Home » Melania Trump to hit campaign trail for husband after early absence | Melania Trump

Melania Trump to hit campaign trail for husband after early absence | Melania Trump

by John Jefferson
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Her biggest fashion statement as first lady was a green jacket emblazoned with the words “I really don’t care, do u?” More recently, Melania Trump has given the impression that she doesn’t care whether her husband, Donald, returns to the White House. That is about to change.

On Saturday Melania, 53, will appear at a fundraiser at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida, for the Log Cabin Republicans, the biggest Republican organisation dedicated to representing LGBT conservatives. It will be her first appearance at a political event since Trump, 77, launched his bid to regain the presidency.

It comes at the end of a week that saw Melania’s husband become the first former US president in history to stand criminal trial. The case, involving a hush-money payment by Trump to an adult film performer, would be enough to test any marriage. Yet it seems that the former and possible future first lady is again prepared to campaign for her spouse – up to a point.

“It’s not going to be in volume but you’ll see her at key moments,” said Mary Jordan, author of The Art of Her Deal: The Untold Story of Melania Trump. “She likes to heighten the interest in her appearances by being scarce. It’s very intentional, like a movie star who doesn’t want exposure. She’s hyper-aware of her persona and her celebrity. This is a model who learned to get covers of magazines so she wants to be in control.

The former Slovenian model, who married Trump in 2005, became only the second foreign-born first lady in US history. She delayed moving to the White House after Trump won the 2016 election because she was renegotiating their prenuptial agreement, according to Jordan’s book, and in one notorious incident was seen swatting his hand away. She had a rivalry with Trump’s daughter Ivanka. But she came to love the trappings and prestige of being first lady.

Since Trump’s defeat in 2020 she has tained a low profile. Her public appearances have included a memorial service for former first lady Rosalynn Carter, a funeral for Trump’s older sister and the funeral for her mother, Amalija Knavs. Last year she addressed a naturalisation ceremony in Washington, telling new Americans that citizenship means “actively participating in the democratic process and guarding our freedom”.

But her absence is often more notable than her presence. Melania has been missing from Trump’s run of campaign rallies and court appearances. When he celebrated Super Tuesday primary election victories with a party at Mar-a-Lago, his children Don Jr, Eric and Tiffany were there but his wife was not.

It is a potentially worrying sign for Trump in a country that traditionally prizes political candidates with loyal spouses and wholesome families. The spouse is often a vital surrogate, able to step in at fundraisers or other events; few doubt the authenticity of the love affair between Joe and Jill Biden. But the Trumps, who typically sleep in separate rooms and lead separate lives, have never followed anyone else’s playbook.

Just as in the 2016 campaign, Jordan believes that Melania will pick and choose her moments for maximum effect. “She doesn’t like being on the political road but she likes to be a celebrity and she will be out there,” she said. “There were parts of being first lady that she loved and so you’re just going to see her pick her shots. She’ll go to events that she can have maximum control over. She won’t do too many because she absolutely knows newspapers write about it and she’s on TV.

Melania Trump climbs into a vehicle wearing a jacket with the phrase ‘I Really Don’t Care. Do U?’ on the back on 21 June 2018. Photograph: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

“Everything she does is very thought out and calculated at. Yes, we’re going to be seeing her at key moments but we’re not going to be seeing her as other political spouses are. She never has and never will act like any other political spouse the country’s ever seen. When he started running the first time, people were like, wow, this is crazy, this is such a valuable asset staying at home. But she’s definitely doing it her way.”

It might be assumed that this week would be an especially rough one for Melania. Jury selection has been under way for Trump’s trial in New York on charges of falsifying business records tied to a $130,000 hush-money payment made to buy Stormy Daniels’ silence about an alleged sexual encounter that took place not long after Melania gave birth to their son Barron.

Melania, who rarely betrays emotion in public, is known to have been furious about reports of the affair when they first surfaced, flying off to Palm Beach and taking a separate car to his first State of the Union address. But she is now said to be more sympathetic to Trump, privately calling the proceedings “a disgrace”, the New York Times reported.

Jordan, a reporter for the Washington Post newspaper, commented: “She was mortified at the time and furious at her husband when she found out originally. But now she thinks that this is being used as a political weapon against her husband and she’s focusing her anger on that.”

Indeed, the New York trial is unlikely to deliver surprise revelations that Melania is not aware of already. Kurt Bardella, a Democratic strategist, said: “This is what she signed up for. She knows who this guy is. It’s no surprise that he’s a serial philanderer. Whatever trade-offs she has made to live the life that she wants to live, she is comfortable with them. She makes her own choices and I couldn’t care less.”

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Bardella, a former senior adviser for Republicans on the House of Representatives oversight committee, added: “I do think that when you are auditioning to be the first family of America there is an expectation from the public that you are open and transparent about what your real family situation is and those who have fallen short of that have paid a political price over the years. For the party that wraps itself and this cloak of so-called family values all the time, it’s interesting that they seem to completely bypass that when it comes to their leader.”

Melania’s current focus has been preparing Barron for university after he graduates from a private high school in May (Trump complained on social media this week that he might miss his son’s graduation because of the New York trial). But Trump often brings up her name at rallies, sometimes with some rare self-deprecation, and has assured crowds that they will see her on the campaign trail.

Melania is thought to be one of the few people that Trump trusts to be straight with him. The former White House counselor Kellyanne Conway told a congressional panel investigating the January 6 attack on the US Capitol: “He listens to many of us, but he reserves fear for one person, Melania Trump.”

Indeed, Melania helped persuade Trump to select Mike Pence, rather than Chris Christie or Newt Gingrich, as his vice-presidential candidate in 2016. She also encouraged him to support the celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz’s losing effort in Pennsylvania’s Senate race in 2022. Melania is now said to be lobbying for Conway to return to the fold in an official capacity.

She is also known to have admonished Trump on occasion for vulgar outbursts or mockery of people with disabilities. But there is no evidence that she intends to act as a brake on his radical rightwing policy agenda.

Speaking last month at the Politics and Prose bookshop in Washington, Katie Rogers, author of American Woman: The Transformation of the Modern First Lady, from Hillary Clinton to Jill Biden, said: “There was this idea that she would be a secret resistance figure early on. First ladies channel and mirror their husbands, even in this case. She shares his grievances. She has the same anger over how her family is perceived and covered as he does. They’re more united in that dynamic than people think.”

Rogers, a White House correspondent for the New York Times and former Guardian reporter, said she did not know if the couple would re married through a second term. “I know they have an agreement in place in the event that they’re not. But she likes the role.”

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