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Melania Trump’s Legacy: Missteps, Mystery and, in the End, Absence

“I find it shameful that surrounding these tragic events there has been salacious gossip, unwarranted personal attacks and false misleading accusations on me — from people who are looking to be relevant and have an agenda,” Mrs. Trump wrote in a statement released on the White House’s official website.

On Monday, Mrs. Trump struck a different tone in what amounted to a farewell video. She promoted her time as first lady, and her nascent platform, Be Best, again asking the rest of the country to uphold ideals that her husband has spent four years ignoring.

“Use every opportunity to show consideration for another person,” Mrs. Trump said. “In all circumstances, I ask every American to be an ambassador of Be Best. To focus on what unites us, to raise above what divides us, to always choose love over hatred, peace over violence, and others above yourself.”

Mrs. Trump’s friends say that she is a better person than the country ever saw, who at times tried unsuccessfully to be a moderating influence on her husband and was angered by how he handled their final months in the White House.

“Melania is and will continue to be the most popular Trump,” Kellyanne Conway, the former counselor to the president, said in an interview. “She will use her platform for the good of others. As first lady, she was fully engaged, but not overexposed. There remains a curiosity and a mystery about her.”

But publicly she has shown a side that critics felt could be confoundingly callous and, like her husband, dramatically self-pitying. In 2018, while returning from a visit to a Texas border town to meet detained migrant children, Mrs. Trump made what turned out to be her most explicit fashion statement, wearing a jacket emblazoned with the phrase, “I really don’t care. Do U?”

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