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Former first lady Melania Trump stays out of the public eye as Donald Trump runs for president

Melania Trump announced Tuesday morning that she is holding an auction of the white hat she wore during the visit of the French first family, the Macrons, to the White House in 2018. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images via CNN)
Melania Trump announced Tuesday morning that she is holding an auction of the white hat she wore during the visit of the French first family, the Macrons, to the White House in 2018. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images via CNN)
West Palm Beach, Fla. -

 After Melania Trump missed key events in her husband's presidential bid earlier this year — from the kickoff of the 2024 election in Iowa to Donald Trump’s Super Tuesday victory party — reporters asked the former first lady whether she planned to hit the campaign trail. Her response: “Stay tuned.”

But since making that comment in March, after she and Donald Trump voted in Florida's primary, Melania Trump has largely refrained from public appearances. The few exceptions have included a couple of fundraisers in April and their son's high school graduation.

The former first lady noticeably did not accompany the presumptive Republican presidential nominee on any of the days of his more than monthlong hush money trial in New York. She was not there last month for the guilty verdict or the following day for his remarks at Trump Tower. She also did not appear June 14 at a 78th birthday party organized for Trump by his fan club, or at any of the campaign rallies he has held in recent months.

Her absence during the trial and for other important moments is unusual, said Katherine Jellison, a professor of history at Ohio University who studies first ladies. But Jellison said maybe it should not come as a surprise as Melania Trump seems reluctant to follow the traditional public role of a politician's wife. As first lady, she also kept a low profile and she was not a regular presence on her husband’s losing 2020 presidential campaign.

“But everything the Trumps do seems to be against the standard playbook of how candidates and spouses behave," Jellison said.

Melania Trump's behavior deviates from how other politicians have relied on their spouses. Sometimes male politicians turn to their wives to try to reach out to female voters. Candidates also may be joined by their spouses as a way of giving voters more of a sense of what the candidate is like outside the political arena.

During this year's GOP primary, for example, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ wife, Casey DeSantis, traveled with him, granted interviews and formed a coalition named Mamas for DeSantis before he suspended his bid for the nomination. Vivek Ramaswamy's wife, Dr. Apoorva Ramaswamy, also was on the campaign trail, often appearing along with their two young children to talk about the importance of family.

The Associated Press reached out to 15 people who have been in major fundraisers or in Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate recently. None said they had encountered Melania Trump on the Florida property.

Her office has not responded to several requests for comment. Her only public statement of late came two days after the Florida Republican Party announced with fanfare that son Barron Trump, 18, was chosen as a state delegate for the Republican National Convention and her office said he could not make it, citing prior commitments.

Reporters at the New York courthouse during Trump’s felony trial repeatedly asked him, “Where’s Melania?” but he never answered. Trump allies cited their son’s school calendar as the main reason for her absence without denying it was a delicate time for the family.

Trump’s attorney, Todd Blanche, was asked whether there were talks about her accompanying him to court.

“That wasn’t a discussion that I wanted to have,” Blanche responded, speaking to Miami trial attorney David Oscar Markus for his “For The Defense” podcast. "This was a tough case because of the nature of the charges, the evidence that came in, the history, how long it had been.”

Some of the testimony aired how Trump allegedly had sex with porn actor Stormy Daniels in July 2006, about four months after Melania Trump had given birth to Barron; Trump has denied Daniels' claim. Trump’s former attorney and fixer Michael Cohen testified that Trump did not appear to care about how the story of an encounter he was looking to bury would hurt his marriage as much as he cared about it damaging his 2016 presidential aspirations.

But Hope Hicks, Trump’s 2016 campaign communications chief, testified that Trump was concerned in 2016 about how a story related to Playboy model Karen MacDougal would be viewed by his wife and wanted her to make sure newspapers were not delivered to their residence.

Melania Trump did not post anything on her social media accounts after her husband was convicted on 34 felony counts. That's in contrast to Trump's elder sons, who quickly condemned the verdict. Daughter Ivanka Trump posted on Instagram a photo of her as a toddler with a younger Trump and the message “I love you dad.” Tiffany Trump, his younger daughter, accompanied him to the courthouse last month for the trial's closing arguments.

“I think it’s very hard for her," Trump said about his wife, in an interview with Fox News after the verdict. "I mean, she’s fine. But, you know, she has to read all this crap.”

Despite her absence on the campaign trail, Trump often mentions her and shares conversations between the two, showing supporters that she is still involved behind the scenes by offering feedback to the former president.

Larry Snowden, president of the “Club 47” fan group, said he last saw the former first lady at a February gala hosted by the “Trumpettes,” a group of female supporters. He said he has never had a one-on-one interaction with her, but that when he saw her there, she was “so charming.”

“She was so happy, and she was smiling and accommodating anyone that wanted to come up and shake her hand or anything," Snowden said.

Snowden said he does expect Melania Trump to show face throughout the campaign and to make key speeches, but that he also thinks that the former president would “continue to be very protective of her.”

Gomez Licon reported from Miami. Associated Press writer Darlene Superville in Washington contributed to this report. Top Stories


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