tv CNN Special Report CNN June 16, 2019 5:00pm-6:00pm PDT
melania trump." the following is a cnn special report. >> ladies and gentlemen, the first lady of the united states, mrs. melania trump. >> she's the most unusual first lady in modern history. >> she's very reclusive. >> melania trump is never beholden to the washington ways of broadcasting everything you are thinking and doing. >> there are persistent resumers that mrs. trump does not live in this white house. >> good morning. >> she's forging her own path. >> the president warned her that people are going to attack you about this. >> flying under the radar.
>> no sighting of the elusive first lady. >> setting her own trends. >> everybody has a different taste. >> the jacket -- >> the jacket -- >> this jacket -- >> i don't think she can shake it, do you? >> not to mention coping with the intense scrutiny of her marriage. >> i get the feeling that she cares less about what people think than any of her predecessors. >> tonight, questions. >> do you think the public will come to understand her more? >> she's become a very popular first lady. >> curiosity. >> i constantly hear how much fun she is. >> and controversy. >> i have never known a first lady who has accumulated so many small acts of resistance. >> with a rare visit to the east wing. >> this is where i would say all the magic happens. >> an inside look at the first lady, woman of mystery, melania trump.
it's 6:00 a.m., monday, march 4. i'm in a press van following melania trump's motorcade on the tarmac. it's about a 17-minute drive from the white house to andrews air force base. the first lady's staff has allowed me to bring a camera along for the cnn documentary. that doesn't happen often. neither do these trips. melania is hitting the road to promote her be best campaign. two years into her time as first lady, it's her first solo domestic overnight trip. is that a normal first lady schedule? >> i think she does a lot less than other first ladies have done.
>> the first lady of the united states, mrs. melania trump. >> she announced cyber bullying campaign really late. >> we can and should teach children the importance of social and self-awareness. >> i think that every first lady has felt compelled to have an agenda and to really work. >> the first first lady to have an initiative was lady bird johnson when she had this highway beauoo but if i beautif act. the bush women had literacy. >> you count. >> michelle obama with let's move. we see melania treat it more like a hobby.
it took melania a long time to come up with the cyber bullying campaign. i'm sure it's because her staff said, you are going to get criticized if you do this. >> criticized by some who question how the wife of a notorious twitter bully could lead a campaign that includes cyber bullying. >> i think she's also really smart. she sees the inherent hypocrisy. i'm doing it anyway. >> a character trait that we hear over and over to describe this first lady. >> she's very, very ind end pep. she does thinks her way. you have mrs. trump's office and my office. >> melania trump's spokeswoman, stefanie grisham. >> the president warned her people are going to attack you on this. it was very important to her. she stuck with it. that is to this day one of the
things i respect and admire about her the most. >> good morning. >> she will always do what she thinks is right, no matter what anyone else tells her. >> hi. >> i don't know that that's been done before. >> melania's first stop on her cross-country trip is a school in tulsa, oklahoma. >> we always need to be kind and show love. correct? yeah. we don't like hate. we don't like that word either. correct? we need to be nice. >> the first lady has been trying to put substance behind her be best agenda. a broad initiative to improve the well-being of children, promote online safety and combat the opioid abuse crisis in this country. >> i do believe we can be known as the generation that ended the opioid epidemic.
>> i think by taking on a lot, sometimes first ladies can be remembered for very little. a first lady and her advisers must very carefully create a strategy. you realize, michelle obama was head of a hospital and had a large staff and lady bird johnson was ceo of a multimedia conglomerate in texas. they knew what they were doing and they knew what they wanted to do. i don't think melania trump has been afforded the necessary resources. >> she's always consulting with her professionals. >> the white house says, melania's got this. >> more than almost any other modern first lady, melania trump was thrust into the role on a very short time line. and she's done remarkably well.
