As President Donald Trump is only the third president in history to be impeached, there isn’t a well-worn map for how to navigate the trial and everything that comes with it. Trump is, of course, coping with the news of his impeachment really well: he's curated a Twitter feed closely resembling an unfiltered stream of consciousness, attacking people online, and calling out Democrats for the “witch hunt” to which they are unfairly subjecting him. The Trump family is, for obvious reasons, on more of a high alert than ever before. But within all the discourse of Trump's Senate trial (and even Ivanka's recent reporter quarrel), we have just one question to ask: where is Melania Trump?
Not a day goes by without at least a little news about Donald Trump, be it impeachment-related, his nerve wracking interactions with Iran, or his recent appearance at the World Economic Forum. Meanwhile, recent news of Melania Trump is scarce: it barely includes walking onto the field with her husband at the College Football Playoff National Championship in New Orleans, LA to stand for the national anthem earlier this month. Beyond that, it seems that Melania Trump is hibernating this winter much like the rest of us.
According to Melania’s Twitter, she appears to be spending most of her time in Washington D.C. renovating the East Room of the White House. In her Twitter post, she says the renovations are in hopes that the room will be a "source of pride for its citizens." On top of this laborious task, Melania is focusing most on her Be Best initiative which strives to combat cyberbullying and opioid abuse in children and teens.
But Melania’s own support of the anti-bullying initiative seems a bit conditional in practice. Most recently, her husband openly attacked 17-year-old environmental activist Greta Thunberg after she was recognised as TIME’s Person of the Year. Trump went after Thunberg twice — once after her front-page honor, and again at the World Economic Forum last week. Melania was silent throughout the attacks, and despite a ton of criticism. But, she did not apply the same practice of silence when her 13-year-old son, Barron, was referenced by Stanford law professor Pamela Karlan during the impeachment proceedings.
Karlan mentioned Barron's name when asked to compare the modern presidency to the tyranny of kings the constitution was created to guard against. “While the president can name his son Barron, he can’t make him a baron,” Karlan now-famously said. Melania responded by releasing a statement saying, “A minor child deserves privacy and should be kept out of politics. Pamela Karlan, you should be ashamed of your very angry and obviously biased public pandering, and using a child to do it.”
Prior to defending her son's honour, Melania Trump made no public comments about the impeachment — and it doesn't look like she will anytime soon. It's possible that Melania Trump has no incentive to make a public appearance or statement right now (just a slight possibility). But not necessarily for obvious reasons — Trump hasn't exactly helped or promoted her work either.
According to Politico, presidents historically make sure to mention the work of the First Lady in their annual remarks to lawmakers. For the last three years, Melania’s big Be Best initiative has been left out, particularly in Trump's senate speeches. Given Trump’s penchant for online rants and targeting people online, dedicating part of a speech to praise the work of an anti-cyberbullying initiative seems hypocritical at best.
Amid the constant influx of Trump news, Melania's absence proves somewhat concerning. But, her trademark stoicism isn’t exactly new to anyone. Over the course of Trump's White House tenure, the First Lady has largely stayed on message and out of the public eye as much as possible, but we wonder at what point would she break character and speak publicly about the impeachment?
As the annual State of the Union address approaches on February 4, Melania will likely be in the spotlight again — for better or worse — as her husband addresses the nation mid-impeachment. So we can all just stay tuned until then, I guess.