The inscrutable Melania Trump

The former first lady has remained tight-lipped on her husband’s indictment over the Stormy Daniels case and did not appear by his side when he spoke after the arraignment

Melania Trump
Melania Trump, at an event at the White House, in Washington, on May 7, 2020.Chip Somodevilla (Getty Images)
María Antonia Sánchez-Vallejo

In 2006, Melania Trump had just given birth to Barron, her son with Donald Trump, when her husband — who at that point was just a real estate mogul and TV personality — crossed paths with Stephanie Clifford, the porn star known as Stormy Daniels. This was 10 years before Trump won the 2016 presidential election — a victory that came shortly after Stormy Daniels was paid hush money to keep quiet about the alleged affair, in a case which has led to the first ever indictment of a U.S. president. Since the indictment, Melania Trump has become the elephant in the room. While the 52-year-old has always been considered reserved, she has dropped out of sight in the heat of the scandal — a word that may define her husband, but is the antithesis of the former model’s character.

On April 4, when Trump, 76, gave a speech from his Florida home Mar-a-Lago after being arraigned in New York, Melania Trump was not by his side. Nor was his daughter Ivanka Trump. And the former U.S. president did not mention his wife in the acknowledgements. Melania did follow him to New York for the arraignment, but she flew down hours after Trump had already left. Her absence is notable because up until now she used to go to Trump’s rallies and had also been seen at a handful of public appearances, such as the funeral of her husband’s ex-wife Ivana Trump, and the wedding of her daughter-in-law Tiffany Trump.

There has been little other trace of Melania, who has traditionally been tight-lipped with the press. Since leaving the White House, the former first lady has only given one interview, which took place in May 2022 with Fox News, a network close to her husband. Nor has she been very active on social media, despite having two Twitter profiles — a personal one and one from her office. But in the wake of the Stormy Daniels case, there has been a groundswell of public interest, which is perhaps why Melania Trump retweeted this message from her office last Tuesday: “News organizations have made assumptions about the former First Lady’s stance on subjects that are personal, professional, and political over the past few weeks. In these articles, unnamed sources are cited to bolster the author’s claims.”

It continued: “We ask readers to exercise caution and good judgment when determining whether or not stories concerning the former First Lady are accurate, particularly when they fail to cite Mrs. Trump as a source of information.” Faced with the latest Trump scandal, Melania has opted for hermetic silence.

A lot is likely to be happening at Mar-a-Lago, where Melania and Donald Trump have been living since leaving the White House. In addition to the Stormy Daniels case, the former president is also under federal investigation for keeping classified documents at his Florida home, as well as other criminal and civil probes. On March 30 — just hours after the grand jury convened by the Manhattan district attorney voted to indict her husband — Melania Trump was hosting a dinner at the Mar-a-Lago estate. Donning a red dress, the former first lady was seen smiling and talking to guests at the event — an image Trump supporter and conservative media personality Gina Loudon was quick to share.

But other sources say the real drama is happening behind closed doors, although they are only able to provide vague details about what is already known: Melania is focused on 17-year-old Barron’s education and the wellbeing of her parents, who also live in Palm Beach.

Not much can be gleaned from Melania Trump’s social media accounts, which have never been very active. In the past few weeks, she has posted messages to celebrate Easter, encourage the use of technology among young people and mark International Women’s Day. “We are reminded that all women have unique gifts to share with the world, and we must lift each other up to achieve our collective goals and dreams,” she tweeted. Just three posts in a month, and not one which alludes to the Stormy Daniels scandal, which has been hanging over her since it came to light in 2018.

What has been like for Melania and little Barron to live in the shadow of a man who has boasted of objectifying women? There is surely enough there for a very long novel, but the former first lady has stayed mute. In the age of overexposure, her silence has been deafening. The public instead has had to latch on to well-known moments, such as when the Slovenia-born model refused to hold Trump’s hand. What else might happen if Trump, who is running in the Republican presidential primaries, is re-elected in 2024? Will the couple still be together by then? It was predicted that the two would break up when Trump left the White House, but this has not happened, at least not officially.

Donald and Melania Trump, at Ivana Trump's funeral in New York on July 20, 2022.
Donald and Melania Trump, at Ivana Trump's funeral in New York on July 20, 2022.James Devaney (GC Images)

While Gina Louden gushed about Melania and Donald Trump’s happiness, there are other versions of the couple’s life in Mar-a-Lago. People magazine spoke to a source who said the former first lady is angry and doesn’t want to hear any mention of the Stormy Daniels case. They added that Melania Trump has a limited group of friends and has little social life outside of family. “Melania’s friends are her family members,” the source told People. “Barron has always been a first priority in [Melania’s] life. Of course she is worried and concerned about the legal issues but she has not done anything more to protect Barron now than she ever did.”

“Melania is leading her own life, and still feels happy being at Mar-a-Lago, surrounded by people who love her and who never talk about reality, or bad things about her husband,” another source added.

In addition to Stormy Daniels, Trump is also accused of paying hush money to a Playboy model named Karen McDougal to keep quiet about an alleged affair and to a Trump Tower doorman after he claimed the former president had a child out of wedlock. The three payments — $130,000 to Daniels, $150,000 to McDougal and $30,000 to the doorman — are listed in the 34 counts of falsifying business records that Trump has been charged with. Meanwhile, Melania is trying to keep a low profile as her husband faces renewed scandal over allegations, first filed in 2019, that he raped a well-known columnist in the mid-1990s.

Melania Trump’s smile is perhaps harder to decipher than the Mona Lisa’s. Comedian Jimmy Kimmel joked about this on the same day the indictment broke. “For the first time in seven years, Melania is smiling at Mar-a-Lago,” he said on the show. Other news outlets, however, have a different view of the situation. “Melania Trump is strong. She is focused on her family and supports her husband, as she always has,” one source told The Daily Mail.

Melania Trump, for her part, is staying as silent — an attitude captured in the NFT portraits for sale on her website. For $150, customers can own a design of Melania Trump’s inscrutable smile.

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