Trump’s Melania defense is back in play

100816 Scarry Melania Trump
Melania supported her husband even while condemning vulgar remarks he made about women. (AP Photo/John Locher) John Locher

Trump’s Melania defense is back in play

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Of all the pending legal cases against former President Donald Trump, none is weaker than Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg‘s. He reportedly plans to nail Trump on campaign finance and tax fraud charges related to a hush money payment to Stormy Daniels.

As a matter of pure legal strategy, Trump has one obvious defense for a payment made eight years ago to conceal a sexual liaison from 17 years ago: his wife.

KEEPING TRUMP IN THE SPOTLIGHT BENEFITS DEMOCRATS THE MOST

During the 2018 criminal investigation into Michael Cohen’s involvement in the Daniels scheme, I wrote that Trump’s “John Edwards defense” — that the porn star’s silence was purchased to conceal the 2006 affair from Trump’s wife, not the electorate — was no longer in play. But I was wrong. This take was written before Cohen pleaded guilty to lying to Congress, eviscerating his credibility, and, more importantly, before we learned about Melania Trump’s response to her husband’s infidelity.

You may remember that the first lady remained in New York City while her husband moved into the White House at the beginning of his presidency. While it was reported at the time that Melania stayed behind to finish out the school year of her son Barron, a 2020 biography by Mary Jordan revealed that she was actually renegotiating her prenup. While the Daniels saga only became public knowledge in 2018, during the 2016 general election, numerous women alleged that Trump had sexually harassed them after his 2005 wedding to Melania. While Trump made headlines for his infidelity during his first marriage, the 2016 deluge of allegations marked the first time Melania was publicly humiliated in this way. At the start of a presidency the entire pundit class dreamed would be disastrous, Melania thus had enormous leverage.

“According to three people close to Trump, Jordan writes, Melania had finally renegotiated the prenup to her liking,” the Washington Post relayed from Jordan’s biography. “She had already been looking out for Barron’s future by making sure he had dual citizenship in Slovenia, which will position him to work in Europe for the Trump Organization when he comes of age. Now, she had made sure he was not shut out of the family business.”

In hindsight, it’s not unbelievable that the prenup further tied the financial futures of both Melania and her son to the 45th president. Melania’s knowledge (or lack thereof) about Daniels prior to the 2016 payout will be crucial in determining whether Trump really was paying to influence the election. The third wife’s testimony will be crucial.

Trump is surely not dumb enough to urge his wife to lie under oath. But an extra half billion dollars might make a wife blindsided by cheating allegations against her husband a lot more forthright about the devastation it caused her.

In short, Trump likely knew this was coming. That prenup was specifically designed to protect not just Melania’s financial stake in the marriage but also Trump’s future criminal defense.

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