The Search for Melania’s Intelligence
S1: As our country works through the racial issues that we still face today, it is important to remember we are one global community. Let’s all agree that any differences we have should be celebrated and learned how.
S2: As the CDC continued to study the spread of Kovik, 19, they’re recommending that people wear cloth face coverings in public settings where social distancing measures can be difficult to maintain. You’re not the first first lady to have to deal with. Her husband’s alleged infidelities has put a strain on your marriage. It is not concern and focus on mine.
S3: Hello and welcome to Trump Cast. I’m Virginia Heffernan. Today as an act of escapism from this hot, cruel world. I thought we’d go to Camelot, which is what I call the magical love story of Donald Trump, who sometimes plays a billionaire and sometimes plays a president and the world historical beauty of the banks, of the fabulous, if strangely humid Kirche River in Nova Misto, Slovenia. Melania Melania, you know her by her watchful, cold, triple rimmed falsey fringed eyes, her jaw set like a sulky cadet, her screen of honey wine, hair, deep bronzed complexion and her pinup girl polyurethane sheath dresses also by those nine inch nails. OK, five inch nails that she affixes to her heels, calling them shoes and risking a body cast to consider all the world her catwalk. Melania and Trump, together, they’re a love match. If love were made of craven opportunism, prenup wrangling, raw meanness and florid betrayal. Oh, also if love were made of hate. Here to talk with me about Melania is Mary Jordan. She’s a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and national correspondent for The Washington Post. She’s also the author of the new book about the first lady, The Art of her deal. Mary, welcome to Trump Cast. Thank you. So fun. We get to talk about Malatya came out ours. Trump. I’m very excited. It’s been a long time since we’ve paid attention to her. I met the president one time in. I think the early 2000s was it after 9/11. But at a Peggy Siegel event. And I was seated at a table with him and his then exotic young model girlfriend, and they just walked around a lot. They didn’t really sit for dinner and they were greeting people and glad handing. But she seemed very illiterate and slinky and lovely.
S1: Did she get up and give a big speech?
S3: She definitely did not. I mean, is it possible that your book opens up the question of does she really speak any language?
S1: Well, well, I spent months on this because there was so little fact. There was so little about her. There was this weird void of information. I noticed during the campaign that I did make a call and you’ll get no answer. She didn’t have very many friends. You know, we weren’t. You went through the clips, and when she was twenty nine, all of a sudden she was listed as 26. But the big thing was, you know, she may have heavily accented English, but boy, she can speak all these languages. So I just tried to find evidence of that. And I think it’s very interesting that there is no video of her speaking German, Italian or French. And I called people that she had met, you know, leaders. She’s been in France, has been in Italy. She said she’s bitter out. And so I just said, hey, in the back rooms, like, you have little chitchats because she she says she speaks all these languages and, you know, person after person said no evidence.
S3: So interesting because. Right. That I mean, you’re supposed to say even ein Berliner, if you know you know a word or two of the language and you’re part of a part of world leadership, aren’t you supposed to sort of flaunt it and at least say a word or two to Braziel Macron, for example?
S1: And they have met many times. She’s met Macron’s many times. And you would think that at dinner or, you know, she doesn’t have to do it in public and part of the might. But but quietly and you know, why is it that you can find Jackie Kennedy speaking at length, you can go out, you know, just Google, Jackie Kennedy speaking Spanish and she gave a big speech in Spanish. And she also you can find long, long passages of her speaking French. That was in the 60s. You know, in the in the time when everyone has an iPhone, you can record video. Why? Why can’t we find a video of Malani speaking these languages?
S3: I sometimes think with models, with foreign models, there’s an effort. You don’t you don’t want to knock their intelligence. So the suggestion is they’re very intelligent and quick witted and literate, just not in English. Your book reveals it’s hard to find. It’s hard to find her intelligence. Put it that way. Even though we keep being told in your book, Roger Stone says she’s brilliant and Chris Christie said she’s brilliant. She’s certainly Sphinx like enough. So you could project something.
S1: But, you know, I think a lot of people because she is good looking. No, she’s been called arm candy. And, you know, and I think people did think she didn’t have a lot going on. She doesn’t speak out. But actually, when I was in Slovenia and talking to professors and looking at her academic records, I can find a report cards that she was actually a really good student. Seventy five percent of people who applied for the architecture program in college that she did were rejected. She got in. You know, I mean, there’s all kinds of different smarts. But she’s pretty savvy.
