Melania conspicuously absent from Donald Trump’s hush money trial as children stand united

Questions for Trump

Source: X/Mike Sington

Before closing arguments in former US president Donald Trump’s criminal hush money trial, three of his adult children, including youngest daughter, Tiffany, gathered in a show of support for their father.

Conspicuously absent on the steps, and in the Manhattan Criminal Court in New York, was his wife, Melania, 53, and their son, Barron, 18, who recently graduated from Oxbridge Academy in Palm Beach.

Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, 42, was also nowhere to be seen.

The public display of unity from Trump’s children, which included Donald Jr, 46, Eric, 40, with wife Lara Lee, and Tiffany, 30, with husband Michael Boulos, comes as jurors deliberate in what is the first criminal trial of a US president.

Trump, 77, faces 34 felony counts of falsifying business documents to cover up the payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels just before the 2016 election.

He has pleaded not guilty and denies ever having sex with Daniels.

Missing in action

The former first lady has chosen to not attend any of the court sitting days over the past five weeks to hear what has been described as “at-times salacious and provocative testimony” from prosecution witnesses.

On day two of the trial, she called the trial “a disgrace” and tantamount to election interference, a source close to the Trumps with direct knowledge of her comments told The New York Times.

Melania has long referred to the hush money case as her husband’s problem, not hers.

Instead, she briefly joined her husband as they cast their votes in Florida’s presidential primary back in March, attended Barron’s graduation ceremony, and has increasingly been mocked for selling “tacky” US memorabilia jewellery on her official website rather than support her husband.

No surprises

Former Trump White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said there was no way Melania would show up to court as the trial concludes.

“I would be absolutely floored if she showed up … there’s just no way. She hasn’t shown up this whole time. In her mind, she would think she was caving, or look weak to suddenly show up,” she told CNN on May 29.

“The four of them [are] there and that’s good for the optics … the boys got to go out there [outside court] and shout over each other and talk how horrible this is.”

Melania and Ivanka – who, according to estranged niece Mary Trump, distanced herself from the family a long time ago – are thinking of their own optics, Grisham said. Showing up now would not “do anything”.

‘Where’s Melania?’

As Trump filed past his family guard of honour, reporters yelled out “Are you worried about a conviction?” and “How do you feel going into closing?”

Just before the door shut?

“Where’s Melania?”

Inside, as the kids took their seats behind Trump’s defence team, and a long line of Trump allies including congressional Republicans settled in, Trump’s lawyer Todd Blanche and New York prosecutor Joshua Steinglass delivered their closing arguments to the jury.

Last week, former federal prosecutor and legal analyst Joyce White Vance noted the jury would take notice of Melania’s absence.

“In court with Trump today: Lauren Boebert, Matt Gaetz. When you can get these two but not your wife in court, it’s got to register with the jury,” she posted on X.

Evidence focus

Blanche urged jurors to set aside their personal views of the 2024 Republican presidential candidate, and determine whether prosecutors had proven their case beyond a reasonable doubt, the standard required by US law, reported AAP.

“If you focus just on that evidence you heard in this courtroom, this is a very, very quick and easy not guilty verdict,” Blanche said.

Steinglass likewise urged jurors to ignore the politics surrounding the case.

“The law is the law. And it applies to everyone equally. There is no special standard for this defendant,” he said as he wrapped up his remarks.

The jury could deliberate as soon as Wednesday (local time). Photo: Getty

What next?

If found guilty, Trump faces up to four years in prison, although imprisonment is unlikely for a first-time felon convicted of such a crime.

A conviction will not prevent Trump from trying to take back the White House from Democratic President Joe Biden in the November 5 election.

Nor will it prevent him from taking office if he wins (opinion polls show the two men locked in a tight race).

Blanche said Daniels sought to blackmail Trump by threatening to go public with her story as he battled a string of unflattering stories of sexual misconduct in the final weeks of the 2016 election.

The defence has argued he approved the hush money payment to spare his family the embarrassment.

Steinglass said Trump was concerned that her story might hurt his campaign, not his family, and said it was irrelevant if Daniels was seeking a payday, because Trump broke the law by covering up the hush money payment.

“You cannot lie in your business records, and that’s what this case is really about at its core: Cheating,” he said.

Trump faces three other criminal prosecutions as well, but none is likely to go to trial before the election.

He has pleaded not guilty in all of the cases and called them an effort by Biden’s Democratic allies to hobble his presidential bid.

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