To the Secret Service, he is “Mogul” and she is “Muse.” Donald J Trump and Melania Knauss met in Manhattan in 1998 and married seven years later. He was a real estate guy and she had curb appeal. In a new book about Melania Trump’s life, The Art of Her Deal, the Washington Post reporter Mary Jordan suggests Melania kept her mogul’s flickering interest by being an apt pupil of his literary output, which now runs to nearly 20 titles. In The Art of the Comeback (1997), written with Kate Bohner, Trump said about women: “There is high maintenance. There is low maintenance. I want no maintenance.” Melania took notes. She is a sphinx, with a rubber eraser in place of a tail. She didn’t keep friends as she moved through the stages of her life: her childhood in the former Yugoslavia, her years as a model in Milan, Paris and New York. There were no bridesmaids at her wedding. She has declined to talk about her past except in generalities. She is so camera-ready at all moments that a friend tells the author, “I don’t even know if she goes to the bathroom.” Melania’s remoteness prompts a cri de coeur from the author. “In three decades as a correspondent working all over the world, I have often written about the reluctant and the reclusive, including the head of a Mexican drug cartel and a Japanese princess, but nothing compared to trying to understand Melania,” Ms Jordan writes.
“Most people I spoke to would not speak on the record. Many in the Trump world are governed by NDAs (nondisclosure agreements). Some had been warned by lawyers, family members and others close to Melania not to speak publicly about her, and many would talk only on the same encrypted phone apps used by spies and others in the intelligence community. Old photos that were once an easy Google search away no longer pop up online.” Ms Jordan has drilled down, though, and brings new information about this unconventional first lady to the surface. Ms Jordan writes that Melania was renegotiating her prenuptial agreement during the 2016 campaign, and her husband’s “Access Hollywood” debacle almost surely gave her leverage. These negotiations, Jordan says, and not the need to remain in Manhattan for their son Barron’s schooling, were why Melania and Barron delayed moving to the White House. There is news on the tensions between Melania and Ivanka Trump. Melania has been overheard referring to Ivanka as “The Princess,” Ms Jordan writes. Ivanka, when younger, called Melania “The Portrait” because she spoke as often as one. Ms Jordan underlines how fiercely Melania embraces her Slovenian roots.
She spends much of her time with Barron and her parents. Barron speaks Slovenian and, like his mother, is a dual citizen — he carries a Slovenian as well as a United States passport. “Trump has complained to others,” Ms Jordan writes, “that he has no idea what they are saying.”