Where is Melania? She hasn’t been seen in public for nine days

Monitoring Desk

NEW YORK: Hours after Donald Trump heard he would be the first President in US history to face criminal charges in court, he and his wife Melania went out for dinner.

The former President looked agitated as he arrived at the patio restaurant in the glitzy Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida that the couple calls home.

Melania, meanwhile —ever the cool, consummate professional, in an elegant red dress — smiled guardedly as fellow diners cheered and applauded.

Since that event nine days ago, the enigmatic former First Lady seems to have vanished into thin air, MailOnline reported.

She was not there to play the supportive political wife when her embattled husband travelled to New York on Tuesday to face a judge and hear the 34 charges, relating to alleged ‘hush money’ payments made to adult film star Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal, laid against him.

Nor was she anywhere to be seen at the former President’s homecoming back in Florida later that night, as he took to the lectern to tear into his enemies in a rambling speech that made no mention of her.

‘I built a great business with my family, a fantastic business,’ he told the crowd, as he pointed at his family seated in the front row. Sons Donald and Eric, daughters Ivanka and Tiffany, all got a name check, as did his youngest, Barron, 17. But Melania? Not a word.

It’s said that no one has recently heard the clatter of the 52-year-old former model’s heels in the tiled hallways of the opulent oceanside estate in Palm Beach where the couple has lived since leaving the White House in January 2021. Nor has she been seen in the club’s spa, which she normally likes to visit twice a day.

Of course — this being 2023 — the conspiracy theorists and satirists have come out in force. There were absurd memes such as ‘Fake Melania’ suggesting the First Lady had used a body double during her tenure, and a ‘Free Melania’ campaign, in which jokesters wondered if she was a prisoner in Washington. But, joking aside, where is Melania?

Where she always is, according to those who know her. Silently and discreetly on the sidelines, keeping whatever fury and humiliation she might be feeling, firmly to herself.

‘We have no knowledge of what she feels about the indictment, it’s anybody guess,’ historian Myra Gutin, president of the First Ladies Association for Research and Education (FLARE) told the Mail. ‘There have been other revelations about Trump over the years and she has stayed with him.

‘I can’t imagine that she isn’t humiliated and upset and it could be that she just does not want to support him in this. Maybe she thought that once she left the White House, it would all go away.’

Others say Melania’s absence was wholly to be expected. After all, her husband’s alleged affairs are said to have happened only a year after their 2005 wedding — the same year Barron was born.

‘I’m not surprised Melania was nowhere to be found at her husband’s post-indictment speech,’ says Lauren Wright, a political scientist at Princeton University and the author of two books on presidential politics. ‘Throughout Trump’s presidency, when the Stormy Daniels issue came up, Melania would assert her independence in one way or another, either avoiding the topic or, most famously, contradicting those who claimed to know her feelings about the alleged extramarital dalliance,’ says Ms Wright.

‘What she has never done on this issue is come to Trump’s rescue or play any part in cleaning up his mess. That makes her very different than other first ladies.’

Talk of Melania’s defensive shields, of silence, acceptance and steely reserve, are common themes among those who know her.

Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, a former aide and friend who wrote the 2020 tell-all memoir Melania And Me: The Rise And Fall of My Friendship With The First Lady, describes her as living in an ‘ivory tower of denial’. She adds: ‘This is a transactional marriage. Melania knew what she was getting into when she married Donald. Her means of survival is just to act like it never happened.

‘Of course she knows everything. But her silence is her dignity. She will stand by her husband as she always does. I don’t think Melania is humiliated — but she is angry.’

The two women met in 2003 when Wolkoff, who had ties to the worlds of fashion and New York society, acted as an informal and unpaid adviser to Melania.

Wolkoff, 52, believes Melania’s recent silence and disappearance from the scene is deliberate. ‘It’s her weapon of choice and her protective armour,’ she says.

Yet there are those close to the couple who insist they are stronger than ever. Paolo Zampolli, a New York-based businessman, UN ambassador and Kennedy Center trustee, is a friend of Trump and Melania, and a loyal supporter.

He met Melania in his native Italy when he had his own modelling agency and helped her secure a visa to the US and find her feet when she arrived in New York in 1996. It was at one of Zampolli’s parties, in 1998, that Donald and Melania were first introduced.

‘My family and I had dinner with them just a few months ago on New Year’s Eve at Mar-a-Lago and everything was perfect,’ he says.

‘There was chemistry between them. I think it is a good marriage. They have been together for a long time and I don’t see that changing. There was no need for Melania to go to New York for a day in court because it was an unnecessary and uncomfortable experience that was handled by Mr Trump and his attorneys. It wasn’t like it was a State Dinner.’

Born in Slovenia, the daughter of a former Communist Party member, Melania came to work in the US as a model in her 20s. She was highly disciplined, according to a former flatmate, walking around with ankle weights, eating strictly five to seven items of fruit and vegetables a day and drinking copious amounts of water. However, despite her good looks and self-control, she never scaled the heights of modelling success.

In 1998, she met Trump, then a real estate mogul, while he was on a date with another woman, and they married in a lavish wedding in Florida in 2005 in front of 350 of their closest friends.

The following year, in March 2006, their only child, Barron, was born.

When Trump won the US election in 2016, he moved into the White House alone, with his wife staying behind in New York because, she asserted, their son had to finish his school term.

And when Melania did go to Washington, she was an unconventional First Lady. She looked uncomfortable at public appearances, swatted away her husband’s hand in public and teetered around in stilettos while touring an area of the country hit by a hurricane.

Not that her patience hasn’t been tested by her husband over the years. When the Washington Post obtained a secret 2005 tape in which Trump could be heard spouting, misogynistic comments about women, Melania dismissed it as boys’ locker room talk.

As for Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, she’s remained resolutely tight-lipped, despite some of the poignant timings around the allegations.

Stormy — real name Stephanie Clifford — first came to public attention in 2018, when it was reported that Michael Cohen, Trump’s lawyer during his 2016 election campaign, had arranged a payment of $130,000 to stop her disclosing an affair she’d allegedly had with Trump in 2006.

Cohen went on to plead guilty to eight criminal charges, including campaign finance violation.

Karen McDougal, meanwhile, has claimed she had a ten-month affair with Trump, which started in June 2006. They’d met, according to reports, at the Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles, where Trump was filming The Apprentice. Trump has denied both affairs.

Whatever its true nature, the Trump marriage — his third, her first — remains an object of fascination, both sides of the Atlantic.

After Easter, Trump will move to his golf course in Bedminster, New Jersey, but his wife and Barron will remain in Florida until his school term ends in June.

The couple spent their 13th wedding anniversary apart — he was in Davos at the World Economic Forum while she made a surprise appearance in Palm Beach. And she didn’t immediately move into the White House after his 2016 election win.

Once she did move in, the couple slept in separate quarters.

Melania also requested separate hotel rooms when she and the President travelled. The reason she gave for this arrangement is that her husband likes to get up at 5am and watch television while she rises later.

As for whether she will be at her husband’s side again if he wins the Republican nomination for the upcoming American election, no one is sure.

‘Everything that I’ve been told is that she wants no part of the 2024 presidential cycle and the campaigning she’d have to do,’ says Myra Gutin.

‘She has not been with Trump at his rallies thus far and I don’t think she was ever particularly happy in the White House so, yes, I can see her being less than enthusiastic about any of this.’