Melania Trump, Out of Sight Since Report of Husband’s Infidelity, to Attend State of the Union

The uncertainty over Mrs. Trump’s appearance was in contrast to her willingness to show up and support Mr. Trump in the past. He has long been able to rely on his wife to step in to rationalize his behavior, dismiss his accusers or hit back against naysayers.

In 2011, Mrs. Trump appeared on TV to support her husband’s attempts to pressure President Barack Obama into making his birth certificate public. In 2016, she again appeared on camera to dismiss an “Access Hollywood” recording from 2005 — in which Mr. Trump bragged about grabbing women’s genitals — as “boy talk.” Mrs. Trump has also defended her husband against claims brought by multiple women that he sexually assaulted them.

“I believe my husband, I believe my husband — it was all organized from the opposition,” Mrs. Trump told CNN’s Anderson Cooper weeks before the 2016 election.

After the story about Ms. Daniels, there was no such pushback from the East Wing, and little in the way of public statements. After days of swirling rumors and repeated refusals to comment on Mrs. Trump’s whereabouts after canceling her trip to Davos, Switzerland, with the president, the first lady’s spokeswoman seemed to have had enough.

“The laundry list of salacious & flat-out false reporting about Mrs. Trump by tabloid publications & TV shows has seeped into ‘main stream media’ reporting,” Ms. Grisham wrote on Twitter on Sunday. “She is focused on her family & role as FLOTUS — not the unrealistic scenarios being peddled daily by the fake news.”

A year into her husband’s presidency and her own tenure as first lady, Mrs. Trump finds herself in an unusual position — and perhaps at a disadvantage. There are few things Mrs. Trump can share about herself without it being dissected — often negatively. When she revealed the tidbit that her favorite TV show was “How to Get Away With Murder,” for example, the show’s star, Viola Davis, did not dispute a joke that the first lady was “a captive in her own home.

The polarizing nature of her husband’s presidency has also isolated Mrs. Trump from her predecessors. She is not part of a small group of first ladies, including Michelle Obama and Laura Bush, who have developed a bond based on knowing what it is like to be constantly scrutinized, with their popularity linked to their husbands’.

“First ladies from Jackie Kennedy to Hillary Clinton to Laura Bush have stood by their husbands at the lowest points in their presidency,” Kate Andersen Brower, an author of “First Women: The Grace and Power of America’s Modern First Ladies,” said in an interview. “We’re seeing a different example with Melania of a woman who has maybe had too much.”

Mrs. Trump’s trip on Thursday to the Holocaust Memorial Museum was, coincidentally or not, in the same direction as Joint Base Andrews, where she was headed to leave for a whirlwind trip to Palm Beach, Fla. While Mr. Trump was still at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland, Mrs. Trump went to Mar-a-Lago, the president’s Florida estate. On Friday, onlookers at the resort were directed by the Secret Service to move their vehicles to ensure a wide berth for Mrs. Trump, who needed a secure path from her residence to the spa.

Attendees at a safari-themed fund-raiser held at the resort on Friday had hoped for an impromptu visit by the first lady, but were told Mrs. Trump had left just before the event began. In her stead, guests had to be satisfied with a giant portrait of the first lady, which failed to quickly sell at auction. (A portrait of Mr. Trump sold for $17,500.)

“She had to leave just as we were starting,” said Terry Bomar, the event’s organizer. “The Secret Service made everybody stand inside as she was coming out.”

The roughly two-hour trip from Joint Base Andrews to Palm Beach International Airport cost $16,168 per hour, which means that the first lady’s short trip aboard a C-32A plane cost taxpayers around $64,600, according to figures kept by the Department of Defense.

This month, the East Wing has worked to swat down all manner of rumors about Mrs. Trump’s whereabouts and psyche, beginning with “Fire and Fury,” a book by Michael Wolff that described Mrs. Trump as a first-lady-to-be who had not supported Mr. Trump’s candidacy and cried on election night. Mrs. Trump, who is known to instruct her aides to publicly hit back at reports on her behalf, had them emphatically deny Mr. Wolff’s account.

After “Fire & Fury,” two people close to Mrs. Trump stepped forward to defend her relationship with the president. One of them, Hilary Geary Ross, the wife of the commerce secretary Wilbur Ross, said in an interview in early January — days before the news of Ms. Daniels broke — that the Trumps enjoyed a “cozy” relationship.

“They seem like a cozy, happily married couple,” Ms. Ross said. “You can see they’ve got the chemistry with each other. You can see it and you can feel it.”

There was no similar pushback from the East Wing in light of the news about Ms. Daniels. And Ms. Ross did not respond to a request to comment further on Monday.

For her part, Mrs. Trump’s only public comments in the past few weeks have been limited to tweets and a statement delivered just after her visit to the Holocaust Memorial Museum.

“My thoughts and prayers are with the people whose lives and families were broken by the horrors of the Holocaust,” Mrs. Trump said in a statement. “Yet it is also through our shared humanity that we come together now in commemoration, strength and love. My heart is with you, and we remember.”

Correction: January 29, 2018

An earlier version of this article incorrectly quoted Viola Davis as saying that Melania Trump was “a captive in her own home.” It was the talk show host Jimmy Kimmel who made the remark, asking Ms. Davis, a guest on his show, if she was happy giving a woman who is “a captive in her own home” some “pleasure” once in a while from watching the television series she stars in, “How to Get Away With Murder.”

Continue reading the main story

Powered by WPeMatico