Near the end of President Trump's spontaneous first solo press conference, a reporter asked something of a throwaway question: "Can you tell us about what personally Melania Trump does for the country?"
President Trump enthusiastically responded, "Now, that's what I call a nice question. That is very nice," before diving into a somewhat frenetic defense of his wife against recent criticism that she is "miserable" in her role as First Lady, and a comment from a New York Times journalist repeating an unpleasant rumor about her past.
The president said:
I think Melania will be outstanding. And that's right, she just opened up the visiting center, touring of the White House. She, like others that she's working with, feel very, very strongly about women's issues. Women's difficulties, very, very strongly. She's a very, very strong advocate. I think she's a great representative for this country. And funny thing happens. She gets so unfairly—the things they say, I've known her for a long time. She was a very successful person, she was a very successful model. She did really well. She would go home at night and didn't even want to go out with people. She was a very private person. She was always the highest quality that you'll ever find, and the things they say—and I've known her for a long time—the things they say are so unfair.
Recent speculation about the first lady's state of mind has no doubt been fueled by the unusually low profile she's maintained in the first month of her husband's presidency. While this is traditionally a time when first ladies introduce their personal agenda and begin the process of establishing an office in the White House, Melania has spent almost all her time in New York, with trips to Mar-a-Lago on weekends. She did take a tour of the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's wife Sara Netanyahu this week. And just recently, she hired Anna Cristina Niceta Lloyd to serve as social secretary.
As her husband noted, even as a professional model, Melania Trump preferred to be out of the spotlight. The punishingly public role of first lady may indeed be an uncomfortable one for her.
Ivanka, on the other hand, has been a fixture in the White House since the inauguration, meeting with world leaders (Netanyahu and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau) and posting photographs to her Instagram account of her children in the White House. One controversial recent photo showed her seated behind the desk in the Oval Office:
During the press conference, President Trump for the first time raised the prospect that his daughter would be working with the first lady on advocacy issues in the White House.
"I think she is going to be a fantastic first lady. She's going to be a tremendous representative of women and of the people and helping her and working her will be Ivanka, who is a fabulous person and a fabulous, fabulous woman. And they are not doing this for money, they are not doing this for pay," he said.
Despite not having an official role in his administration Ivanka's name was mentioned more than once during Trump's press conference. In addition to the comment above, the President also said that he has "developed a new council with Canada to promote women's business leaders and entrepreneurs," a project that is "very important to my daughter, Ivanka."