Melania Trump's Libel Suit: Being First Lady a 'Once-in-a-Lifetime' Business Opportunity

By Christopher Coble, Esq. on February 09, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Before Donald Trump was elected president, there were many questions about the ethical conflicts he might face if he failed to divest himself from his many business ventures. After his election, the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington even filed a lawsuit citing those concerns.

But perhaps those worried that business interests would invade the White House were worried about the wrong Trump. In a libel lawsuit against British tabloid the Daily Mail, Melania Trump appears to consider her role as First Lady to be a "unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity" to make millions of dollars.

Failure to Launch

Melania is suing Mail Media over its reporting last summer that a modeling agency for which she worked in the 1990s was also a high-end escort service. The Mail was allegedly quoting from a report in Suzy, a magazine from Mrs. Trump's native Slovenia, and has since retracted the story. That didn't stop the libel lawsuit, however, which emphatically claimed:

Plaintiff had the unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, as an extremely famous and well-known person, as well as a former professional model and brand spokesperson, and successful businesswoman, to launch a broad-based commercial brand in multiple product categories, each of which could have garnered multi-million dollar business relationships for a multi-year term during which Plaintiff is one of the most photographed women in the world. These product categories would have included, among other things, apparel, accessories, shoes, jewelry, cosmetics, hair care, skin care and fragrance.

While the lawsuit doesn't name her now-president husband or the office specifically, the suggestion Melania was embarking on "a multi-year term during which [she would be] one of the most photographed women in the world" and ostensibly could have created new "multi-million dollar business relationships" indicates she saw her stint as First Lady as a money-making venture now scuttled by the Mail's report.

Fines for Libel

Melania is seeking "not less than $150 million" from the Mail along with an injunction barring the website from publishing or republishing the underlying claims. Considering the Mail already retracted the story (at the end of which it had already concluded, "There is no evidence to back up these startling claims made in Suzy magazine"), Melania's lawsuit might have more of a Streisand Effect than she intended.

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