What does Melania Trump want? Biographer Mary Jordan reports of a first lady who has a great behind-the-scenes influence on the President of the United States – and who seems to be cheating on her knowledge of German.
Much of the world looks at Melania Trump with a mixture of ridicule, compassion and misunderstanding – “Liberated Melania” has been called for years. Ultimately, little is known about the American first lady, after all, she herself reveals almost nothing about herself in public.
In a new, unofficial biography, “Washington Post” journalist Mary Jordan describes the 50-year-old as an influential White House figure who uses her power for her own interests, but also provides decisive support to her husband. Love, says Jordan in an interview with Chillreport, “is extremely complicated with the Trumps.”
She talks about the couple’s relationship, which spends a lot of time apart, but still prohibits a special relationship, their influence in human resources, and questions the First Lady’s claim that she speaks foreign languages such as German.
Chillreport: Ms Jordan, in your book you describe how Melania Trump renegotiated and gained the upper hand after her husband’s election victory in 2016. Who really exercises power in this regard?
Mary Jordan: It’s all about power. Trump himself speaks in these categories when he celebrates himself as the world’s biggest deal maker. He says that you must have something that the other person wants or needs better. The fascinating thing is that Melania waited very patiently for the moment when she had the greatest power over her husband to renegotiate her marriage contract.
What has she done?
She carefully studied what was known about Trump’s marriage contracts with his first two wives. After his election victory, she stayed in New York. He needed her in the White House. The First Lady’s office should no longer be empty, he no longer wanted embarrassing photos of her throwing his hand away.
Mary Jordan, 59, is a political reporter for the Washington Post and a former foreign correspondent. She and her husband won a Pulitzer Prize for reporting on conditions in Mexican prisons. “The art of her dealher book on Melania Trump, was published in the United States in mid-June.
Now she is happy. She wanted her son Barron to be taken care of. Trump’s full attention goes to his three children from his first marriage: Ivanka, Donald Jr. and Eric. The two youngsters, Tiffany from marriage number two, and Barron are always in the back. Melania wanted to protect Barron, so she said it. Melania is mama bear. In almost everything she does, she thinks of her son.
The Trumps with son Barron (14 years old): “In almost everything she does, she thinks of her son.” (Source: Yuri Gripas / Reuters)
How does she use her power in the White House?
It does not interfere with individual projects. Your strength lies in human resources. If you want to advise Trump or not be released by him, you need the approval of Melania. The less Trump trusts his environment, the more important it becomes. He relies on your judgment. Some advisers told me they had been called to the White House residence for confidential talks, where not only Trump was waiting, but his wife, too. For example, many see Melania as critical to Trump making Mike Pence a vice presidential candidate. So it has great power.
How important is the first lady to her husband’s political success?
It is the most popular Trumps. It is crucial for his re-election. Half of the voters are women. When she appeared and praised him in 2016, many voters said, “He can’t be that bad after all.” I’ve heard that over and over in the 2016 election campaign. It’s also important because he’s been divorced twice. It would be very bad for him if he broke up for the third time.
Does Melania love her Donald?
Love is complicated for many people and extremely complicated for the Trumps. Two things are important here: First, unlike almost any other couple, they spend an extraordinary amount of time separately. They have separate schedules, they are listed separately. Trump gets up in his own bedroom at five, and much later in her. They don’t eat together, they don’t spend free time together. How does Trump spend his free time? On the golf course and not with his wife.
Preferably not what is generally understood as love.
I think the relationship changed after reports of Trump’s affairs with Stormy Daniels and Karen MacDougal. And after her son Barron was born. Interestingly, Trump had his affairs right after birth. But they still have a special bond when they are together or on the phone, as they often do after the President’s public appearances.
What does this connection look like?
He trusts her and she helps him. And she admires him for what he did: how he became president. How he builds a direct connection with the audience during his performances, while she does not like to speak in public. That’s why she especially admires how his followers encourage him at the performances. And he admires that she is never as impulsive as he is. So: you are in a relationship, albeit a complicated one.
