In January 2018, when she first saw reports that her husband had paid off a porn star, Melania Trump was furious. She jetted off to Palm Beach, leaving the president to languish in Washington. She eventually returned, only to take a separate car to Donald J. Trump’s first State of the Union address.

As a criminal trial against Mr. Trump opened on Monday, on charges that he had falsified records to cover up that sex scandal involving Stormy Daniels, Mrs. Trump did not appear. She has long privately referred to the case involving Ms. Daniels as “his problem” and not hers.

But Mrs. Trump, the former first lady, shares his view that the trial itself is unfair, according to several people familiar with her thinking.

In private, she has called the proceedings “a disgrace” tantamount to election interference, according to a person with direct knowledge of her comments who could not speak publicly out of fear of jeopardizing a personal relationship with the Trumps.

She may support her husband, but Mrs. Trump is bound to see headlines involving Mr. Trump and Ms. Daniels that could reopen old wounds. On Monday, Justice Juan M. Merchan, the judge presiding over the case, also said that Mrs. Trump could be among the potential witnesses as the trial gets underway.

All of this could put Mr. Trump on shaky ground with his wife, who has defended him in some critical moments — including when he bragged on tape about grabbing women by their genitals — and withheld her public support in others, like when she did not appear alongside him as he locked up victories on Super Tuesday.


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