S3: Yeah. So what did you get to about her intelligence? I mean, we I guess, imagine that she’s very strategic about advantages and disadvantages for herself and Baron. But what about her imagination? I mean, she’s in such the first lady role is strange under ordinary circumstances, and it is fully hallucinogenic. Lists are real. Now, let’s turn to the president, as your book makes clear. So what what suits her to the role and doesn’t suit her to the role?
S1: Well, it’s very hard for her. She doesn’t like it and she’s not good at it. To speak in public, you know, and that’s tough, right? She’s got this amazing platform and a lot of the criticism she gets is that she wastes. Know what the heck is that? The best thing about what you should be doing, where is she? She goes missing for weeks at a time. I think that the part that’s hard for her is she’s terrible and doesn’t even do it. Spontaneous speaking. Right. She has upped her game on these short, polished videos because she’s a control freak. And you can control the edits on that. Right. She loves to read books for kids she loves. You know, she she does what Trump doesn’t. He does. He talk. He goes out and says, don’t wear a mask. She she takes a picture or has some video of her putting the mask on. You know, they’re yin and yang. People say she fills in the blind spots of her husband. And we’ve seen her do that many times.
S3: Does she have fans? I mean, who are independently fans of her? Yes. OK. And what are they like?
S1: Well, look, I mean, everyone knows that how you see her is largely colored for tens of millions of Americans by how you see her husband. Right. You know, he’s the guy that you’ll love or loathe. And so there’s a ton of people that don’t want to give her the time of day because I don’t like him. But there are I mean, it’s interesting. She she has higher poll numbers and he does higher poll numbers than any Trump family member. So there are people that give her credit for being a mama bear. She’s she’s very protective of Barron. They give her, ironically, that they say they like her the best because she speaks the least. And I don’t want to hear Trump’s so ha. You know, they think she’s classier because she for instance, when Trump did that, holding the Bible up in front of the White House after they had teargassed peaceful protesters, she wasn’t there. Ivanka was. So she does have more fans than her husband.
S3: Does she ever go to the rallies? I mean, this since 2016.
S1: Rarely, rarely. Rarely. And so what’s interesting is because she didn’t go with him, she was pretty much invisible in the 2016 campaign, like he was flitting around. Whereas Melania. No, that was unheard of. Usually the spouses, the go to surrogate, they raise money. You know, you got to be two places the same night. You see, Jill Biden right now is everywhere. She didn’t do that. And so I think people thought, oh, marriage is on the rocks and or she hates him and or, you know, she hates politics. So. So that was not right. I talked to so many people and they were saying that he gets after a rally. He gets in the car. The first call is to her. She’s been watching what worked, what didn’t. How did I do? She’s also the call before he goes up, you know? OK. Because she she knows how to use praise and pump them up. They are closer and she is more in touch. She reads everything written about them. And it drives people crazy in the White House because she’ll find some sometimes very obscure critic. Tell Trump. And then he’s in a foul mood and then everybody’s going, oh, no, not again.
S3: Because he was supposed to his his aides are supposed to give him binders filled only with an Cunninghams to his beauty and strength and power and brilliance. And maybe she smuggles in the criticism. I saw him, you know, at the last rally, which got a lot of attention because he was trying to contextualize and excuse his. The strange way that he drank water in the walk down the ramp at West Point and how he kicked off that strange aria about those two things were saying, I called my wife and said, what do you think of the West Point speech? And he said, people are being critical about the ramp or something like that. And she said, back to him and the water retelling.
S1: That’s right. I mean, I heard this from everyone on the campaign that just because you don’t hear you know, he’s dialing. And she’s in Trump Tower at that time. She is in Trump Tower with beer and watching TV, watching everything he was doing. Watching the reaction, she would tell him what was resonating and what wasn’t. She’s more of a player. I think it’s fascinating. She only came to America when she was 26 and he trusts her. That’s the big thing. He thinks that everyone around him is a John Bolton. Everyone around him as a possible turncoat. And so her stock has gone up as his concern about those around him has gone down.
