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Melania goes missing as the Donald Trump show rolls into town

As hundreds of supporters waved flags and cheered outside Manhattan Criminal Court and more than 20 Secret Service officers accompanied former president Donald Trump to his arraignment inside, his wife Melania was nowhere to be seen.

Melania, their son Barron and Mr Trump’s daughter Ivanka reportedly did not accompany Mr Trump and his entourage to New York on Wednesday, opting to keep a low profile back home in Palm Beach.

After 58 minutes in court, Mr Trump flew back to Mar-a-Lago on his private Trump Force One jet after being formally charged with 34 felony counts of falsifying business records.

‘She doesn’t sympathise’

Prosecutors accused the 76-year-old Mr Trump – the first sitting or former US president to face criminal charges – of falsifying business records related to a “catch-and-kill” scheme to suppress negative news stories about him before the 2016 election.

During the campaign, Mr Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, paid porn star Stormy Daniels $US130,000 ($193,000) for her silence on an affair she says she had with Mr Trump.

“Not guilty,” Mr Trump said, when asked by Judge Juan Merchan in court how he pleaded.

Wearing a dark blue suit and red tie, Mr Trump sat, subdued, with his hands folded at the defence table flanked by his lawyers.

“The defendant Donald J Trump falsified New York business records in order to conceal an illegal conspiracy to undermine the integrity of the 2016 presidential election and other violations of election laws,” prosecutor Chris Conroy said.

The two women in the case are adult film star Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal.

As his entourage made its way back to Mar-a-Lago, mirroring scenes of a campaign rally, Mr Trump addressed friends, family and supporters, and delivered a litany of grievances against investigators, prosecutors and rival politicians at the podium.

US broadcaster ABC News reported Mr Trump’s children, Donald Trump Jr, Eric Trump and Tiffany Trump, were in the crowd.

Melania, Ivanka, Barron and son-in-law Jared Kushner were not spotted in the audience.

“I have a son here who has done a great job. I have another son here who’s done a great job,” Mr Trump said at the beginning of his speech, pointing to them both as the crowd cheered.

“Tiffany [pointing her out] … and Ivanka … and Barron … he’s tall and he’s smart … but I have a great family and they’ve done a fantastic job and we appreciate it very much.”

Where’s Melania?

Almost immediately, commentators and social media users started asking: “Where is Melania?”

Over the weekend a source told People magazine that “they weren’t expecting [the indictment], but Melania will support him.

“That’s what she does. They are a family.”

But, “she remains angry and doesn’t want to hear [the alleged hush money payment] mentioned”.

Ivanka Trump made a short statement on her Instagram stories last week.

In the post, she says she is “pained” for both her father and country: “I appreciate the voices across the political spectrum expressing support and concern.”

But no word yet from Melania.

“She is aware of who her husband is and keeps her life upbeat with her own family and a few close friends,” the People source says of the former first lady.

“[She] wants to ignore it and hopes it will pass, but she doesn’t sympathise with Donald’s plight,” the magazine reported.

The source said Melania “has been upset by the Daniels accusations since at least 2018”, when the Wall Street Journal reported that Mr Trump had arranged a $US130,000 payment to the ex-porn star a month before the 2016 election so she’d keep quiet about their alleged affair.

The couple reportedly “live in separate quarters of their Mar-a-Lago estate, the two are still often spotted eating dinner together or attending events at the private club”.

“She does very well with all of her socialising duties,” the source said.

‘Live separately’

“They still see friends for dinner at the club, but live separately and do what they want on their own. They don’t spend that much time together.”

Melania’s parents, Viktor and Amalija Knavs, who lived part-time at the White House during Mr Trump’s tenure, reportedly also live at Mar-a-Lago.

“Barron [he turned 17 this week] is a sweet boy who has a loving family around him,” the source says.

“He is older now and handsome. His mum is protective of him, but he is free around Mar-a-Lago. They are low key with their socialising.

“Melania loves the beautiful weather and resort town atmosphere of Palm Beach.

“She is happy when she is in Palm Beach. She has her son and other close family members. They are tribe-like and usually stick together. Despite what happens to Donald, she will be fine.

“She is well taken care of.”

Meanwhile, legal experts say a trial might not even begin for a year, and the indictment or even a conviction will not legally prevent Mr Trump from running for president.

“We’re going to fight it hard,” Todd Blanche, a lawyer for Mr Trump, told reporters after the arraignment.

Judge Merchan set the next hearing for December 4.

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