tv CNN Special Report CNN June 14, 2019 10:00pm-11:00pm PDT
component to this first lady. >> we look forward to the special. thank you so much. >> thank you. >> we want you to have a wonderful weekend. happy father's day to me. the premiere of woman of mystery, melania trump starts right now. 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 is very reclusive. melania trump is never be holden to the ways of broadcasting everything that you're thinking and doing. >> there's persistent rumors that mrs. trump does not live in this white house. >> she is forging her own path.
>> hi. >> the president warned her that people are going to attack you about this. >> flying under the radar. >> still 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 has become a very, very popular first lady. >> curiosities. >> icon constantly hear how much fun she is. >> and controversies. >> i've never known a first lady that 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 4th. 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 andrew's 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 a cyber bullying campaign. >> 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 lady to ever have an initiative was lady bird johnson when she had the highway beautifcation act. nancy reagan with just say no to drugs. the bush women both had literacy and then michelle obama with her lets move campaign.
there was always a sense of an obligation to treat this like a job and we see melania trump treat it more like a hobby. it took melania a long time to come up with the cyber bullying campaign and i'm sure it's because her staff said you're 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 hypocracy and said look i'm doing it anyway. >> a character trait that we hear over and over to describe this first lady. >> she is very, very independent and she does things her way. coming up here you have mrs. trump's office and my office. >> melania trump's spokeswoman. >> the president warned her that
people are going to attack you on this and it was very important to her and she stuck with it. that is to this day one of the things i respect and admire about her the most. she will always do what she thinks is right, no matter what anyone else tells her. and i don't know if that's been done before. >> the cross country trip is a school in tulsa, oklahoma. >> always need to be kind and show love. we don't like hate, correct? we need to be nice. >> the first lady has been trying to put substance behind her be best agenda. behind a broad initiative to improve the wellbeing of children and promote online safety and combat the opioid abuse crisis in this country.
>> i do believe we can beat no one 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. michelle obama had a large staff and was head of a hospital. and lady bird johnson was ceo of a multimedia conglomerant in texas. they knew what they were doing and what they wanted to do. i don't think melania trump has been afforded the necessary resources. >> she is always consulting with professionals. >> the white house says melania has 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 has 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 ladies social agendas stemmed from matters close to their hearts. >> in 1974, betty ford discovered 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 the 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 a first lady of the united states and people do deserve to know a lot about her and how wonderful she is, i think that her privacy is important. and i have learned from her that we don't have to tell everybody everything. we just don't and it works out fine. >> where's the president?
>> yeah. >> he's in the oval office. >> there's a warmth to her that people don't see and you see it when she's with kids. you see her light up. but 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. i'm still going for my best... even though i live with a higher risk of stroke due to afib not caused by a heart valve problem. so if there's a better treatment than warfarin, i'll go for that. eliquis. eliquis is proven to reduce stroke risk better than warfarin. plus has significantly less major bleeding than warfarin. eliquis is fda-approved and has both. what's next? sharing my roots. don't stop taking eliquis unless your doctor tells you to, as stopping increases your risk of having a stroke.
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the president in an event of an attack or emergency. >> the east wing served as the offices for the first lady and her staff since 1977. rosalyn carter was the first first lady to use the space. upstairs is the first lady's war room, so to speak. >> so you're literally there. >> literally right next door. whether she likes it or not. >> meet stephanie grisham, melania trump's spokeswoman. >> this is where i come every day. much bigger than my west wing office. >> i think perhaps the most important decision that melania trump has made is by having hired somebody that 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 sitting
on my seat and it said stephanie as you can see, you will do a great job and the president signed it. >> in the ever evolving trump white house, grisham is one of the few staffers that stuck around. >> i was the press wrangler and then i became deputy press secretary in the west wing with sean spicer and then mrs. trump stole me. it's kind of a joke with the president and first lady and i that she stole me away. >> this is the chief of staff's office and then operations. and back here is caligraphy. they're better busy. especially during state dinners. >> she 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're very close. >> melania's west wing has 12 staff members.