S3: So ages ago, I think relatively soon after the inauguration, we had Kate embark on the show. I don’t know if you followed this, but she wrote a piece called Fairytale Prisoner by Choice about Melania’s Instagram photography. And it was just an on art historical analysis of this kind of aesthetic of Trappe tennis or something, where she’s posted many pictures of Baron and Donald Trump from the back. So, for instance, she seems to sit in the back of the. Her car, when Trump is driving and Barron sits in the shotgun seat and she walks behind them and certainly behind, as you point out, behind the president when they walked into the White House. And a lot of her photographs and I mean, almost all of them are taken through glass, like through out the window of Trump Tower, out the window of an airplane or out the window of a limousine. Does that seem to capture her to you? I mean, no, I actually do not.
S1: I think that there’s a lot of misconceptions about her. OK, I’m number one. And again, this is because I have interviewed over one hundred and twenty people. Some of them I’m not kidding. Like 20 hours. You know, if you go all the way to Slovenia, you’re going to just sit there for days and talk to people. And the thing that drives her crazy. And the thing that I think is most wrong in, you know, people see her and because she doesn’t say anything, you kind of guess she’s not trapped. She is not trapped. She is a strong person who has decided that it’s better for me to stay married than not to. She she decides she takes the time and decides. As someone who’s known her for 30 years, said, you know, she plays the long game. She’s a chess player. She waits her time and decides and everything is OK. My next move. What’s going to be the best thing for me? The best thing right now is to stay. And she’s not trapped. She actually likes also meeting all these famous people in the White House, the White House. Let’s, you know, meet the pope, the queen. People come by. There’s some kind of fairy tale aspect. Her mom. I’m most fascinated by her mother. OK, let’s hear it. Oh, my gosh. So think of this. You know, Yugoslavia is run by a dictator for 40 years. That’s where she grew up in the former Yugoslavia socialist country run by this communist dictator. Her mother, that’s her mother’s world. Right. I mean, her mother worked in a state owned factory for 30 years. And she was gorgeous. She is gorgeous. She’s very elegant. And she made her own clothes. She was a seamstress. In fact, she was the best dressed person in town. And people still talk about it. They said she was the only one that wear high heels and she walked all the way to the factory in those heels every day, back and forth across the bridge. And people called her Jackie for Jackie Kennedy in the 60s, 70s because she was so elegant. Well, now the mom, Amalia, is sitting in Jackie Kennedy’s Rose Garden. She’s in the White House. Most of the time, most days that Malani is there, her mom is with her.
S3: Amazing. And do you feel like she groomed Melania? Like to sort of. I don’t know. What is that wearing heels all the time? I mean, there’s an element of kind of stoicism, right? I mean, the high heels that Melania wears. I’ve just I’ve tried it, tried to describe to the men I know how challenging it is to walk on e mails that are almost five inches high. And it’s a strange kind of one display of power, stoicism, strength and balance. But to you, I don’t know. I mean, it’s it’s also crippling.
S1: I can’t even imagine there’s a reason that people like tennis shoes. She was four and five inch heels. And I’ll tell you, you ask a great question about what were those about? Everyone in that town where Melania grew up and couldn’t wait to leave. And she was 20. She wasn’t like three. Like she grew up there. Right. Yeah. Little town, 50000 people. No hotel, not much going on. Every single person I talked to said she couldn’t wait to get out. She wanted to go where the action was, which is interesting because even they were saying she was so quiet. So she didn’t say much. But she’s dying to be where the action is. It’s interesting that Trump is always bashing CNN these days because CNN started really with the Balkan war and that was Yugoslavia busting apart. And, you know, in in that part of the world, CNN to this day is like a huge thing because until then, you basically had two TV channels and they were state owned. All along comes this 24 hour network that we’re showing you everything. And people said they remember the Reagan White House in the 80s. They remembered John Travolta dancing at the White House with Princess Diana twirling around the floor like Saturday Night Live. I mean, those images, you know, I mean, it was just a different time and different part of the world. And that’s where she grew up, kind of with his very romantic feel. Dying to get to New York. And she did. And she brought her mom along with her.
S3: Sometimes I think that that dynamic of busting out of the former Soviet states of like romancing. Market capitalism of the you know, the greatest thing in the world is a Levi’s or a Billy Joel concert or, you know, which was very flattering, morally flattering to Americans because we thought, you know, not only is our you know, are we richer and more comfortable and freer than people in the Soviet Union. But the very fact that, ah, that, you know, we like, you know, consume like maniacs and love our brands and our rock stars is morally superior than the than the kind of drought of pop culture. And so, you know, I mean, Trump and Melania and some of Trump’s confederates of Russian extraction or in Russia seem to just love this dynamic, that conspicuous consumption is itself some kind of rebellious act and that, you know, dressing. Right. And the shared aesthetic of the Russian kind of clubs. And Trump’s idea of gilded ness seems to go in sync. And obviously, his first wife was Ivana. Was was she from the Czechoslovakia? She’s from Czech Republic. So, yes. So what is it about that? I mean, what is it about the conversation between that part of the world and and Trump’s version of America or Trump’s version of New York?
