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Melania Trump said she was “blindsided” to learn that families were being separated at the U.S. border during her highly anticipated 20/20 interview on Friday night, clips of which made headlines when they were released earlier in the week.
The first lady, who recently courted controversy by wearing a helmet with colonial associations on a four-country trip to Africa, spoke with ABC News’ chief national affairs correspondent Tom Llamas during the trip. Of White House’s family-separation policy, which her husband, President Donald Trump, ended via an executive order in July, she said, “I let him know. I didn’t know that that policy would come out. I was blindsided by it.” She also told him that she considered it “unacceptable,” to which she says he “felt the same.”
Just before the interview aired on 20/20, CBS and The Washington Post reported that the White House was considering a new family-separation policy.
However, Trump says she typically does “believe in the policies” that the president enforces. On immigrants, for instance, Trump says that “we need to vet them” and “we need to know who they are” and ensure they “believe in our system.” Llamas noted the irony that family-based immigration allowed Trump’s parents to gain U.S. citizenship, while her husband has opposed the practice and derisively called it “chain migration.”
Llamas also addressed the infamous jacket that Trump wore while boarding a plane to visit immigrant children’s detention centers in Texas that read “I Really Don’t Care, Do U?”
Contradicting a statement from her own spokesperson, who said the jacket was not transmitting a message and was “just a jacket,” Trump admitted that she was, in fact, sending a message to “left-wing media” in order to prove that she is unfazed by the criticism. “It will not stop me from doing what I think is right,” she said. Trump also argued, “I would prefer that they focus [more] on what I do, on my initiatives than what I wear.”
At one point during the interview, Trump asserted that her Be Best campaign against cyberbullying was inspired by her own experiences on social media, a clip that went viral earlier this week. “I could say I’m the most bullied person in the world — one of them if you really see what people are saying about me,” she said.
Though she’s campaigning against cyberbullying, Trump is aware of the president’s bullying demeanor on Twitter and in press conferences. She admits that she doesn’t agree with everything he says but “his action is his action” in the end.
Trump also described losing privacy as being the most difficult thing about being the first lady, but she doesn’t feel like a “prisoner,” as some have speculated. “I don’t feel like a prisoner. I‘m enjoying it. This will not last forever. It’s a very special time,” Trump explained.
Despite explaining that she still has the same friends as her time before taking on the first lady role, Trump said it is difficult making friends in Washington. “If you want to have a friend in Washington, buy a dog,” she said, repeating an oft-used phrase.
At another point, Trump revealed that she does not trust everyone in her husband’s administration because people are constantly leaving and entering. While some of those people “don’t work there anymore,” some still do, she added.
The first lady additionally lambasted “false reports” she has heard throughout her husband’s term as president, arguing that there are “so many things” that are wrong, including that she isn’t happy nor lives in the White House and is “miserable” in her marriage to the president. “We are fine. What media speculates is gossip and not always correct stuff,” she says.
Speaking to Llamas days after the confirmation of now-Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, the first lady also weighed in on the #MeToo movement, saying, “I support the women and they need to be heard,” but added, “We need to support them and also men, not just women.”
Continued Trump: “We need to have really hard evidence that if you’re accused of something, show the evidence. I do stand with women, but we need to show the evidence. You cannot just say to somebody, ‘I was sexually assaulted,’ or, ‘You did that to me.’ Because, sometimes, the media goes too far and the way they portray some stories, it’s not correct. It’s not right.”
As for whether she’s the “gatekeeper” to the president and has the most “control” over Trump, the first lady laughingly responded, “Oh, I wish. I give him my honest advice and honest opinions, and then he does what he wants to do.”
When asked what was the most “surprising” aspect of being the first lady, Trump said that organizations she wanted to partner with had turned her down because they did not agree with her husband’s politics. “It’s sad to see that organizations and foundations I want to partner with choose not to because of the administration,” she said. “And I feel like they’re choosing the politics over helping others.”
Having endured constant media scrutiny throughout her term as first lady thus far, Trump said that if she could have given herself advice prior to her new political life, she would advise, “Listen to yourself the way you always listen to yourself. I always ask myself what is my priority, what I want to do, what is good for our child and for me and for my husband, and I took those steps.”
When asked about her husband running for a second term, which would put her in the White House for another six years, she said, “I believe that my husband is doing an incredible job for this nation and I want the American people to have success, so whatever he will decide, I will support him.” Added Trump, “I’m enjoying it. I really love to live in Washington and in the White House. And, yes, I’m enjoying it.”
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