far fewer than her predecessors. >> on a given day we would have three or four events. it was a juggle. >> jeremy bernard 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 so to have less than half the number of people working for you puts you at a tremendous disadvantage and also sends a message about how much you're willing to do and how much you want to do. that was done by design by mrs. trump. first of all it's fiscally more responsible. when you have a staff of our size. plus she is 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 a radical first lady in a lot of ways. she is someone that came to the position not necessarily wanting to be first lady but reimagining it in a unique way. she is fiercely guided and private in a way we haven't seen since jackie kennedy. even more so than jackie kennedy. >> she famously opened up the white house for a tour. we know that she does value her privacy so that's very important to us. we are very very loyal to her. that's not to say people aren't loyal in the west wing but when it's a smaller staff, i do think it's easier to keep things contained. >> so contained, melania can't shake the public perception that she's not doing much. >> there's sort of this well what does she do all day. so what is her day like?
>> we have full staff meetings every week. it's very, very busy and she has a resident staff of over 100. so she's dealing with her east wing staff and usher's office and white house historical association so it's a full day for her. >> and people don't realize that the first lady gets involved in these events sometimes months in advance. >> easter, we started planning four or five months ago. she chose the colors for the easter eggs for this year's easter egg roll about 2.5 or 3 months ago. >> staffers say melania is a perfectionist. >> she will have a vision and then she selects everything. linens, candlesticks, candles, flowers. very detail oriented. she's very detail conscious.
i describe her as a woman of action in a town of talk. where people are con constantlily looking for the spotlight. she has no such compulsion to always make it about her. >> you see her at events, she is stoic. >> i have never seen her be detached. and disengaged. >> she's authentic and warm. you meet her and she is the one saying can i get you a coke? do you want a coffee? are you comfortable? are you 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 that people don't really know about her is she has an amazing sense of humor. she is very, very funny. and also self-depricating sometimes which is surprising to
me still just because she is who she is. >> coming up, melania mia. is this ride safe? i assembled it myself last night. i think i did an ok job. just ok? what if something bad happens? we just move to the next town. just ok is not ok. especially when it comes to your network. at&t is america's best wireless network according to america's biggest test. now with 5g evolution. the first step to 5g. more for your thing. that's our thing.
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>> that is an outrageous and ridiculous claim. >> more than a year after she moved into the white house, gossip about the first lady still churned. >> what is that like for you to have to deal with. >> the rumors are so funny that we laugh. the rumors that there's a fake house somewhere in the area continues to pop up and we laugh at it. that'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 melania trump where she is confident. she doesn't need a poll worrying about what people in washington think. worrying about what the media would say. she did what was right by her son. >> for melania, motherhood comes first. >> she gets up in the morning and makes sure that he has eaten
and there's arguments about homework and getting in the backpack and getting in the car and getting off to school. >> it's funny when you go to the white house and you see the soccer goal put up in the garden. >> and you think oh, yeah, there's a kid. because she has done such a good job of helping us forget that there's a kid. she has gone to great and almost poniant lengths to protect him from public scrutiny. that tells you an enormous amount about her. >> melania 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 kind of 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 and in some ways, it's kind of a feminist decision.
>> when she finally moved into the white house, melania kept a low profile. >> we're so incredibly privileged. >> then last may, she had a health scare. >> first lady melania trump recovering this hour at walter reid medical center. >> melania was admitted to the hospital for a benign kidney condition. >> rumors flaired again when post procedure she didn't surface for nearly a month. late night tv poked fun at mia melania. >> 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. >> i think people want to imagine her as someone that is trapped in the white house. this kind of damsel in distress image which is not at all in alignment with who she really is. in the same way that donald trump breaks all of these norms, melania trump breaks every rule because she can.