S1: Maybe both Melania and Trump. I mean, obviously, he’s a blabbermouth. She says nothing. So they appear different, but they’re quite alike in many ways.
S3: Yet you see that that is I would say that is one of the central theses and most interesting parts of your book. Sorry. Go on.
S1: She. Yeah. But they’re both obsessed by image. Both of them spend a huge amount of time on that. And that goes back to what you’re saying about the high heels. You know, she wears them because it looks good. You know, it can you know, you never see her ever look slightly out of place. There’s nothing must about her. And by the way, in both Trump’s Melania and Donald, their image doesn’t necessarily, you know, is based on facts like they build an image that sometimes is exaggerated or just basically wrong. Like Trump has said he’s taller than he is. You know, Trump has said there are more flaws in Trump Tower than there is. I mean, it just from basic things like that to big things. He just either makes it up or outright knows it’s false or exaggerates. But also, by the way, I found Melania has some of that, too. She not just the inability, even when asked the White House to show me some proof of this fluency in languages. But she has said she put it on her resumé line and said it under oath in court that she had a college degree. Well, she doesn’t. I know I talked to professors. I was in Slovenia and they said she never set for the final exam. The first year left at 19. Yeah. She said she literally I found the tape in Paris when she was 28 years old. She held this crazy press conference where, you know, she talked all day. That was kind of the last time she had hours and hours of interviews. And so I talked to every single journalist who was alive. I found that I tracked them down. I actually was like lost by mind. It was so happy when I found the tape in an attic in Slovenia and clearly in what was written up at the time in five different publications from that press camera and the tape. She says that she was one of the top models in the world. And there’s an exchange with the journalist who says, really? How come we don’t know who you were? And we’re from Slovenia. And. And then she just plows right through. And then another person says, what do you mean by, like, you’re one of the top models? Like. Does that mean, like, you’re one of the highest paid? And she says, yes. Now, I called her agent at the time. She says there is no way. I called all of the key people in the modeling world, in Europe and in America. No way. I mean, so they do have this ability to create their own myth, like to create their own image. They both love fine things. You know, she wears a fifty thousand dollar jacket. He puts 24 karat gold on the buckles, his seat belts and in the car. And they’re both frugal at the same time. You know what? He told the housekeepers that they are not allowed to throw anything away unless it’s in his specific pile, including a sliver of soap that’s left, you know, in the shower. Yeah. And she’s like that, too, in the White House. She was one of the main public rooms of downstairs is this green room. And the curtains were fading and she was doing the restoration. And she said, let’s just flip them around and put the outside in and we can use them again. So she’s also, you know, shit. That’s how she grew up making things. She’s actually quite gifted. Her mother, her sister and herself have made a lot of clothes, designed a lot of clothes and are pretty handy that way when you talk.
S3: About the person who managed her as a model or her agent, that’s a model. Remind me of how she got here, because Trump models did represent her for a while or. And, you know, obviously there’s all kinds of sketchiness about. Lots of people, lots of young women are trafficked from that part of the world. And, you know, Epstein at the time was very soon after Melania came here was bringing women from Slovakia and from from the Czech Republic. So but remind me exactly how she how she got to the U.S..
