Melania Trump walked arm-in-arm with a serviceman and stood apart from the president during Wednesday’s Veterans Day wreath-laying ceremony.
The first lady was escorted by the masked military man and sheltered under an umbrella with him during the visit to Arlington National Cemetery, on Donald Trump‘s first public engagement since the election was called for Joe Biden.
Neither Melania, 50, nor the president, 74, were wearing masks at the cemetery, unlike Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka who had a face covering on.
Mike Pence’s wife also stood at a distance from him in what appeared to be a part of protocol for the socially distanced ceremony.
But that has not stopped opponents of the Trumps speculating about a rift between Melania and her husband.
At previous visits to Arlington on Veterans Day, Melania has accompanied her husband more closely.
Escorted: Melania Trump takes the hand of a uniformed member of the US armed forces during Wednesday’s wreath-laying ceremony, leaving Donald Trump to walk by himself
Melania sheltered under an umbrella during the visit to Arlington National Cemetery on a wet, dreary Veterans Day on Wednesday
Donald Trump walked alone during his first public engagement since the presidential election was called in favor of Democrat Joe Biden on Saturday
One former Trump aide, Omarosa Manigault Newman, has spread rumours that the couple’s marriage could end in divorce when their term in the White House ends in January.
She claimed: ‘Melania is counting every minute until he is out of office and she can divorce. If Melania were to try to pull the ultimate humiliation and leave while he’s in office, he would find a way to punish her.’
However, Melania appeared to back her husband on Sunday by talking about ‘illegal’ votes on Twitter, a reference to the president’s unfounded claims of election fraud.
Close watchers of the couple noticed at the end of a debate last month that Melania appeared to yank her hand away from her husband as they walked off a stage.
On another occasion, Melania appeared to dodge a kiss from her husband following her speech to the Republican National Convention in August.
The couple stood together during last year’s Veterans Day appearance in New York, which in pre-coronavirus times was accompanied by a parade through the city.
In 2018, Donald and Melania joined other world leaders and their spouses at an Armistice Day event in Paris to mark 100 years since the arms fell silent at the end of World War I.
The presidential couple walked separately from each other as they took part in the somber ceremony at the tomb of the unknown soldier in Arlington’s National Cemetery
Melania Trump, pictured, was not wearing a mask despite appealing as long ago as April for people to wear face coverings during the pandemic
2019: Melania Trump accompanied her husband at last year’s Veterans Day ceremony in New York, which in pre-coronavirus times came before the start of a parade through the city
October 22: Close watchers of the presidential couple noticed Melania appearing to rip her hand out of her husband’s grasp as she turned to leave the stage after the final presidential debate against Joe Biden in Nashville
More recently, the Trump family attracted criticism during the first election debate in Cleveland for failing to wear masks while sitting in the audience.
Melania had appealed as long ago as April for people to wear masks, long before Donald Trump was first pictured wearing a face covering.
After joining her husband on stage without a mask after the first debate in Cleveland, Melania did wear a mask at the end of the final head-to-head in Nashville.
But on Wednesday, Melania was again without a mask despite her close proximity to the military man escorting her.
Neither Donald nor Melania made any public remarks during the somber ceremony on a wet, dreary day in Washington, although Melania paid tribute to the nation’s troops on Twitter.
The first lady had three days earlier declared on Twitter that ‘the American people deserve fair elections… every legal – not illegal – vote should be counted’.
The president, who during the campaign refused to commit to honoring the result, has falsely claimed that he would win the election but for ‘illegal’ votes.
Spectators look on as the president and first lady arrive for the rainy wreath-laying ceremony
Donald Trump lays a wreath on his first official outing from the White House since Joe Biden’s victory in the election was declared on Saturday
Ivanka Trump was wearing a mask at Wednesday’s ceremony, unlike the president or first lady
Vice president Mike Pence also attended the Veterans Day ceremony, while president-elect Biden appeared at the Korean War Memorial in Philadelphia.
While Trump’s official schedule has been limited in recent days, he has made significant personnel moves, including the firing of defense secretary Mark Esper.
His pick as acting defense secretary, Christopher Miller, was among the Pentagon brass that joined him at Arlington.
Trump has not addressed the nation since Biden’s win, but has spread unsubstantiated claims on Twitter and refused to acknowledge that his term is nearing its end.
He has made no mention of the dramatic rebound in the Covid-19 pandemic across the country, which is now seeing more than 100,000 infections per day.
Some supporters pushed back against the notion that Trump is shirking his presidential duties.
President-elect Joe Biden and incoming first lady Jill Biden made their own appearance at a Korean War memorial in Philadelphia
‘The president is out there as much as he’s ever been on Twitter, and the White House team are moving ahead with budget and staffing priorities,’ said Dan Eberhart, a prominent Republican donor and Trump backer.
He added: ‘The president is understandably focused on the ballot counting, but at some point soon he needs to turn his attention back to the lame duck session and putting a capstone on his first four years.’
Aides claim that Trump has been calmer than his tweets suggest, suggesting that he wants to keep fighting almost as performance, as a show to the 70million people who voted for him.
In recent days, some aides, including his daughter Ivanka, have started to talk to him about an endgame, questioning how much longer he wants to fight the result.
While Georgia is heading for a recount and Arizona is still too close to call, Biden’s win in Pennsylvania means he already has more than the 270 electoral votes needed.
The Democrat now leads by more than 50,000 votes in the state, which narrowly voted for Trump over Hillary Clinton in 2016.