and whether she gets the credit now is not as important as the impact that she is having on american lives. >> in the modern era, first lady's social agendas have stemmed from matters close to their hearts. >> in 1974, betty ford discovered that she had breast cancer. she decided, this is bigger than me. >> one day i appeared to be fine and the next day, the very next day, i was in the hospital for a mastectomy. >> untold millions of women's lives were saved. it was real freaking life. >> have there been missed moments for melania trump? last may, she entered the hospital for a kidney procedure that kept her out of the public
eye for weeks. >> if melania trump had spoken about what the kidney ailment was, plain and simple and unemotional and unembarrassed, if melania trump were to ever address what it feels like sometimes to have the barrier and judgment of an accent, if she talked about a few of these very human qualities that make her vulnerable, that would be enormous. >> i think that while she is the first lady of the united states and people do deserve to know a lot about her and how wonderful she is, i think her privacy is important. i have learned from her that we don't have to tell everybody everything. we just don't. it works out fine. >> the president. he is in the oval office. >> i think there's a warmth to her that people don't see.
and you see it when she's with kids. you kind of see her light up. otherwise, there is just this kind of wall between her and us. >> up next -- >> this is unheard of. >> it was jaw dropping. >> melania gets tough. so recently my son's band was signed by a record label. while we're on the road, i can keep my parents in the loop with the whole facetime thing. i created a rockstar. (vo) the network more people rely on, gives you more.
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as you leave the west wing, and walk down this driveway, under the portico of the white house, you will reach the east wing. >> it was built in the '40s during world war ii over an underground bunker that was for the president in the event of an attack or an emergency. >> the east wing has served as offices for the first lady and her staff since 1977. rosalind carter was the first first lady to use the space. upstairs is the first lady's war room, so to speak. you are literally her first line of defense. >> literally right next door to her always. whether she likes it or not. >> meet stefanie grisham, melania trump's spokeswoman. >> this is where i come every day. bigger than my west wing office.
>> i think perhaps the most important decision that melania trump has made is by having hired somebody she trusts and somebody whose sense of judgment is in line with hers. >> the day that it was announced that i had taken the job with the first lady, i came into work and this newspaper was just sitting on my seat. it said, stefanie, as you can see, you will do a great job. the president signed it. >> in the ever evolving trump white house, grisham is one of the few staffers who has stuck around. >> i was the press wrangler. i became deputy press secretary. then mrs. trump stole me. it's a joke with the president and first lady and i that she stole me away. this is the chief of staff's office. then advance in operations. back here is calligraphy.
they are very busy, especially during state dinners. >> grisham is in constant touch with the first lady. >> working in the east wing, being so small, we are tight knit. we have to be. we are very close. >> melania's east wing has 12 staff members, fewer than her predecessors. >> on a given day, we would have three or four events. it was a juggle. >> this man was the social secretary in the obama white house. >> mrs. obama had initiatives that she launched throughout the administration. so we were really busy all the time. >> michelle obama had 25 or 30. laura bush had upwards of 20. to have less than half the number of people working for you, i think puts you at a tremendous disadvantage.
it sends a message about how much you are willing to do and how much you want to do. >> that was done by design by mrs. trump. it's fiscally more responsible when you have a staff of our size. also, she's so big on quality over quantity. >> melania has isolated herself from the chaos of her husband's white house by directing the east wing to operate independently from the west wing. >> i think melania trump is kind of a radical first lady in a lot of ways. she's someone who came to the position not necessarily wanting to be first lady, but re-imagining it in a really ooh ni unique way. she's private and guarded in a way we haven't seen since jackie kennedy. more so than jackie kennedy. >> i rather love this. it has all the colors when one thinks of when one thinks of the white house. >> who opened up the white house for a tour.