Trump at a White House reception: major influence on staff decisions in government headquarters. (Source: Oliver Contreras / Getty Images)
Ms. Trump claimed that she spoke French, Italian and German in addition to English. This information can also be found in many biographies. Does the First Lady really speak German?
There is no evidence of this. I have spent months investigating these claims and have spoken to many people in Germany. Both German photographers who spent hours with her modeling in her twenties, as well as native German speakers who met her as a first lady, said that she had never spoken German to them and never heard her speak German to others. The same goes for French and Italian.
In 2017, Trump met Pope Francis, who addressed the First Lady in Italian.
Yes, and she couldn’t respond until the question was translated. I asked the White House if she spoke German, French, or Italian at any point next to a “Ciao” or “Bonjour.” There are even recordings of Jackie Kennedy proving her fluent French. That was in the 1960s. Nowadays, where anyone can film on the phone, there should be recordings.
I did not receive an answer. The question is only interesting because she has claimed and continues to do so about herself. It is one of the most mentioned features of the First Lady. She has that heavy accent when she speaks English, they say, but she speaks all those other languages.
So she’s lying about her knowledge of German?
We know that Donald Trump is exaggerating. He exaggerates in his height, in the number of floors of his Trump Tower in New York he exaggerates in everything. It appears that Melania is exaggerating some parts of her resume and this obviously includes knowledge of German.
Melania Trump during a speech in Baltimore: The First Lady “dislikes speaking in public.” (Source: Erin Scott / Reuters)
Let’s go back to the White House. The First Lady occasionally disagrees with the President, for example in the dispute over divorce of families on the southern border with Mexico. What is behind it: does it speak out of its own conviction? Or do they play a variant of Good cop / Bad cop?
Often this is actually a good cop / bad cop strategy and is done in consultation with the president, for example if he has made a mistake and wants to correct something. It is more practical to say “my wife convinced me” than to admit that his political critics and opponents were right. So it was with the family divorces where the President knew he had made a mistake. Melania did not even agree with this policy. There are times when she clearly contradicts him simply because she thinks something else is right. So you don’t always coordinate that, but much more often than you think.
The couple had a movie premiere in New York in 1999: “An extraordinary story that fits America.” (Source: Jeff Christensen / Reuters)
With your interview requests for the book, you were blown away by the First Lady. During the 2016 election campaign, you made extensive calls only once. What was your insight from this personal conversation?
At that moment she came across very warmly, very different from what her image would suggest. She has the image of an ice queen. At the time, she looked very different from me. She laughed, she was smart, it seemed like I was talking to a person other than the one you see in public.
The White House and the First Lady herself are extremely closed.
Yes, I asked the White House many simple factual questions, but I was overwhelmed with everything. I find it fascinating that Melania doesn’t talk about her story. That’s why many think she has something to hide from her past. But when I examined her life in Paris, Milan and Ljubljana, I discovered that she actually had a very normal life. She just worked very hard and disciplined. She came to the United States as an immigrant at the age of 26 and was a first lady 20 years later. This is an extraordinary story that fits America. I find it fascinating that she does not talk about it and has made herself a mystery.
The president is in a political crisis. Polls are poor, he has no answer to the crises surrounding Corona and racism. What does the First Lady advise him in such a situation?
Melania spends much of her day reading everything written about Trump and her. This irritates some advisers in the White House. Because she points him at critics and then he gets in a bad mood. So she knows exactly how great the anger is now. During the impeachment there was a kind of bunker mentality that tied her and her husband together. She felt that Trump’s name had been falsely fouled. In the current situation, their behavior becomes very interesting. Above all, she thinks about what’s good for her son Barron. It will be exciting to see how much election campaign she’s going to do and how much she really wants to stay in the White House.
Ms Jordan, thank you for the interview.