Melania Trump today broke her silence on last week's mob attack on the Capitol, saying she 'absolutely condemns the violence' incited by her husband and calling for 'healing' as the couple prepares to leave office.
In a 600-word essay published by the White House, the first lady said she was 'disappointed and disheartened' by the rampage which left five people dead as Trump supporters rampaged through Congress while it certified Joe Biden's victory.
But she also hit out at 'salacious gossip and unwarranted personal attacks on me' after claims that she was supervising a photoshoot as the violence unfolded.
'This time is solely about healing our country and its citizens,' she said.
While Melania has largely stayed quiet during her husband's attempts to defy the election result, she has echoed the president's language of 'counting legal votes' and has not publicly acknowledged Biden's victory.
But she wrote in her latest message that 'it has been the honor of my lifetime to serve as your first lady', a tacit acknowledgement that her term is nearly over.
Melania's message was published early on Monday morning, three days after the president was permanently banned from Twitter - with Mr Trump not showing his face since promising an orderly transition in a video message on Thursday.
While Donald Trump Jr and Eric Trump had appeared at the rally where the president whipped his supporters into a frenzy shortly before they besieged the Capitol, the first lady stayed out of sight during the day of chaos.
A source told CNN that she had been overseeing a photoshoot in which pictures were being taken of rugs and other items in the East Wing and Executive Residence.
Without mentioning those claims directly, Melania condemned what she said were 'false misleading accusations on me' from 'people who are looking to be relevant and have an agenda'.
Mrs Trump said she was praying for the families of the four protesters and two Capitol Police officers who died in the hours and days after the attack.
She added that 'our nation must heal in a civil manner', after President Trump initially praised the mob as 'very special' but later condemned the violence.
'Make no mistake about it, I absolutely condemn the violence that has occurred on our Nation's Capitol. Violence is never acceptable,' the first lady said.
She went on: 'As an American, I am proud of our freedom to express our viewpoints without persecution. It is one of the paramount ideals which America is fundamentally built on.
'Many have made the ultimate sacrifice to protect that right. With that in mind, I would like to call on the citizens of this country to take a moment, pause, and look at things from all perspectives.
'I implore people to stop the violence, never make assumptions based on the color of a person's skin or use differing political ideologies as a basis for aggression and viciousness. We must listen to one another, focus on what unites us, and rise above what divides us.
'It is inspiring to see that so many have found a passion and enthusiasm in participating in an election, but we must not allow that passion to turn to violence.
'Our path forward is to come together, find our commonalities, and be the kind and strong people that I know we are.'
Praising Americans for their 'strength and character' during the pandemic, Melania also voiced thanks to the 'millions of Americans who supported my husband and me over the past four years'.
'Most importantly, I ask for healing, grace, understanding, and peace for our great Nation,' she said.
The call for unity comes amid a last-ditch attempt to remove Trump from office or at least to brand him with the disgrace of being the first president impeached twice.
Leading Democrats have said that the president should 'not hold office one day longer', even with his term due to expire next Wednesday.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is set to bring forward a resolution calling on Vice President Mike Pence and the cabinet to declare Trump unfit for office under the 25th Amendment, removing him temporarily.
If Pence does not agree to invoke the amendment, 'we will proceed with bringing impeachment legislation' in the House, Pelosi said.
This article has been adapted from its original source.
© Associated Newspapers Ltd.