Melania Trump, a notoriously private first lady, made three very public decisions: She canceled a trip abroad with the president, made an impromptu visit to the Holocaust Memorial Museum and flew to Mar-a-Lago, where she spent part of her short trip relaxing at the spa.
As usual, Mrs. Trump’s movements turned into something of a political Rorschach test. Did her movements symbolize a simple need to unwind, a deep displeasure with her role or both?

Aides to Mrs. Trump say that she is focusing on her role and her family. But her relative silence and independent travel in recent weeks is set against a salacious backdrop: A Wall Street Journal report that the porn star Stormy Daniels was paid $130,000 just before the 2016 election to keep quiet about an affair she had had a decade earlier with Mr. Trump — when the Trumps were newlyweds, and while Mrs. Trump was pregnant with their son, Barron.

Mrs. Trump and the president have had a tumultuous relationship at times over the years, but few episodes have roiled the peace as much as the news surrounding Ms. Daniels. The reports of a payoff blindsided the first lady, who was furious with her husband, according to two people close to the couple. She has kept a low profile since.
On Tuesday, Mrs. Trump is expected to resurface. The White House said that she would attend Mr. Trump’s State of the Union address, typically the most high-profile appearance of the year for first ladies. The East Wing, which has vacillated between being forceful or unresponsive in recent weeks, gave a tentative confirmation on Monday: “That is the plan,” her spokeswoman, Stephanie Grisham, said in an email. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, said that Mrs. Trump would attend, but that Barron would not.
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 tidbitthat 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.

Post a Comment