3 Things to Know about Melania Trump
By Laura Castro Lindarte
First Lady Melania Trump took center stage on the second night of the 2020 Republican National Convention, reflecting on her three years in the White House and showing her support for her husband, President Donald Trump.
“We all know Donald Trump makes no secrets about how he feels about things,” the first lady said from the newly renovated White House Rose Garden. “Total honesty is what we as citizens deserve from our president. Whether you like it or not, you always know what he is thinking.”
The Trump campaign hopes the speech will help reach female voters, a demographic where the president has been falling short in comparison to his opponent, Democratic nominee Joe Biden. A poll by CBS News published earlier this month found a 17 point difference among female registered voters, with 56% saying they would vote for Biden and 39% saying they would vote for Trump if the election were today.
“To mothers and parents everywhere you are warriors,” said Melania. “In my husband, you have a president who will not stop fighting for you and your families.”
Melania has been more private than many of her predecessors, rarely giving interviews or major speeches. Despite staying away from the spotlight, she has also been a controversial figure.
Democrats and other critics have questioned some of her key decisions and actions, including not speaking out against her husband’s anti-immigrant rhetoric despite being an immigrant herself and her choice to wear a jacket that read “I don’t really care, do you?” while traveling to a border town in Texas when the Trump administration was separating families at the border. More recently, she has faced pushback for her decision to renovate the White House Rose Garden.
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Mary Jordan took up the challenge of learning more about the first lady, traveling to several countries and interviewing various people familiar with Melania Trump. Jordan discussed her book, The Art of Her Deal, on our ongoing Washington Week Bookshelf series earlier this month.
Here are three things we learned about the first lady from Jordan’s book.
1. She renegotiated the terms of her prenuptial agreement with Trump after he won in 2016
Melania’s decision to not move into the White House until about six months after her husband was sworn in as president drew much speculation. Some said this cast light into possible issues in their marriage. Melania herself justified her decision saying she did not want to take out the couple’s son Barron of his school in New York before the end of the school year.
In Jordan’s book, we found out that in addition to thinking about her son, Melania took the opportunity to renegotiate the terms in her prenuptial agreement with Donald Trump, an agreement that she had signed before their 2005 marriage.
“In his most famous quote in The Art of the Deal, [Trump] says: It’s all about leverage. When you’re striking a deal, you’ve got to have something the other person wants,” Jordan said to Washington Week moderator and managing editor Robert Costa earlier this month.
“Melania waited until she really had something that he wanted. He needed her on the campaign trail; he needed her not to swat his hand away, to smile, to fill, she was up in New York for months and he really wanted her down here. And that’s when, according to three different people that I spoke with, that she kind of moved in and said, you know what, that prenup that I signed way back in 2005, not good enough.”
Jordan reported that Melania referred to this as “taking care of Barron” since her main objective in renegotiating seemed to be providing her son a better standing in his father’s company.
“She did, in fact, get a better deal,” said Jordan.
2. She was fundamental in Trump’s decision to pick Mike Pence as his vice president
In her book, Jordan describes the decision to pick then-Indiana Governor Mike Pence as Trump’s running mate, a pick in which Melania’s input was key. Trump asked Melania to spend time with the Pences and report back her impression of them.
At the time, Trump was trying to decide between Pence, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich.
“[Melania] spent two days with the Pences, and came back to [Trump] in 2016, right before he was announced as the pick, and said: You know what, Pence is your guy because he won’t be gunning for the number-one spot,” said Jordan. “And that was, of course, music to Donald Trump’s ears.”
The moment highlights how much influence Melania has held over her husband, both when he was a New York businessman and as president. This is a fact that Jordan points out throughout her book, even discussing how many staffers in Melania’s bad grace often end up being fired from the White House.
Jordan also reported that the president often calls Melania after major speeches to get her insight and that she is one of the few people he really listens to.
“Melania’s stock has gone up because he’s said, and he’s told people, that I just trust her,” said Jordan on the influence Melania has in the West Wing. “That has given her a huge amount
3. She has been private all throughout her life, not just as first lady
In talking with a lot of people who knew Melania during her time as a model and in her home country of Slovenia, Jordan noticed one thing. Melania seems uninterested in maintaining long friendships. Once she moves on to a new chapter of her life, the first lady seems to turn the page completely and loses contact with those she left behind.
This is true of childhood friends in Slovenia, photographers that helped her get her start as a model in Europe and her former roommate in New York, Jordan reported.
“Many of the people who knew her as a girl or working model have little or no role to play in her current world,” wrote Jordan in her book. “To an exceptional degree, she no longer stays in touch.”
The only people that seem to be permanently by her side are her parents and her sister, Ines. Her parents regularly have dinner in the White House residence, where they will communicate
almost entirely in Slovenian with their daughter and grandson.
Jordan compares this to Trump himself, who she describes as being a loner in his own right, only allowing a few people to really get close to him and his family. This is not the only parallel Jordan draws between the couple, writing that they are more similar than one might think.
“Differences in age and demeanor mask how alike Melania and Donald Trump are,” wrote Jordan. “Both are avid creators of their own history.”
For more from Mary Jordan her book The Art of Her Deal, watch The Washington Week Bookshelf segment on it. https://to.pbs.org/31t0V2S