>> we are loyal to her. it's easier to keep things contained. >> so contained, melania can't shake the public perception that she's not doing much. >> there's this what does she do all day. what is her day? >> we have full staff meetings every week. it's very, very busy. i think one thing i would remind you, she's got a staff of over 100 in the residence. she's dealing with her east wing staff, usher's office and white house historical association. it's a full day for her. >> people don't realize the first lady gets involved in these events, sometimes months in advance. >> lucy goosy was thrilled. >> she chose colors for the
easter eggs for the roll. that was 2 1/2, 3 months ago. >> staffers say melania is a perfectionist. >> she will have a vision. she selects everything. i mean, linens, candlesticks, flowers, very detail oriented. it's one of my favorite things about her. >> she's fas t fastidious. people are looking for the spotlight. she feels no such compulsion. >> you have seen her in events. people think she's stoic. >> i have never seen the first lady be aloof, detached, disengaged. she's authentic and warm. >> you meet her and she's saying, can i get you a coke, do you want a coffee, is it warm enough? she's very, very kind and gracious. >> and according to her inner
circle, melania trump is actually fun to hang out with. >> i would spend my holidays on deserted island, tropical island with my family. >> something people don't really know about her is she's got an amazing sense of humor. she's very, very funny. also, self-deprecating sometimes, which is surprising to me still. just because she's who she is. >> coming up, melania, mia. this is the couple who wanted to get away who used expedia to book the vacation rental that led to the ride ♪ which took them to the place where they discovered that sometimes a little down time can lift you right up. ♪ flights, hotels, cars,
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there are persistent rumors that mrs. trump does not live in this white house. >> that is an outrageous and ridiculous claim. >> more than a year after she moved into the white house, gossip about the reclusive first lady still churned. what is that like for you to have to deal with? >> some of the rumors are so funny, we have to laugh. there's a fake house in the area pops up. we laugh at that. it's silly. >> that rumor caught fire after melania made a radical decision. >> when first lady melania trump decided she would allow her son to finish his school year in new
york before moving down here, it was classic, vintage monelania trump. she doesn't need a poll worrying about what people in washington think, worrying about what the media will say. she did what was right by her son. >> for melania, motherhood comes first. >> she gets up in the morning and she makes sure that he has eaten and there's arguments about homework and getting in the car and getting off to school. >> it's funny when you go to the white house and see the soccer goal in the garden. >> you think, yeah, there's a kid. because she's done such a good job of helping us forget that there's a kid. she has gone to great and almost poignant lengths to protect him from public scrutiny. that tells you an enormous amount about her. >> she didn't move into the white house for almost six months. something her predecessor, aka,
mom in chief, contemplated herself. >> for someone like michelle obama, it must have been galling to see her do it. because it's like, i didn't know that was an option. it was very important to her. she clearly loved life in trump tower. she wanted to put it off until the last possible moment, which she did. in some ways, it's kind of a feminist decision. >> when she finally moved into the white house, melania kept a low profile. >> we are so privileged. >> last may, she had a health scare. >> the first lady melania trump recovering at walter reed medical center. >> melania was admitted to the hospital for a benign kidney condition. rumors flared when post procedure she didn't surface for nearly a month. late-night tv poked fun at mia melania. >> because as of the time we are taping the show right now, the first lady has not been seen in public for 25 days. i'm not surprised.
it took that shawshank guy years to tunnel out. >> people want to imagine her as someone who is trapped in the white house. this damsel in distress image, which is not at all in alignment with who she is. in same way that donald trump breaks all these norms, melania trump breaks every rule because she can. >> melania has always been a reserved, private person. she was born in 1970. raised in a quiet industrial town in slovenia, which was then part of yugoslav ya. >> she's the second to be born outside the u.s. her mom was a dressmaker and worked in the factory. >> when people know the real story behind her early years,
they will recognize she's innately drawn to creativity. she's somebody who likes to draw, who likes to sketch, who likes to design. >> she studied architecture and design for a year in slovenia before realizing modelling was her passion. a photographer told cnn, he approached the striking melania on the street and talked her into a photo shoot. she was a natural. >> she learned very quick. >> she got work modelling but quickly outgrew her hometown. after a year, melania dropped out of college, left slovenia and moved to italy to model in milan. then in 1996, at the age of 26, dead set on becoming a famous model, melania moved to new york. never a party girl, it was a rare night out during fashion
week at new york city's kit-kat club. >> did you go? >> i was there 13 minutes. >> years later, the trumps spoke to larry king about the first time they met. >> he came to me -- >> like her went away? >> i went crazy. i was supposed to meet somebody else. forget about her. who is the one on the left? it was melania. >> you like him right away? >> it was a great chemistry and energy we had great time. we start to talk. it was something was there right away. >> this is kind of what she signed up for. right? she is more than 20 years younger than him. he is a playboy. he was famously dating lots of models. >> in 2000, while dating, melania landed a modelling coup. >> she's the first first lady to ever have these photos.
