First lady arrived at State of the Union in separate car from her husband, amid speculation over the state of their marriage
Melania Trump faced the public and the media for the first time since reports emerged of her husband’s alleged affair with a porn actor, when she attended the State of the Union address on Tuesday night.
The relationship between the first lady and the president has been under intense scrutiny since of Donald Trump’s alleged relationship with Stephanie Clifford, AKA Stormy Daniels, in 2006.
Melania Trump cancelled plans to travel with her husband to the World Economic Forum in Davos last week, amid reports that she was “furious” with the president and had been sleeping at a Washington DC hotel.
Nevertheless, she appeared at the Capitol for her husband’s speech – although she broke with tradition by taking a separate car from the president for the short journey from the White House.
Barack and Michelle Obama travelled together to the Capitol for each of Obama’s State of the Union addresses. George and Laura Bush also journeyed together for Bush’s speeches.
Others noted that the Trumps had shared a car when they made the journey from the White House to the Capitol for Trump’s first address to a joint session of Congress last February.
Melania Trump arrived at the Capitol to rowdy applause and, in what would be a theme of the night, a dramatic camera zoom from CNN.
No doubt conscious of the meme she created with her reaction during Donald Trump’s inauguration speech in January 2017, Melania smiled broadly as she took her seat next to Preston Sharp, a 12-year-old who has organized the placement of more than 40,000 flags on soldiers’ graves.
Wearing a cream Christian Dior suit and a white silk blouse from Italian label Dolce & Gabbana, Trump’s look bore similarities to the outfits many Democratic women wore as a tribute to the suffragette movement during Donald Trump’s address to Congress in February 2017.
There were also similarities to the all-white outfits Hillary Clinton wore at the Democratic National Convention and to Trump’s inauguration.
The first lady rose to applaud when her husband took the floor to give his speech, during which he called for a path for citizenship for 1.8 million undocumented immigrants, but angered immigration activists by stressing that “Americans are dreamers too”. Melania, who was born in Slovenia and moved to the US in 1996, stayed seated for that line, looking dour.
Other than that, there was little to excite those looking for clues as to the state of the Trump marriage.
The first lady beamed at Sharp when her husband mentioned the youngster’s flag campaign, and clapped politely during the – many – applause breaks.
The president gave his speech just hours after Clifford issued a statement, refuting reports of the affair.
“I am not denying this affair because I was paid ‘hush money’,” Daniels said. “I am denying this affair because it never happened.”
The Wall Street Journal reported in January that a lawyer for Donald Trump had arranged a $130,000 payment to Clifford a month before the election, as part of an agreement which prevented her from talking about the alleged relationship.
A week after the WSJ report, InTouch magazine published a 2011 interview with Clifford, in which she alleged that the pair had had an affair and was extensively quoted.
Stephanie Grisham, Trump’s communications director, said the Trumps would return to the White House in the same car. Grisham has had to deal with a slate of questions about the state of the Trump marriage over the past week.
On Friday the Daily Mail reported that Melania had been spending nights in a Washington DC hotel since news of the payoff broke, and on Monday the New York Times said the first lady had been “furious” with her husband after the news broke.
The first lady abruptly cancelled a planned trip to Davos with the president in the wake of the reporting. Her office cited unspecified scheduling and logistical issues.
Grisham published a tweet complaining about media coverage, alleging “false reporting”, after the Mail story was published, but did not address the claim that Melania Trump had been sleeping away from the White House.