S1: This is exactly right. No, but this is the exact problem that I found when I campaign because no one knew where she come from. What does she do? What was she who was she before Trump? You know, she is she she appears one day at age 28. I mean, I tracked back in all the archives. It’s been a lot of time in different libraries because the magazines she tended to be in or, you know, wasn’t like The New York Times, which, you know, goes back to the 19th century. You can find yeah, there it’s in glamour and you know, you know, and kind of these fashion. So I would have to go in and find all these little references to them at parties. So she starts showing up in 1998. She’s 28. Mm hmm. But what about before? Which is your question? So she basically, at 19, decided she wanted to be the next Sophia Loren. She want to be an actress. She goes with her mother, who is really, as someone said to me, her right hand and her left hand mom is key. She goes with their mother to Rome to where Sophia Loren got her start in the film studio there. And she wins the contest, actually. And she won the contest. It was basically the fresh face of this film studio. And she was only 19. I mean, she she had you know, she’s extremely good looking. And but it didn’t work out. You know, one little side story. She when she was on a billboard for the camel cigarette ad and I found a picture of her that was near Times Square. It was nine feet tall. She was smoking a cigarette with the martini in one hand. This was in 1998. And she’s in this massive billboard for camel cigarettes. You know, that kind of advertising has been outlawed. Yes. You don’t advertise tobacco, but it’s different in 1998. And Greg Singer of the American Film Director looked up and he thought, oh, man, she could be good for my movie. He called their agent into, you know, had her audition. Mickey Rourke was was the male actress slated? He thought, oh, she could this could be great. And then he asked her to read three words. It was the name of the restaurant and the movie was Bones. And he said, could you just read these three words? And it was Bones. Swanky. Swanky. OK. OK. Yeah. When she said that, he just went, Oh my gosh. Oh, you’re so beautiful. But I say, excellent work for this. This American movie. And the movie was about a hit man, Dana, like a hit man. So she didn’t become an actress, as you know. But. So despite that, then she at 21, she started going to modeling competitions and really worked her way up. She’d go to seven or eight auditions a day, often not getting a callback. It was a tough time. The Berlin Wall had fallen. All of these Eastern European women were flooding into Italy. I mean, it was really, really competitive, tough time. And she she, by all accounts, just kept at it. And finally, at 26, that’s kind of old for a model, really. I mean, I hate to say that because I think it’s, you know, maybe but but like in the industry, that was kind of old and this Italian man, Pollos and Poley, brought it to America, got her the visa to work at his modeling agency in New York.
S3: So Trump models did not represent her?
S1: Not initially. So she came for this. There was the short lived modeling agency that Polo’s and Poley, an Italian agent who strangely, you know, was just this very rich guy whose father had made a lot of money on the Easy Bake Oven to remember the Easy Bake. Oh, yes. So anyway, Paolo is Paolo. He’s this rich guy. He I think he just liked models and brought some people over to New York and had this agency, and she was one of them. And then he also knew Donald Trump. And then in his story, there’s some doubts about if his story is exactly right. But I think pretty much everyone believes it was Paolo that introduced Melania to Donald would just there’s a lot of doubt about exactly the fairy tale meeting where Donald was struck, the hero, you know, by her beauty. And instantly they were a pair.
S3: I mean, these were the days that probably you and I remember and that wound up in Kansas, Bushnell’s column that became Sex and the City, but of, quote, moralizers. And it did seem like everyone, including your Paolo, had a had a modeling agency and the dynamics of modeling agencies. Well, I’ll just lay my cards on the table. I mean, it sounds a lot like kind of, you know, the repertory companies in Shakespeare’s time that were mostly prostitutes. Like, it’s just so close to the dynamics of trafficking or of I don’t think people use this expression anymore. But mail order bride. Right. Like, just there these models are brought over. I mean, Eppstein said to Trump, I wish I could have an agency like you. He relied on Victoria’s Secret to bring people in.
S1: But there’s absolutely no doubt that many of the people in that world, you know, the lot of drugs in those years, lot of hurting. You know, they did it because they could. They were rich. They were often older. They wanted to hang out with models having their own agency. Then you do. I mean, Trump was a moralizer, people. You know, you’re absolutely right. He used to literally ask people to go get a busload of models for his party. He did that in Mar a Lago. He said, go to South Beach, bring the bustle in. I’ll have these. And it would basically be a lot of older rich guys and a heck of a lot more like, you know, three to one girls to or women to men. And they were all half their age. That was routine.
S3: Two things, though. The look in those days, if I remember it was much closer to the. It was not a Sophia Loren, but was closer to Kate Moss and the kind of heroin chic, you know. And then, of course, there was like this unbreakable Christy Turlington and Linda Evangelist. You know, the first supermodels that were kind of they weren’t just the girls on SB in South Beach. They were dominating kind of the look of Milan of of actual haute couture. And supermodel was not supposed to be tossed around. I don’t even remember all the details of this that I’m certainly not an expert on it. But you know who I’m talking about. Yeah, that click of actual models. Right. Then there were these kind of I think sometimes disparagingly people say model actresses like they were just there kind of some combination of runaway’s of, you know, like just dropouts. But I mean, they have asked they’re pretty and they have some aspirations towards showbiz, but they might be their model career might be confined to showing up at parties.