betty ford was a model but nothing like this. >> she posed nearly nude in a glossy british gq magazine spread. trump supplied his jet for the photo shoot. >> her posing on the trump plane dicked out decked out. she came to be this perfect stepford wife/super model for him. >> next, the most bizarre union. and the biggest first lady fashion faux pas in history. >> first lady melania trump has been getting a lot of backlash. all money managers might seem the same, but some give their clients cookie cutter portfolios. fisher investments tailors portfolios to your goals and needs. some only call when they have something to sell. fisher calls regularly so you stay informed. and while some advisors are happy to earn commissions whether you do well or not. fisher investments fees are structured so we do better when you do better. maybe that's why most of our clients
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i would like to introduce my wife, melania. come. >> early april 2016. in milwaukee, wisconsin. >> it is wonderful to be here today with you and with my husband. i'm very proud of him. >> melania trump made a rare appearance on the presidential campaign trail. >> in terms of him running for president, was she pro or was she against it? >> it had been going on for so many years. she was basically saying, do it or don't. i'm tired of this waffling.
that was one of the big things that pushed him to actually get into the race. >> we are going to make our country great again. >> she was reclusive even then though. she didn't sign up to be married to the president of the united states. she signed up to be married to a very wealthy celebrity new york real estate developer. so this isn't the life that she necessarily wanted. >> according to the white house, melania was on board all along. >> that is probably one of the undercovered stories of the 2016 campaign is how steady and supportive mrs. trump was. >> he's compassionate, giving and loving. donald cares -- >> she is an incredibly important honest adviser who expects nothing from the president except his success.
>> yet images and accounts of the trump marriage in the white house seem to paint a very different picture. >> the first first couple since the kennedys to have separate bedrooms. laura bush would say that she was anchored to her husband. michelle obama and president obama, there was a magnetism there. donald trump is not -- he doesn't open the door for her. >> there have been other awkward moments caught on camera. >> she famously swatted her husband's hand away on the tarmac in israel. doing these things that most first ladies would never let cameras see. >> is the trump marriage on the rocks? melania's inner circle says, no
way. >> they are like any other happily married couple. i see a lot of things behind the scenes. they are very affectionate toward one another. they love a lot. they talk and they are open with each other. >> when he is on the road, they speak frequently. when she's on the road, he is always checking in. i witnessed it on both ends, actually. >> yet, pundits say because melania is a woman of so few words, the visuals speak volumes. >> you are in the public eye. and you are not doing all that much and you are not saying all that much. and yet, there you are. the only recourse is to try to sus out something based on how you have turned yourself out for the occasion. with mrs. obama and even with
mrs. bush, designers would create looks specifically for that first lady. melania trump seems to buy online. what they were saying is, i don't want to collaborate on a special ensemble for this first lady, because they're not supportive of the administration. a lot of that led to her decision to just sort of say, okay, fine, i will wear what i want to wear and leave the designers out of the equation. >> many searching for clues from the elusive melania interpret her high fashion looks as possible feminist statements. >> the gucci blouse, people i think globed on to it because of the name of the blouse and because of the "access hollywood" tape had been thrust into the news. >> the white pants suit, was
that a message? >> there were the notions that she's wearing the white because she's signaling that she's really on the side of the resistance. >> some looks, including subtle fashion nods to the countries she's visited, have backfired. >> which is what happened in africa when she wore the helmet. i'm not sure why everyone wears that. it was very "out of africa." >> east wing staffers say they have zero control over melania. >> we give her the best advice we can all the time. she's going to do what she feels is best. >> that stance may have led to up with of the biggest fashion blunders in first lady history. last summer, when melania made a humanitarian trip to a children's shelter at the mexico
border, what could have been a compassionate visit turned into a pr nightmare. >> melania trump has been getting a lot of backlash. >> it's the jacket that's getting all the attention. >> this jacket -- >> the fact of the matter is, she wore the jacket on the airport and she changed when she was around those children. >> i find it mind boggling. that message got sprayed at everyone who was in eye shot. >> the white house says, it was blown out of proportion. >> i would find it laughable, me giving her clothing advice. it seems crazy to me. >> the damage had been done in the public eye. >> if there's one thing that ended up sabotaging compelling good will, it was wearing that stupid damn jacket. period. >> months later, the first lady addressed controversy surrounding her clothing. >> i wish people would focus on what i do, not what i wear.
