In mid-November, as President Donald Trump railed against the election results, his wife, first lady Melania Trump publicly agreed with his sentiments. But privately, a handful of days after the final state tally, the first lady tasked an emissary with discreetly finding out what was available to her in terms of budget and staff allocation for post-White House life.
While the President is busy figuring out a way to stay in the White House, the first lady is determining what to put in storage, what goes to Trump’s New York City digs, and what should be tagged for shipment to Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida.
“She just wants to go home,” said another source familiar with Melania Trump’s state of mind. Asked how the first lady feels about rumors her husband might announce a 2024 bid, the source added: “That might not go over well.”
The first lady quietly brought on Marcia Lee Kelly to her scant East Wing staff in April as a special government employee who could add gravitas and experience. She is unpaid and serves in a volunteer capacity but her job as Trump’s special adviser proved helpful as the waning months of her first-term tenure.
Kelly had previously run the White House Office of Administration and after it became clear Trump would need to prep for her life after Washington the first lady told Kelly to discreetly ask West Wing acquaintances and a member of the Office of Management and Budget whether there were taxpayer funds allocated to former first ladies, according to two sources familiar with the discussions.
The short answer is no. While there are post-presidential perks for such things for the outgoing commander in chief, budgets to set up an official office and staff and cover some travel costs, there is nothing from the government for any first lady, save a paltry $20,000-a-year pension, which is paid out only if her husband dies.
The intel gathered by Kelly on the budget — that there isn’t one — has not deterred Trump from turning her energy to departing Washington. According to discussions with three sources familiar, there is currently ongoing inventory being taken at the White House of the Trump’s own furniture and art and personal items.
And the first lady is hyper-focused of late on her legacy. One thing Trump is considering is a book, though it will likely not be a memoir — the post-White House writing of which is a tradition most first ladies have adhered to. Michelle Obama’s memoir, “Becoming,” and Laura Bush’s memoir, “Spoken from the Heart,” were massive bestsellers.
Instead, Trump is said to be toying with writing a photo-centric coffee table book about White House hospitality history, or one perhaps centered on the design projects she has completed while first lady, according to a source in the publishing industry familiar with preliminary discussions. Trump has also reportedly done one of the final things most first ladies do before leaving office: select the administration’s official china service.
“Mrs. Trump is focused on her role as first lady. Monday she unveiled her most current effort in preserving the White House by announcing the completion of the tennis pavilion. She also recently unveiled a new piece of art in the newly renovated Rose Garden. Her office just revealed this year’s Christmas décor. Her schedule remains full with her duties as a mother, wife and first lady of the United States,” the first lady’s chief of staff Stephanie Grisham told CNN.