>> melania has always been a reserved, private person. she was born melania in 1970 and raised in a quite industrial town in slovenia which was then part of ugoslavia. >> she's the second first lady to be born outside of the u.s. the first one was louisa adams born in london. her father was a member of the communist party and her mom was a dress maker and worked in a factory. >> when people get to know the real story behind her early years, they'll recognize that she is drawn to creativity. she is someone that likes to draw, that likes to sketch, that likes to design. >> she studied architecture and design for a year at the university in slovenia before realizing modeling 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 modeling but quickly out grew 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 kitkat club that put her in the path of an older real estate tycoon. >> i have been slovenia two years ago. >> did you go? >> yes. i was there about 13 minutes. >> years later the trumps spoke to cnn's larry king about the first time they met.
>> that's how we met. >> right away. >> i went crazy. i was actually supposed to meet somebody else. i said forget about her. who is the one on the left. >> did you like him right away? >> it was a great chemistry and energy. we had, you know a great time. we started to talk and, you know, it was -- something was there right away. >> this was kind of what she signed up for, right? she is more than, you know, 20 years younger than him. he is a playboy. he was famously dating lots of models. >> in 2000 while dating, melania landed a modeling coop. >> she's the first first lady to ever have these photos. betty ford was a model but nothing like this i can assure you. >> she posed nearly nude in a gq magazine spread. trump supplied his jet for the photo shoot. >> her decked out in diamonds and gold and she really came to be like this kind of perfect stepford wife/super model for
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i'd like to introduce my wife melania. >> earlier april 2016, in milwaukee, wisconsin. >> it is wonderful to be here today with you and with my husband. i am 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 and 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 acounts of the trump marriage in the white house seem to paint a very different picture. >> they're 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 say there was a magnetism
there. donald trump is not chivalrous in the way that other presidents have been. he does not open the door for her. >> and there have been other awkward moments caught on camera. >> she famously swatted her husband's hand away on a tarmac in israel. doing things that first ladies would never let cameras see. >> so 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're very affectionate toward one another and they laugh a lot and they talk and they're open with each other. >> when he is on the road, they speak frequently. when she's on the road he's always checking in. i've witnessed it on both ends, actually.
>> yet pundants say because she is a woman of so few words the visuals speak volumes. >> you're in the public eye and you're not doing all that much and you're not saying all that much. and yet you are. the only recourse is to try to get something based on how you have turned yourself out for the occasion. with mrs. obama and prior with mrs. bush designers would create looks specifically for that first lady. melania trump seems to buy online. what they were essentially 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 lead to her decision to just sort of say, okay, fine, i'll wear what i want to wear and i'll 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 grabbed on to it honestly because of the name of the blouse and because of the "access hollywood" tape had recently been thrust into the news. >> the white pantsuit at the state of the union, was that a message? >> there were the notions that oh, she is wearing the white because she is signaling that she's really on the side of the resistance. >> some looks, including subtle fashion nods to the countries she has visited have backfired. >> which is what happened in
africa when she wore that. >> i'm not sure why. it was very out of africa. >> east wing staffers say they have zero control over melania. >> we all give her the best advice that we can all the time and then she is going to do what she feels is best. >> that stance may have lead to one 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. >> the jacket. >> this jacket. >> the fact of the matter is she wore the jacket on to the airplane and then 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 ends up sabotaging compelling good will, it was wearing that stupid 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. >> coming up. >> melania could do something that no first lady before her has done.