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cleveland, ohio, october, 1975. when betty ford took the stage to lobby for the equal rights amendment, it was considered a bold move. >> why should my husband's job or yours prevent us from being ourselves? >> first ladies have traditionally been advocates and informal advisers for their husbands. yet, there really is no rule book. >> we have never figured out what we want from a first lady. what the heck is a first lady? you are supposed to show passion while having no true convictions. you are supposed to show some independence while being completely deferential. the whole job is an oxymoron. >> in the modern era, it is still uncommon for a first lady
to go on record with an opinion contrary to that of her husband. >> there have been very rare example examples. when president kennedy asked his wife to please somehow help maneuver the white wife of actor sammy davis junior out of the photograph, she was enraged and she refused to do it. when eleanor roosevelt was outraged over the internment of japanese-americans and argued the point with her husband. >> we have gotten subtle but deliberate signals they may not agree with their husband on every policy. melania's statements that contradict or don't back up donald trump, they don't have that feel. they don't feel like smart political strategy. they feel like tiny rebellions. >> i have never known a first lady who has accumulated in a
relatively short period of time, so many small acts of resistance. >> could melania trump be changing the first lady playbook? melania tweets and conducts her own social media without running it by anyone. some of her posts and actions fly in the face of her husband. >> there have been many situations with the west wing. her saying what she thinks, how she feels. she's authentic. and she will remain authentic always. it's just who she is. >> like this past august, when trump ripped into nba star lebron james. >> right after her husband on twitter, of course, as a cyber bully, mocked lebron james' intelligence, her office puts out a statement praising the work that lebron james has done. >> that's how we do things over here. she wants s to do it, we take e of it.
>> it's not the first time melania has disagreed with her husband. >> i don't think that's an accident. that's why i once wrote a column saying, she could be our greatest first lady. >> "new york times" writer frank bruney has a theory or perhaps some wishful thinking. the first lady is actually trolling the president. >> melania could do something that no first lady before her has done. which is actually kind of stop the monster. stop him by waging this sort of subtle campaign. >> he cites her be best platform as the first clue. >> i think cyber bullying is picked on purpose. she happened to land on that and it's exactly what her husband does every hour on twitter. it's impossible to view that as anything but a sort of slap of her husband. when you add that to wearing white pantsuit for his first state of the union address, a
reminder of hillary clinton, a reminder of suffragists. when you add that to going to africa on her first truly long solo trip, a couldnntinent her husband has mocked and belittled. >> what is the message you want to send to the world? >> that we care. >> i don't think she's sitting around coming up with some fancy and sustained script. but i do think in some very weird and unbelievably compelling way, she's letting her husband know, i see you clearly and i will slap you down and tweak you in public. >> melania's camp says that notion is pure fiction. >> anybody who would even question that is just being a critic and a cynic for no reason with no basis in fact. she will express her opinion. she will give her advice.
sometimes he will take it. sometimes he may not. >> it's not a spite towards her husband. it's not us being rude. there's no more there. it's just her saying what she thinks is right and doing what she thinks is right. >> then in november, the private first lady made a staggering public move. >> stunning and unprecedented public she called for the axinga national security official who clashed with her staff, stating, it is the position of the office of the first lady that she no longer deserves the honor of serving in this white house. west wing officials, including the president, were blindsided. >> it was jaw dropping. those kinds of things you would never see another first lady do. nancy reagan got president reagan's chief of staff fired. it was never a public statement.
