WASHINGTON (CNN) — The West Wing has been churning out news non-stop since President Donald Trump took office, but the East Wing has quite literally remained dark.
It’s been 12 days since the last public sighting of first lady Melania Trump, who had been planning on splitting her time between Washington and New York, where the couple’s son, Barron, is completing the school year.
And when a solemn scene unfolded Wednesday afternoon as Trump boarded Marine One to pay his respects to a fallen service member’s family in Delaware, he was accompanied by first daughter, Ivanka — a reminder that she is his closest family in Washington.
Melania Trump’s last public appearance was on January 21, when she went to the post-inauguration multi-faith prayer service at Washington’s National Cathedral. The next day, which coincided with the couple’s 12th wedding anniversary, Melania Trump returned to New York City, Barron in tow.
A spokeswoman for the first lady told CNN Trump would be returning to Trump Tower — temporarily.
“The first lady thanks everyone for their support and a beautiful welcome to Washington. She is returning to New York in advance of the school week and will be splitting her time between Washington and New York for the next few weeks,” the spokeswoman said.
She has not been back to DC since.
Despite this, a spokeswoman for the first lady knocked down recent reports that the Melania Trump would not be moving to Washington at all.
“That report is not true,” the spokeswoman said.
Later Wednesday, Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, acting as senior adviser to the first lady, confirmed Melania Trump will move to Washington.
“Mrs. Trump will be moving to DC and settling in to the White House at the end of the school year, splitting her time between New York and DC in the meantime,” she said. “Mrs. Trump is honored to serve this country and is taking the role and responsibilities of first lady very seriously. It has only been a short time since the inauguration and the first lady is going to go about her role in a pragmatic and thoughtful way that is unique and authentic to her.”
But for now, without a full-time first lady, the typical duties of that part of the White House machine are at a veritable standstill. On Wednesday evening, the first lady’s office shifted into a more active gear, announcing the hiring of Lindsay Reynolds, a former associate director of the White House Visitor’s Office during the George W. Bush administration, to be Trump’s chief of staff.
“I am putting together a professional and highly-experienced team which will take time to do properly. I am excited to be organizing and bringing together such a dynamic and forward thinking group of individuals who will work together to make our country better for everyone,” Trump said in a statement.
But the first lady largely hasn’t filled out a staff, including a communications director and social secretary.
Trump also hasn’t formally announced a platform of official causes, a social schedule of events, nor her Washington calendar.
On Monday night, paparazzi caught the first lady and Barron “running errands” in New York City. Melania Trump, in a cream-colored coat and signature five-inch high heels, and Barron, were ferried around Manhattan by a Secret Service detail.
During the transition, the President told reporters said his wife and youngest son would join him “very soon. Right after he finishes school.”
And in an interview with New York Times last week, Trump said that Melania and Barron, 10, would be at the White House on weekends.
The White House declined a CNN request for comment on the first lady’s whereabouts. But sources inside Pennsylvania Avenue said Melania Trump hasn’t been seen at the White House since inaugural weekend.
She is expected to join her husband at Mar-a-Lago this weekend, a White House official confirmed Wednesday.
Also missing? The first lady’s staff.
With spots open for at least 20-30 East Wing positions — from the social office to the communications team and public outreach — there have been zero officials hires.
Melania Trump has been actively been conducting interviews for staffing posts over the past several weeks, though, and some names have been floated.
Melania Trump made few public appearances on the campaign trail. She did deliver a high-profile speech at the Republican National Convention in August, a performance quickly enveloped in controversy when it was discovered she plagiarized part of her speech from Michelle Obama.
But her speech also provided a rare insight into her relationship with the President: “He is tough when he has to be, but he is also kind and fair and caring. This kindness is not always noted, but it is there for all to see. That is one reason I fell in love with him to begin with,” she had said in Cleveland.
She also defended her husband to CNN’s Anderson Cooper when the Access Hollywood tapes were released, calling it “boy talk.”
“I said to my husband that, you know, the language was inappropriate. It’s not acceptable. And I was surprised, because that is not the man that I know,” she said in October. “I accept his apology. I hope the American people will accept it as well. And it was many, many years ago. He’s not the man that I know.”