Opinion: What’s Melania Thinking During Trump’s Criminal Hush Money Trial?

Photo Illustration by Luis G. Rendon/The Daily Beast/Getty Images
Photo Illustration by Luis G. Rendon/The Daily Beast/Getty Images

How is Melania Trump feeling during her husband’s trial—where he stands accused of falsifying documents to pay hush money over an alleged affair with adult film star, Stephanie Clifford (a.k.a. Stormy Daniels), that allegedly took place while she was home with their newborn son, Barron?

The likely, but unsatisfying answer: You will never know. What you see is what you get. It is a facade of calm. Melania Trump isn’t an enigma or a mystery. She is simply self-possessed, stoically guarded, and emotionally armored. Why? To avoid exposure.

Melania’s profound emotional repression has rendered her both invincible and invisible; enabling her to navigate her emotional landscape with profound depth, alone. She knows exactly who she married and lives by the same principles. She’s a ruthless survivor and opportunist—willing to do whatever it takes to resort to any means necessary for self-preservation. She’s mastered the art of complicity.

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To protect her cultivated image and respectable persona, she stays out of the spotlight by maintaining a low profile by choice—her silence is her suit of armor.

Melania’s existence is predicated on always minimizing the impact of Donald’s often despicable behavior. Her defense mechanism is her ability to lock the door and throw away the key to most anything that brings her emotional discomfort. The secret to her happiness is to be authentically and unapologetically skin-deep.

She will always stand by her man because she has mastered the ability to accept and compartmentalize all the aspects of her life with precision, ease, and control, always sticking to her talking points regarding her very existence.

Stephanie Winston Wolkoff and Melania Trump

Stephanie Winston Wolkoff and Melania Trump

Courtesy of Stephanie Winston Wolkoff


As I detailed in my book, Melania and Me: The Rise and Fall of My Friendship with the First Lady, Melania and I were close, personally and professionally. Melania shared herself with so few, but she was open with me about her feelings, secrets about her life and marriage, motherhood, her parents, and insecurities.

In time, I came to understand that for Donald and Melania Trump, perception is everything. Their transactional co-existence is emblematic of the lengths they will go to maintain the reality they’ve created about their lives.

When I told her how worried I was for her, she’d laugh and say, “Don’t be, I know who I married… Look, I know what the truth is, and it doesn’t need to be explained. Some things don’t need to be dignified with an answer. It’s my life,” she said. “It’s nobody’s business. Don’t feel sorry for me! I’m fine.”

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No matter how tumultuous their personal life was in 2018—as news of Donald’s alleged infidelities and revelations about hush money payments made big news—the wisdom she shared with me was, “Normally, it doesn’t end up so well for the mistress.” As far as Melania was concerned, “Don’t worry. Liberal media bashing. Nothing new. It is not the first time or last time.”

Melania’s long been portrayed as a counterbalance to Donald, the “warmer” and “more traditional” side of the administration, where her qualities of empathy and a sense of compassion, craft her as a hostage hoping to be freed. But the truth is Melania knows and supports Donald and his viewpoints.

When I read that she said her “heart goes out to” the same violent Jan. 6 rioters Donald claimed to “love,” before enticing them to walk down to the Capitol with him (which he did not), I realized I had misjudged her. At their core, a Trump is a Trump is a Trump.

Stephanie Winston Wolkoff and Melania Trump

Stephanie Winston Wolkoff and Melania Trump

Courtesy of Stephanie Winston Wolkoff

When he goes full brass knuckles on his supposed enemies, she’s often encouraging him to aggressively go for it. She’s his biggest cheerleader.

Melania seems to be a source of endless conjecture, but she’ll never tip her hand; she’ll always leave you guessing.

Despite reports of Melania suffering great anguish about being misunderstood by the public, I can attest that it did not happen. She reasoned that since she had no control over people’s thoughts, why should she care what they believed? Thus, the less time she spends in public, the less anyone can say about her.

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Not many people could bear having their lives ripped open and all their regretful, hateful, humiliating moments splayed out for the world in a Manhattan courtroom. But Melania never had any great expectations of Donald as a faithful husband or doting father.

“Just let him do what he’s going to do. Why get in a fight about something that won’t change?” she’d say to me. This piece of advice came from her own life experience and how she’d managed her own marriage.

It sounded like brilliant insight at the time, little did I realize how merciless and unscrupulous she was in her relentless pursuit of power. Melania, like Donald, had told me many times that she wanted to win and that meant at all costs.

So don’t worry about Melania, this is the life she chose. A little courtroom drama won’t make her regret a thing. As soon as this criminal case is over, she will be happy, relieved, back home, with Barron, in her bathrobe, with a smile on her face.

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