>> the power play signalled that this first lady may be more like her husband than anyone realized. >> i don't think it's unconventional for her. this is who she is. >> coming up, flotus writes her own script on scandal. e to our . enjoy your stay. thanks very much. ♪ ♪ find calm in over 1,000 airport lounges worldwide. it's another way we've got your back. the business platinum card from american express. don't do business without it. so chantix can help you quit slow turkey.rkey. along with support, chantix is proven to help you quit. with chantix you can keep smoking at first and ease into quitting. chantix reduces the urge so when the day arrives, you'll be more ready to kiss cigarettes goodbye.
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last january, when the stormy daniels scandal lit up again -- >> have you been paid to keep quiet? have you signed a non-disclosure agreement. >> the porn star began her press tour. the first lady made a quiet landing in mar-a-lago. when potus is in hot water, pundits have noticed a trend. >> at the most difficult times during the stormy daniels scandal, she really did leave him out to dry. there were times when she wouldn't share the walk.
she wouldn't go to davos. this was around their wedding anniversary, too. she didn't take the motorcade with him to the state of the union, which was a first for a first lady. when he really needed her to stand up and publically defend him, she was not doing that. >> she seems to be sending either a public signal or a signal to him that i don't put up with everything gladly and that there are moments when i need to sort of punish you. or show the nation i'm punishing you. >> historically, the wives of powerful men have supported their husbands to counteract allegations of infidelity. >> i'm sitting here because i love him and i respect him. >> in 1992, hillary clinton sat in solidarity with her husband on "60 minutes" to address his alleged affair with jennifflowe.
last year, ashley cakavanaugh defended her husband against sexual assault allegations. melania trump has never followed that script. >> the president of the united states, donald trump. >> there's clearly this independent streak in her which surprises people just because in so many other ways she seems like an old-fashion wife. >> i think because melania doesn't have an ambition for higher office, she has nothing to lose. she's free to express those irritations. >> then after months of headlines about trump's alleged affairs with stormy daniels and karen mcdougal, melania finally spoke up. during her solo trip to africa, she sat down with abc news to address rumors of her husband's chiing. >> it is not concern and focus
of mine. i'm a mother and a first lady. i have much more important things to think about and to do. >> if there was ever a chance to humanize the president and defend his character, this was it. but melania punted. >> what's really interesting and a part we don't talk about as much, nobody else gets to undermine and countermand donald trump with impunity. >> she holds a lot of cards in this relationship. if she were to walk away, it would be a first first lady to leave her husband in office. i think it would be incredibly damaging for him. >> how does his behavior affect the first lady's reputation? >> even if melania trump were to become wildly successful -- >> october is national bullying
prevention month. >> no matter what a first lady does manage to achieve, it can never overcome negative impact of the president. >> you are fired. get out. >> no question, president trump will need melania by his side for his 2020 re-election campaign. >> i think we do see melania trump and donald trump growing closer publically. they have ridden this roller coaster together. >> she has always come around in the end. we will see her in 2020. but i think we will see her less. >> she's not going to walk away. but she's going to let it be known she's not happy. >> do you think the public will see her more or come to understand her more? >> i will leave it to the first lady to unveil additional parts of her portfolio. >> parents need to watch what
children are doing. to be safe. >> i will tell you, that she will continue to support the work of this administration. >> i think that history will look back on her very kindly. i hope first ladies to come will take a page out of her book. i think it's very powerful and strong. >> she's in a role that's dynamic. it's ever changing. while we can be an impatient nation, we have to give melania trump time. >> within the role of first lady, has has served notice she will do it as she wants to do it. i think people understand they are chasing shadows. we just don't know melania trump.
my father saved that lady's life. he was a hero. >> my father wasn't killed by the firearm. he was killed by the person behind the gun. >> i think he is a monster. i don't know how they are going to feel when they see me for the first time. >> he has no way of knowing the anguish that i felt for ten years. >> i have been wanting to say something for a long time. this is something that needs to be done. >> i will know if he is really remorseful or not. if he's not, then we got problems. >> i spend half my life working with the criminal justice system. and i have seen lives devastated by violence.