Mr. Trump’s choice for secretary of defense, stopping him from hiring Anne Patterson as under secretary of defense for policy, and rejecting more than a dozen of Mr. Mattis’s other proposed nominees for that job.
Mr. Mattis, in turn, later tried to block Ms. Ricardel when she was considered for posts in the Trump administration, though she eventually served as under secretary of commerce for export administration before Mr. Bolton brought her to the National Security Council.
Ms. Ricardel, administration officials said, suspected Mr. Mattis of trying to load up the Pentagon with Democrats and supporters of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign. Not long after Ms. Ricardel’s arrival at the National Security Council, Mr. Trump went on CBS’s “60 Minutes” and said he believed that Mr. Mattis was a Democrat.
The drama surrounding Ms. Ricardel was the highlight of a day of rampant speculation about personnel moves that Mr. Trump might be contemplating.