“West Wingers and those who traveled regularly with Trump noticed that he and Melania seemed to have some sincere affection for each other despite media speculation,” Woodward writes in Fear. “But she operated independently.”
While such shows of affection aren’t exactly unusual for a married couple, the detail may come as a surprise to some considering the obstacles the Trumps have faced.
President Trump, 72, is currently fighting a legal battle involving his alleged affair with porn star Stormy Daniels, was caught boasting about groping women in the leaked Access Hollywood tape, and was accused by multiple women of sexual harassment or assault — all of which has caused people to speculate about the couple’s relationship (including their awkward hand-holding moments in public). Protestors even went so far as to hold “Free Melania” signs during the Women’s March in January 2017. (Trump has denied all of the allegations against him, including any affairs.)
But Woodward’s book, which is based on hundreds of “deep background” interviews with top Trump aides and “firsthand sources,” paints a slightly warmer — though still problematic — picture of the first couple’s marriage.
“They ate dinner together at times, spent some time together,” he writes, “but they never really seemed to merge their lives.”
He adds, “Melania’s primary concern was their son, Barron.”
” ‘She’s obsessed with Barron,’ ” one source reportedly told the author of the first lady, 48. ” ‘That is her focus 100 percent.’ ”
The first lady’s office did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.
President Trump hasn’t directly addressed specifics in the book, but he has waged a full-out war on Fear, which portrays him as an erratic, vengeful leader whose aides are so fearful of his impulsiveness that they’ve allegedly stolen paperwork off of his desk to “protect the country.” (Top aides Rob Porter and Gary Cohn have contested this detail and their portrayal in the book, according to CNN.com.)
Trump has said that “the book means nothing” and that Woodward “likes to get publicity, sell some books.”
White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders released a statement earlier this month denying the claims made in Woodward’s book.
“This book is nothing more than fabricated stories, many by former disgruntled employees, told to make the President look bad,” read the statement. “While it is not always pretty, and rare that the press actually covers it, President Trump has broken through the bureaucratic process to deliver unprecedented successes for the American people.”
In Fear, fired White House chief strategist Steve Bannon had his own shocking way of summing up Trump as a father and husband.
“Trump is the perfect foil,” Woodward quotes Bannon as telling him. “He’s the bad father, the terrible first husband, the boyfriend that f–ked you over and wasted all those years, and [you] gave up your youth for, and then dumped you. And the terrible boss that grabbed you by the p—y all the time and demeaned you.”
Fear is on sale now.