When Donald Trump was photographed entering his Trump Tower skyscraper on Monday evening in New York and then emerging again on Tuesday to face criminal charges in a Manhattan court, in a historic low for a former US president, he cut a solitary figure.
And as he flew back on his private jet to Florida after pleading not guilty to 34 charges accusing him of covering up hush-money payments to an adult film star and an ex-Playboy model while he was married, the woman to whom he was then (and is now) married, Melania Trump, was not there.
As people increasingly wondered “Where’s Melania?” Donald Trump gathered supporters and family members in the glittering ballroom at his Mar-a-Lago home in Palm Beach and delivered a rambling but defiant speech on Tuesday evening, part tirade against his indictment, part thanks to his family. But Melania was neither mentioned nor anywhere to be seen.
“I built a great business with my family, a fantastic business,” Trump said to the assembled, as his family watched from the front row, alongside Melania’s father, Viktor Knavs.
His oldest sons Donald Jr and Eric were there, as was Tiffany Trump, his daughter with his second wife, Marla Maples. His other daughter, Ivanka Trump, was not present, having distanced herself from her father’s 2024 presidential campaign and her time serving as a key aide in his White House, and neither was Trump’s only child with Melania, Barron. But all the offspring got a mention.
“I have a son here who has done a great job, and I have another son here who has done a great job,” Trump said, referring to his sons Eric and Donald Jr, before adding, “And Tiffany, and Ivanka. And Barron will be great someday. He is tall, he is tall and he’s smart.
“But I have a great family and they have done a fantastic job and we appreciate it very much. They have gone through hell,” he added.
In a family line-up photo Melania is noticeably absent.
At one point on Tuesday afternoon there had been a smattering of reports that Melania was sighted in New York as if to join her husband at Trump Tower, but a picture claiming to capture the moment was inconclusive. No verification or confirmation was ever forthcoming and no further evidence of anyone seeing Melania in New York or Palm Beach in public emerged.
A source told People last month Melania was “leading her own life, and still feels happy being at Mar-a-Lago, surrounded by people who love her and who never talk about reality, or bad things about her husband”.
Nevertheless, the source said Melania “remains angry” about her husband’s extramarital affairs, adding that she “doesn’t want to hear [the alleged hush money payment] mentioned … She is aware of who her husband is and keeps her life upbeat with her own family and a few close friends.”
In addition to being accused of falsifying business records in what prosecutors claim to be a conspiratorial attempt to influence the 2016 presidential election by quashing claims of a sexual encounter with the adult film star Stormy Daniels, Trump is also accused of paying hush money to a former Playboy model, Karen McDougal, over an affair. Trump denies having affairs with either woman.
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