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Where’s Melania? Japanese PM’s wife tours DC solo

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Melania Trump’s developing role as first lady took an unconventional turn when she wasn’t in Washington to escort the wife of the visiting Japanese prime minister around town, a typical FLOTUS responsibility.
USA TODAY NETWORK

Melania Trump’s developing role as first lady took an unconventional turn Friday when she wasn’t in Washington to escort the wife of the visiting Japanese prime minister around town, a typical FLOTUS responsibility.

But she did greet Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his wife, Akie Abe, when they and President Trump arrived at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland to board Air Force One bound for a weekend getaway at the Trumps’ Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Fla.

Mrs. Trump arrived separately, possibly from New York where she is still living, and greeted the president on the tarmac, according to the White House pool report from the scene at the base. (She was wearing a dark top over white wide-legged palazzo pants, with a dark coat flung over her shoulders in the chilly Washington weather.)

Together, all four got on the presidential jet, accompanied also by Trump’s elder daughter, Ivanka Trump and her husband, White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, for the trip to Florida. Once on board, Mrs. Trump stood silently next to her husband as he answered questions from reporters on board.

But earlier on Friday, Mrs. Abe visited Gallaudet University in Washington, and then had lunch with members of the committee planning the annual National Cherry Blossom Festival, according to Keiko Morito, a press aide to Mrs. Abe.

She was on her own, Morito confirmed. “Without Melania Trump, Mrs. Abe rolls solo in Washington,” declared the headline on CNN.

It was another sign that Mrs. Trump, 46, will not be a first lady like her more recent predecessors. She was already an unconventional figure when she started her term as FLOTUS, as the first foreign-born first lady in two centuries and a multi-lingual ex-model who kept a low profile on the campaign trail.

Akie Abe, wife of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, toured the Gallaudet University campus, Feb. 10, 2107, in Washington, DC. (Photo: Zhee Chatmon)

Plus, she’s not living in the White House, and won’t be until at least June, having chosen to remain in Trump Tower in New York until 10-year-old Barron Trump, the president’s youngest child, finishes the school year.

Ivanka Trump, 35, has filled in for her stepmother at least once so far, when she accompanied her father last week to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware to greet the remains of a fallen soldier. But Ivanka was at the White House Friday, sitting front and center among top Trump administration figures at the Trump-Abe joint press conference.

Usually, first ladies accompany the spouses of visiting international leaders around town while POTUS and the prime minister huddle at the White House.

The last time the Abes visited Washington, in April 2015 during the Obama administration, then first lady Michelle Obama accompanied Mrs. Abe to an elementary school in Great Falls, Va.

In April 2007, during the George W. Bush administration, then first lady Laura Bush accompanied Mrs. Abe on a visit to the estate of George Washington in Mount Vernon, Va.

The Trumps and the Abes are set to get cozier at Mar-a-Lago this weekend: They’re having dinner there Friday night, and on Saturday, the two men are expected to play golf while the women are expected to visit a Japanese garden.

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