"I think she’s wildly underestimated, just because she’s quiet," The Art of Her Deal author Mary Jordan said of the first lady

By Sam Gillette
June 23, 2020 03:07 PM
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First Lady Melania Trump in 2019
JOSEPH PREZIOSO/AFP via Getty

For a new biography on Melania Trump, Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Mary Jordan says she spent five years learning about the first lady's life.

She spoke with CNN last week about what she'd learned: from the "complicated" bond between President Donald Trump and his third wife to Mrs. Trump's tense relationship with stepdaughter Ivanka Trump and what her plans might be post-White House.

"Her brand is to be mysterious," Jordan, who works for The Washington Post, told Alisyn Camerota.

Jordan's new book, The Art of Her Deal, which made headlines even before its publication on June 16.

The former model-turned-first lady, 50, has long drawn scrutiny for her inscrutability. She rarely appears in public or gives speeches, she's been seen swatting her husband's hand away a number of times when he's attempted to hold hands and not much is definitively known about her life before her relationship with the president.

"She does it on purpose. Her brand is to be mysterious," Jordan told CNN on Tuesday. "Just as Trump’s brand is to never stop talking. There’s no such thing as too much publicity. He made his name by putting Trump on everything — every building, every magazine. Well, her brand really is [to be] the most recognized, unknown, person perhaps in the world."

The Art of Her Deal is based on more than 100 interviews, but that hasn't stopped the White House from ridiculing it.

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Especially after the news leaked that — according to Jordan's reporting – Mrs. Trump renegotiated her prenuptial agreement with the president in the wake of his 2016 election win. (Mrs. Trump "negotiated the far better deal than either of the first two wives," Jordan told CNN.)

The first lady's spokeswoman dismissed The Art of Her Deal as "fiction" and a White House spokesman was similarly disdainful.

"Yet another book about Mrs. Trump with false information and sources," Stephanie Grisham, Mrs. Trump's chief of staff, said earlier this month. "This book belongs in the fiction genre."

Separately, White House spokesman Judd Deere said: "These allegations couldn’t be further from the truth and had the Washington Post or the publishers of this book fact-checked this with Ivanka’s office, they would know that. Hit pieces like these only serve to conjure non-existent palace-intrigue stories unworthy of the paper they’re printed on."

Ivanka Trump's team was in part responding to Jordan's conflict-filled portrayal of the first daughter's relationship with her stepmother, who is only 11 and a half years her senior.

"I’ve spoken to many people and inside the White House, particularly at certain times, tense times, there’s been Team Melania and Team Ivanka," Jordan told CNN last week. "And there’s a lot of tension there. When Ivanka came to the White House, she really loved it immediately, Melania was up in New York. Ivanka, all of a sudden said, 'You know, I think we should rename the First Lady’s office the First Family office.' And then, of course, Melania put her foot down and said, 'No way.' "

Mary Jordan
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From left: Ivanka, Donald and Melania Trump
Neilson Barnard/Getty

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Jordan also gave some insight, according to her reporting, into Mrs. Trump's relationship with the president, which has been dogged by allegations of his extra-martial affairs and headlines around some of their awkward physical interactions in front of the cameras. (President Trump has denied all allegations of misconduct.)

Other biographies have reported that the Trumps sleep in different quarters, which Jordan's book also confirms.

"They’ve been together 22 years. And, by all accounts, Donald Trump is not the easiest person to be with for 22 years," Jordan told CNN. "I’ve interviewed many people who’ve been to dinner with them, seen them up close, worked for them, and there is a real connection there. But it has changed over time and it goes up and down."

She continued: "Love is complicated and, as they say, Trump love is really complicated. They spend a shocking amount of time physically apart. And yet, the first call he often makes after a speech or a rally is to her. It’s a mystery."

Jordan also had an opinion about what might be next for Mrs. Trump, should her husband lose the 2020 presidential election.

"There’s a lot of things she could do," she said, per CNN. "She’s actually quite creative and very smart. I think she’s wildly underestimated, just because she’s quiet."

She added: "As Anthony Scaramucci, who used to work in the White House very briefly, said, 'Donald Trump doesn’t do costars. There’s only one star.' And Melania’s genius is that she knows that. She always stays in the background. Once they leave the White House, it will be interesting to see if some of these things that she told people in her 20s and 30s, about wanting her own business, to design things, come true."