S1: You know, Matt Malani, actually, because of the time she lived in River Catalog’s, right? Oh, yeah. I’m sorry, but he had a catalog, right? Because it wasn’t there was an online shopping. And so because of that, people would get catalogs for these clothing companies in the mail. They all needed models. And that’s where Melania Nade made her money. And, you know, it was bit by bit. It was it Christie TERl, Lincoln. It was Elle MacPherson. You know, it wasn’t it wasn’t Naomi Campbell. Those. Literally when those big name models, you know, a supermodel is basically someone that’s known around the world, usually by their first name. Yeah. Yeah. Like they owe me. Right. Yes. OK. They could command for a 15 minute catwalk because of all the attention they would bring like thirty thousand dollars cash. Meanwhile, Milan is in Milan, Milan and for the same 15 minute catwalk. You know, not the same one because she wasn’t in that league. Maybe she’d get a few hundred dollars. So but eventually she did. Mainly through just sticking to it. She made enough money that she got herself to Paris. And she kept on working. I talked to her roommate, who was this Swedish woman who had been a beauty pageant. She was a skier. She eventually became like Playboy the year. And she was won a multimillion dollar contract for Guess jeans. And she said, you know, when we started out, you know, they were in their young 20s in Paris. We had a crappy little apartment we’d have on the sixth floor, no elevator, you know, eating Kanza to going to these auditions and bad parts of town. And it’s you know, it’s hard. It’s, you know, you just kept you. But she said Melania kept waiting for that big break. She never stopped. And she was always on the phone with her mother. And I think everyone knows that her mother was always bucking her up and telling her she could do it, but her mother wasn’t.
S3: You don’t get the sense she was riding her like Terry Shields and Brooke Shields or something that she that just.
S1: I agree. I agree. I think she was an inspiration and just a person who was telling her, you can do this.
S3: So I’m sure you saw one of the fairly early. I think Larry King interviews when Trump introduces you touch on this in your book When Trump Introduces Melania to the World and. Says, she says, we want to have babies and. Right, Ed? Right. And she seems like actually besotted with him. And she felt like she doesn’t seem like entirely a gold digger in the sense that she really wants to have children. And that is that seems. And he is he’s hesitant because he has these children. But that seems to be very much part of their deal, that she’s going to have some babies or at least a baby.
S1: Well, at that time, you know, Trump had already had two failed marriages. And they talked about it. Right. He was to go around telling people after the Marla Maples, you know, was famously short lived marriage. Yes. You know, he had cheated on his first wife, Ivana, with Marla. And then, as his lawyer said to me, as soon as he married Marla, the chase was over and he started looking around Mrs. Trump’s own lawyer saying this. So all of a sudden, he was telling his buddies that he would go to these parties with where all the models were. Oh, my God, this is great. I’m never going to marry again. You know, I like that. Too complicated. I already have four kids, but two wives. Well, then along came as political aspirations. And I talked to quite a lot of people that going back 16 years, this is 2000. So 16 years before the 2016 campaign. He was asking people, do you think I need a wife, you know, to be president? And I mean, I even found articles talking about it. And he brought Melania in around 2000 was the end of 99, 2000 to Florida. I think it’s funny that he focused on Florida because he knew. Right. Everyone knows you got to win Florida. I brought her down there talking to the Cubans, talking about him running for president in 2000. And he noticed that all the older guys in the room couldn’t take their eyes off Melania. And people were saying that he realized that she was an asset, that she reflected well on him. And and this this there’s many examples of that. But it was just a very specific moment where he off like people say, Anthony, Scaramouch. He said to me, there are no co-stars with Trump. And that’s Melania’s brilliance. You know, she makes him look better, but never takes the shine away from him. And she has lasted longer than any other woman, right, Ivana?
S3: Marla Maples was so kittenish, if I remember. And Ivana obviously had her own franchise and aspirations and could upstage him quite easily. Don’t tell me about Baron because I know it’s mostly off the table to speculate about that. Some allegations of developmental disorders or other issues. But I just can’t make him out. You know, I know he’s taller than his father now that Melania came in talking about her young son and being protective. And now the recent speculation is Trump doesn’t like to appear with him because he’s better looking and taller than Trump. What do you know about all that?