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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 because what the heck is a first lady? you're supposed to show passion while having no true convictions. you're supposed to show some independence while being completely deferential. the whole job is an oxymoron. >> in the modern era, it's still uncommon for a first lady to go on record with an opinion contrary to that of her husband. >> there have been very rare 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 that they might not agree with their husband on every policy thing. >> 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've never known a first lady that has accumulated in a relatively short period of time, so many small acts of resistance. >> could melania trump be changing the first lady play book? she 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 is 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 mocks lebron james's 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 to do it, we take care of it. >> it's not the first time melania has disagreed with her husband. >> i don't think that's an accident. and that's why i once wrote a column saying she could be our greatest first lady. >> new york times op-ed writer 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 the best be platform as the first clue. >> i think cyber bullying is picked on purpose. she just happened to land on that one and it's what her husband does every hour on twitter. it is impossible to view that as anything but a sort of slap of her husband. but when you add that to wearing the white pants suit 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 flashy solo trip. a continent that her husband has repeatedly in direct and indirect ways mocked and be littled. >> what is the message that you want to send to the world on behalf of your husband's
administration on this trip? >> that we care. >> i don't think she's sitting around and coming up with some fancy and sustained script, but i do think in some very weird and unbelievably compelling way, she is letting her husband know i see you clearly, and i will slap you down and tweak you in public. >> but melania's camp says that notion is pure fiction. >> anybody that 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 toward her husband. it's not us being rude. there's no war 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 rebuke. >> melania called for the axing of a top national security counsel official that clashed with her east wing 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 blind sided. >> it was jaw dropping. those kind of things you would never see another first lady do. nancy reagan got president reagan's chief of staff fired but 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. she writes her own script on
we like drip coffee, layovers- -and waiting on hold. what we don't like is relying on fancy technology for help. snail mail! we were invited to a y2k party... uh, didn't that happen, like, 20 years ago? oh, look, karolyn, we've got a mathematician on our hands! check it out! now you can schedule a callback or reschedule an appointment, even on nights and weekends. today's xfinity service. simple. easy. awesome. i'd rather not. last january, when the stormy daniels scandal lit up again -- >> stormy, we love you! >> have you been paid to keep quiet? have you signed a nondisclosure
agreement? >> and the porn star paid off by trump's fixer to cover up an alleged affair 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 to marine one. she famously wouldn't go to davos, and this was around their wedding anniversary, too. she didn't take the motorcade with him to state of the union, which was a first for a first lady. when he really needed her to stand up and publicly 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 that 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 jennifer flowers. >> he's decent -- >> last year ashley kavanaugh appeared on fox news defending her husband, now justice brett kavanaugh against sexual assault allegations. but melania trump has never followed that script. >> the president of the united states, donald trump. >> there is clearly this independent streak in her which i think surprises people just
because in so many other ways she seems like an old-fashioned wife. >> i think because melania doesn't have an ambition for higher office, she has nothing to lose. she's sort of free to express those irritations. >> then after months of salacious 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 cheating. >> it is not a concern and focus of mine. i'm a mother and a first lady and 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 here, it's the part of this we don't talk about as much, nobody else gets to undermine and counter mand 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 and i think it would be incredibly damaging for him. >> but 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're fired, get out. >> no question, president trump will need melania by his side for his 2020 reelection
campaign. >> i think we do see melania trump and donald trump growing closer publicly. they've kind of ridden this roller coaster together. >> she has always come around in the end. we will see her in 2020 but i think we'll see her less. >> she's not going to walk away but she is going to let it be known that 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, so to be safe. >> but 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 that first ladies to come will take a page out of her book because i think it's just very powerful and strong.
>> she's in a role that's dynamic. it's ever changing. while we can sometimes be an impatient nation, we're just going to have to give melania trump time. >> within the role of first lady she has served notice that she will do it as she wants to do it. i think people understand they're sort of chasing shadows. we just don't know melania trump. this is "cnn tonight," i'm don lemon. lots of news on that explosive interview, you know the one i'm talking about, the president saying that he'd be open to taking dirt on his political opponents from foreign powers. yeah, that one. outrage spreading, ever since the story broke. and now white house officials, well, they're privately
acknowledging what's been pretty obvious from the very beginning, that the president answered the questions from george stephanopoulos poorly. but there's more. a source close to the white house tells cnn there was frustration with sarah sanders' handling of the abc interviews. the source saying "the clips from the last few days have been tough" and calling the interview "an issue for sanders" but going on to say the decision to give the interview was ultimately the president. that as he is apparently not done trying to clean up the mess he made. i want you to listen to what he said to fox news just today. >> i had dinner with the queen. i met with the prime minister of the uk. i was with the head of france. i was with all these nations, and i constantly am, constantly talking to them. and, you know, that puts us in a -- we have many, many conversations and i'm just thinking, gee, if they say we don't like your opponent, am i supposed to t