Wearing casual white denim jeans, a pressed black shirt and dark sunglasses, former first lady Melania Trump cut a sombre figure as she left Trump Tower in Manhattan two months ago.
Accompanied by her son Barron, now 15 and towering above her at 200cm tall, the July 7 outing was the first time she had been seen in public outside Palm Beach in Florida since her husband left the White House in January.
With rumours swirling within political circles in recent weeks that Donald Trump is preparing another crash-and-burn campaign for re-election in 2024, Melania has made it clear in no uncertain terms to friends that she doesn’t want a part of his grand GOP plan.
“Melania Trump’s disinterest in public political life runs deep enough that she has gone so far as to tell several friends that, not only does she not intend to bolster her husband’s inflated political ambitions, she has zero desire for a White House redux,” CNN reported this week.
“Being first lady again is not what she wants,” according to one of several people who had a close relationship with her during the Trumps’ four-year term in the White House.
“For her, it was a chapter – and it’s over, and that’s that,” the source told CNN.
“You’re not going to see her at rallies or campaign events, even if he ‘officially’ says he’s running again,” said another person aware of the disinterest Melania has in supporting her husband again.
“Instead it’s going to be Lara (Trump, the wife of Trump’s son, Eric) or (Kimberly) Guilfoyle (the girlfriend of Trump’s eldest son, Don). They have that same urge Trump has to (run) again; Melania absolutely does not,” CNN said.
Adds a People magazine source on September 8: “She was relieved when her husband’s term ended [in January this year].”
The most secluded first lady in memory
Since leaving the White House, Mr Trump has delivered a handful of speeches and rallying cries to the faithful, who continue to urge him to roll the dice again as Commander in Chief.
Melania has not been present.
Instead, he’s become an apologist for her, telling a Conservative Political Action Conference in February Melania says “hello”: “Melania, [who] loves you as much as I love you.”
And in June at a North Carolina rally, the former president again acknowledged his wife’s absence, referring to an escalator ride at Trump Tower years earlier: “Much as I said on that beautiful morning when I came down with our future first lady at the time, Melania,” adding, “who sends her regards.”
Even while she was in Washington, CNN noted she was “notoriously weary of public scrutiny and press coverage“.
Unlike other first ladies like Michelle Obama and Barbara Bush, Melania did fewer than “five on-camera interviews and no print media interviews when she was first lady”.
“An unheard of scarcity.”
These days, maintaining that mystery and intrigue, Melania, by all accounts, is just looking after her No.1, and only, son.
After spending the summer months at their members-only Bedminster, New Jersey golf club, Melania returned to the Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida recently with Barron so he can finish his schooling.
They’ve enrolled Barron at the co-ed Oxbridge Academy in West Palm Beach, founded by Florida entrepreneur-billionaire Bill Koch (who contributed money to Mr Trump’s past campaigns) and will graduate with the 2024 class.
While other students’ mothers are “nervous about the added security around the grounds”, Barron should fit well into the school, which uses a creative approach to education, hiring teachers with life experiences in their disciplines.
“She is totally involved with Barron’s education, after-school activity and overall wellbeing,” the source told People.
“She is not one bit interested in another campaign, and certainly not participating in it.”
The US Sun newspaper reported Barron’s $US35,000-a-year school is serving up vegetarian burgers, white chicken chilli and gnocchi and even maple miso salmon.
The 21-hectare campus will now have a security detail, with the principal telling parents in an email “they want to have little impact on our day-to-day operations” as much as possible.
People contacted Melania’s office for comment but they did not respond to requests for an interview.
Previously, the magazine was told Melania was “enjoying life at Mar-a-Lago … she is focused on being a mother and putting her family first, while working on various projects that will take time to finalise”.
“If he runs, I doubt she will be involved at all,” the source told People.
“If he should win, that would be the worst-case scenario for her. Things will need to be evaluated at such a time.”
Understandably, Melania wants to lead a private life – “she likes it” – and has no intention of being dragged around on Air Force One or Marine One to the next campaign rally.
Adds CNN: “The more she can be private and not in the public eye, the better.
“And there’s nothing wrong with that. I mean, if every single person in the world watched your every move for four or five years, and that wasn’t comfortable for you – just imagine how triggering that must have been.”