S1: I know a lot of him, but I specifically thought, you know, he’s now he’s 14 when I started the book. He was 10. And I don’t talk too much about him, but. But I have to talk enough about it because he’s the central reason that she’s happy. Like it just everything. The filter is through him. She’s very close to him. Also, this whole renegotiating the prenup that she did was because of him. She felt that she didn’t want the older three from the first wife. Eric Don Junior in it banka to be considered an inheritance or in any way in the Trump org in the future, any way differently than her son. With Trump, right, there are five kids. But really you’ll usually just he’s always talking about the older three and they’re in the spotlight and of course they’re older. But still there is like this feeling somehow that Tiffany, who’s from Malas child, that baron and kind of don’t get the same attention from the dad.
S3: Right. But she might have looked to Malas arrangement because it always seems I could be wrong. But I in the few times I’ve heard Marla Maples and then years ago, Trump discussed their arrangement, he seems to have given her some kind of lump payment to sort of go away. And then she went to California as opposed to kind of keeping her always in the orbit of the Trump or like Ivana’s children.
S1: Well, I think Marla also was very happy to go well. They’re they’re very different people. And, you know, Melania saw that both the other the first wives wanted and felt they deserved more money than they got from Trump. They challenged their prenup. Some basically lost. I mean and I mean a lawyer for for Trump said he actually. Felt bad that Marilyn got so little out of that, but she saw that she she said these things and she made her move at the right time. Right. I mean, if you’re negotiating with Trump right in your heart, it’s very different to negotiate with a guy who is a real estate lawyer as opposed to someone in public life who wants his wife not to swat his hand once his wife show up, who wants his wife to look like she’s a little bit happier. That was the time to move in. That was really where she had the most leverage.
S3: It is amazing because as you point out and I want to get to the prenup, because that’s that’s sort of the scoop of a lifetime. Like so many people have written books in this period, it’s it’s just you can come out with a book that has like with the juiciest, strangest facts and it can be lost and juicy, strange facts. The next day from someone else’s book. But but in any case, I don’t want to lose this thing about the prenup and the money, because unlike people in business or people in show business, presidents desperately need their spouses, their wives. They need them to burnish their reputation. They need them to soften their edges. They need them to make them look more Christian, look like family men, look like good people. And so where Roger Stone can get divorced. You know, as much as he wants and have three ways and have everyone know about that as it like as this book really makes clear, Trump had to change course and somehow turn Melania into you. And there’s must be a good metaphor here. But, you know, something that like seals up all the holes in the story or something like that. So she had leverage.
S1: Right. And think about the dirt she has on him. God. I mean, she is one of the only people. I mean, and it’s it’s not just she knows like it’s personal habits and all that. But she’s the only one who was there in that famous meeting with Putin. Right. She knows she’s got secrets. Right. She’s twenty two years with him. She knows a lot. She she has potential to embarrass him. And the one thing that it really, really doesn’t like, like he was making him crazy, all the gossip, because Melania was staying in New York for six months. He moves into the White House. She’s up there. And she said, oh, I just want Baron to finish out his academic year. There was a lot of gossip running around the marriage. It’s on the box. She really doesn’t like him. You know, all this stuff. And it was making crazy. And what was the truth of that? I think she was absolutely she what she thought it was better for for Erin. And but there was a lot more going on there. She stays up there. She’s got leverage in his book. Famous book, The Art of the Deal. He says a negotiation is all about leverage. You got to have something the other guy wants. And better yet, can’t do without. So here here is an avid reader. Melania has read the whole shelf of Trump books, and she had what he didn’t want to do without. He hated the gossip. He wanted to her down there. He you know, that was carried, by the way, that was May of twenty seventeen when she swatted his hand on the tarmac. Wow. That was that whole period where three different people said the negotiations were still going on because Trump also likes to drive a hard bargain. And, you know, you think maybe another person would just tidy that up quite early. But no, it dragged on for a long time. But ultimately, there was agreement among those who know about this that she has done very well for herself with this this with with the financial agreement. And it wasn’t just about money. She wanted kind of respect and kind of equal. It kept talking about equal equal to the older kids, you know.
S3: So this is about Barens. Equal to the older kids. Right. All right. And she fully renegotiated this. I just asked my 14 year old son, by the way, if he knew what a prenup was. And when he said yes, I just couldn’t believe it. It just seemed. How in the world did prenups become something that everyone knew what they were? But maybe for the for the one listener who doesn’t really get the dynamics of prenups and the fully three, Trump had one with Ivana, too, right?
