An explosive new book claims to have lifted the lid on the marriage between Donald and Melania Trump, claiming that the powerful couple live separate lives and remain together only because of an arrangement.
Michael Wolff’s highly anticipated second book about the Trump presidency, Siege: Trump Under Fire, was released last week, just six months after his first expose, Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House.
The first sold four million copies and was based on exclusive access Mr Trump granted the journalist and author, as well as interviews with more than one hundred sources.
The follow-up focuses on the “emotional chaos” surrounding Mr Trump, much of it of his own making, Wolff told The Australian.
And a central theme is his relationship with the First Lady, which is characterised as “a Katie Holmes-Tom Cruise deal”, referring to the Hollywood actor and Scientology leader’s rumoured relationship contract with his ex-wife.
Mr Trump is yet to comment on the new book but furiously attacked the first, including those who contributed to it. The White House has also been critical of Wolff’s claims, a number of which it says are clearly false and contradictory.
Wolff also writes about the president’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, being “hardly a fan of her stepmother” and regularly criticising the former model’s “red flags” that could pose a public relations threat.
The most pointed revelations come from Steve Bannon, who directed Mr Trump’s campaign and remained a close adviser until departing the administration mid-2017.
“I never saw any evidence of a marriage,” Mr Bannon is quoted as saying in the book. He told Wolff that most mentions of Mrs Trump “drew a puzzled look from Trump, as if to say, ‘How is she relevant?’”
It’s revealed that Mrs Trump “widely repeated” to close friends her believe that “we don’t belong here” in regards to herself and son Barron’s place in the White House.
Rather than occupy the residence in Washington D.C., Mrs Trump spends most of her time at a home in Maryland occupied by her parents.
“Indeed, a distraught Melania, repeatedly assured by her husband during the campaign that there was no possibility he would win, had originally refused to move to Washington,” Wolff writes.
“And, in fact, the First Lady was not really in the White House. It had taken Melania almost six months to officially relocate from New York to Washington, but that was in name only.”
When Mrs Trump is in the White House, she and her husband have separate bedrooms — the first presidential couple since John and Jackie Kennedy to sleep apart, he notes.
But those stays are rare, Wolff writes, and instead what Mrs Trump “established was effectively a separate life for herself”.
That arrangement, which the author claims “worked” for Mr Trump, contributed to the distance between him and his 13-year-old son, Barron, it’s claimed.
“Barron … became more distance towards his father,” he writes. “This might not be unusual for a boy his age, but Trump responded with hostility. This took the form of ignoring his son when they had to be together. Trump also went out of his way to avoid any situation where he might have to encounter him.”
A number of fiery periods are also documented, including when audio of Mr Trump talking about grabbing women “by the p***y” emerged during the campaign, and a bizarre situation in the White House one Christmas when he asked a seven-year-old if he “still believed in Santa”.
Mrs Trump was said to be furious about both occasions and left feeling deeply embarrassed.
But one of the most intriguing incidents recalled in Wolff’s book is the First Lady’s mysterious and extended hospital stay in May last year.
“Nobody in the West Wing believed the explanation for the First Lady’s hospital stay,” Wolff writes of the official line that she underwent routine kidney surgery.
The President’s communications team seemed totally unprepared for the media interest in Mrs Trump’s sudden hospitalisation.
“And then, credulity pushed to its end point, the excited speculation inside the White House mirrored, or perhaps led, the speculation outside. Plastic surgery? A physical fight? An overdose? Mental breakdown? A standoff in a financial negotiation?”
Mrs Trump entered Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on May 14. Fifteen days later, she returned to the home in Maryland her parents occupy.
“Nine days later, she missed the annual Memorial Day wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery. On June 1, Trump made a rare trip to Camp David with the entire family … but without Melania or Barron.”
It was June 4 when she made her first appearance in more than three weeks at a White House event for the families of military Gold Star recipients.
“On June 21, during a surprise trip to a shelter for migrant children in Texas, she was photographed in a Zara jacket with a legend scrawled across the back: I DON’T REALLY CARE, DO U?
“The President insisted that she was referring to the fake news media.”