Trump’s surprise cost-cutting target: The first lady’s staff

As President Donald Trump searches for ways to cut costs at the White House, he has set his sights on the first lady’s office.

Trump is considering reducing the number of jobs in that office, which has grown to up to 20 employees in recent administrations, according to three people with knowledge of the situation who were not authorized to speak publicly about the deliberations.

Anita McBride, who served in the last three Republican White Houses, including as chief of staff to former first lady Laura Bush, said any potential cutbacks might be consistent with the limited number of projects that first lady Melania Trump had indicated she wanted to pursue.

“There is no right way or wrong way to do it,” said McBride, who is executive in residence at the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies at American University in Washington. “There’s no statutory authority for the first lady. You write the job description as you come in.”

Melania Trump has been slow to staff her East Wing office as she continues to live in New York with their 10-year-old son, Barron, while he finishes the school year. She was in Washington on Friday for the first time since the inauguration Jan. 20 for the visit of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

As of this week, she had hired only a chief of staff and a social secretary, who oversees hundreds of events, big and small, from bill signings to lavish state dinners.

By contrast, at least four recent first ladies — Michelle Obama, Laura Bush, Barbara Bush and Nancy Reagan — had filled these positions and more well before Inauguration Day.

“I am putting together a professional and highly experienced team which will take time to do properly,” Melania Trump said in a statement announcing her chief of staff.

On his first day in office, Trump implemented a hiring freeze for the entire federal government except the military to make good on a campaign pledge to save taxpayers money.