S1: Well, if you’re like Donald Trump has a prenup, the way other people have wedding rings, like, it’s just you just if you’re going to get married, you have this prenup, which, you know, a contract that lays out very specifically, you know, if if we get divorced in five years, you will get this amount of dollars and you stay married to ten years, you know, you’ll get this. And in fact, he did that with Marla Maples. It was like five years. If they didn’t stay married, if they were married longer than five years, she would get a lot more. And I talked to Jake Goldberg, who was his lawyer, who was new, what was in his contract, and he said Trump would call up. Say, how close are we to five years? How close are we to five years? Because he wanted to make sure that he he left Morila before Kiki would have to pay more.
S3: Right. And these are alimony payments and kind of lifestyle payments and stuff. And then there’s the child support piece of it.
S1: Right. And for instance, it would say in there, like, OK, here’s Ivanna when they when they split up. He had three kids with her. She worked in Trump work. They were together for more than a decade. And she was she’s a tough negotiator, too. But she wanted, like, half of his wealth. Well, she didn’t get nothing close to that. Nothing close to that. But she got, for instance, a home, a mansion in Westchester. She got a apartment in New York. You know, she got use of Mar a Lago for a month. You know, these is very detailed about, you know, how much living allowance you’re going to get in property.
S3: Well, the early, early alimony, early, your alimony conversations were around how much the wife had done to sue to build the business. Right. This was like unpaid work, not just working at Trump work, but like keeping his house and keeping, you know, keeping his children. That made it possible for him to build so much wealth. So Ivana was probably playing on some of those 80s themes in her negotiation, where Melania doesn’t work at Trump work and Trump work had its value to the extent that it’s valuable before she even came on the scene. Isn’t that right? So she she can’t make the same case.
S1: I talked to several developers, business folks in New York, and they all talked about how in when they were still dating, you know, like 2001 to 2003 before they got married 2005. And they would say they’d be like this big room where he’s, like, negotiating to bill to buy like some 400 billion old building or something or, you know, doing doing some big deal. And there’s maybe 50 guys and they’re all guys in the room. And along comes Mokoena in a mini skirt, a plunging dress. Everyone talked about, like, how, you know, she didn’t wear much. And, yeah, you know, everyone had the same story, like, oh, my God, we were afraid to look too closely at her. But clearly, he called her in because he wanted us to look at their, you know, and, you know, and that was she actually he felt that she did help him, that she she was called in on these negotiations, even though it was bizarrely just to kind of sit there and go, hey, look what I got and make him seem more valuable or destabilise them.
S3: So maybe she did add to the bottom line with this, like, weird gestural role. Sometimes on this, when I hear too much about the Trump family or Trump work, I start to feel this kind of Sunday school, Jimmy Stewart feeling where I want to be like, well, that’s not right. A wife and a husband should be married together and it shouldn’t be about money. Is there any part of Melania or Trump’s relationship that seems like it’s a principled or about love or or or something that we would recognize as not just like lizard brain calculations?
S1: I don’t know to that when she like it, I think. Was 2004 right before the wedding. Yeah. And somebody literally came up to her and it was written up and they said, oh, come on, you know, if you were a plumber, would you marry him? Like, you know, why are you married? This guy is 24 years older. He doesn’t have great hair. I mean, he had the same hair again. Right. And, you know, would you really marry him if he weren’t rich? And she turned her head instantly and said, would he marry me if I were beautiful? You know, it sounds a lot like Wallflower, she knew she brought something to the table when I spoke with her at length. She must have said three or four different times that they’re a partnership. She kept using the word independent. She really feels she has added a lot to the partnership, as she kept saying. And I do think that she does. You know, even though balanced is not a word you ever really hear about when you’re describing Trump, I kept coming up. People said she helps balance him and that when she’s not around, you should see what he’s like, that he calls her my rock.
S4: Mary Jordan is the author of the new book about Melania Trump, The Art of Her Deal. Thanks so much for being here, Mary. Thank you for your interest. I appreciate it. That’s our show for today. What do you think? We welcome your compliments, your your compliments on Twitter. I’m at page 88. The show is at Real Trump Tramcars. Our show today was produced by Melissa Kaplan and engineered by Richard Stanozolol. I’m Virginia Heffernan. Thanks for listening to Trump cast.