Last year, Donald Trump got defensive when he was asked what gift he got his wife

By Sam Gillette
April 26, 2019 08:05 PM
Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump
Credit: MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images

Though Friday may have been her 49th birthday, Melania Trump did not celebrate with a party.

Instead, the first lady and President Donald Trump hosted a dinner for Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his wife, Akie, at the White House.

The president said he asked his wife, who spent her last birthday in the White House with her family, if she would like to have the Abes join them for dinner.

“We’re celebrating our First Lady’s birthday. It’s her birthday. So I said to Melania, ‘Would you like to have Mr. and Mrs. Prime Minister and Mrs. Abe join us for your birthday?’ ” he told reporters in the Oval Office on Friday afternoon. “And she said, ‘I can’t think of anybody I’d rather have.’ ”

So far, Trump has yet to share his own birthday tribute to his wife on social media but he retweeted a post about celebrating her birthday at the dinner with the Japanese prime minister.

The official White House Twitter account also posted in honor of Mrs. Trump’s birthday, choosing a bizarre photo of the first lady that quickly became a viral meme.

“Happy Birthday, @FLOTUS!” the post was captioned, along with an image of Mrs. Trump sitting alone on a sofa during a bilateral meeting between Donald Trump and Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis in the Oval Office.

The photo, which was taken in early March, also shows nearly 20 photographers circling the couch to take pictures of the president and the Czech prime minister, who are out of frame.

From left: The first lady and president
| Credit: MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty

Last year, the president, 72, got defensive when he was asked what gift he got his wife when he called into Fox & Friends to wish her a happy birthday.

“Well, I better not get into that because I may get in trouble,” Trump said at the time, before admitting, “Maybe I didn’t get her so much.”

It was the start of a year filled with highs and lows for the first lady, as she continued to adjust to life in Washington, D.C., where she’s been living with her 13-year-old son Barron since late 2017 — when she’s not enjoying the privacy of Mar-a-Lago.

Most recently, Mrs. Trump and her husband have navigated the fallout from Robert Mueller’s long-awaited report. According to the report, released on April 18, the Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election to help Trump win — but neither he nor his team conspired in that effort.

However, it did show that the president repeatedly tried to end the Russia investigation and influence its outcome, which critics say proves he illegally obstructed justice. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a 2020 candidate for president, called on Congress to impeach him.

A Mar-a-Lago source previously told PEOPLE that the Mueller report was “weighing heavily” on the president’s mind. A month before, another source told PEOPLE they witnessed the first couple having a disagreement at dinner while at Mar-a-Lago.

(Mrs. Trump’s spokeswoman, Stephanie Grisham, disputed the witness’ account as “completely false,” but did not elaborate.)

Melania Trump, Washington, USA - 07 May 2018
Credit: Andrew Harnik/AP/Shutterstock

This was the latest of various reports that have questioned the health of the president and Mrs. Trump’s relationship. (Speculation has been fueled, in part, by the first lady’s seeming reluctance to hold hands with her husband in public.)

In a wide-ranging interview with ABC News, titled “Being Melania: The First Lady,” in October, Mrs. Trump addressed the speculation about her marriage. She also discussed President Trump’s alleged affairs (which he has denied) for the first time, saying the claims are “not [a] concern and focus of mine.”

“I’m a mother and a first lady, and I have much more important things to think about and to do,” she told ABC News’ chief national affairs correspondent, Tom Llamas.

“Yes, we are fine,” Mrs. Trump said. “Yes. It’s what media speculate, and it’s gossip. It’s not always correct stuff.”

RELATED VIDEO: PEOPLE Writer Natasha Stoynoff, Who Accused Donald Trump Of Sexual Harassment, Opens Up on Matt Lauer Accusations

When her marriage isn’t under scrutiny, the first lady has faced criticism even for seemingly apolitical work such as “Be Best,” her “awareness campaign” to help kids combat online bullying and the opioid epidemic.

Many critics have accused Mrs. Trump of hypocrisy because one of her husband’s trademark moves is to insult rivals on Twitter.

In response, Mrs. Trump wore the infamous “I Really Don’t Care, Do U” jacket en route to a visit to a migrant children’s shelter. During the ABC interview, she revealed she wore it to push back against criticism by the “left-wing media.” (She also said she found her husband’s family separation policy “unacceptable.”)

The first lady
| Credit: Mark Wilson/Getty

According to Mrs. Trump, she’s the “most bullied person in the world,” she said during the same interview.

Asked what word she would use to describe herself, Mrs. Trump said that she is a mother, a daughter, a wife, a friend and the first lady of the United States.

She also said that she considers herself “caring, compassionate, strong, independent, very detail-oriented, staying true to herself.”