Rare is the Washington secret that can be kept for any extended period of time. But after more than a year, one of the biggest mysteries of the Trump administration was finally revealed Wednesday.
It was a picture frame.
That was the present wrapped in a Tiffany & Co. blue box that Melania Trump presented to a befuddled Michelle Obama as the Obamas greeted the soon-to-be first lady and her husband, Donald Trump, outside the north portico of the White House on Jan. 20, 2017, Inauguration Day.
Michelle Obama disclosed the box’s contents in a recent appearance on the Ellen DeGeneres Show, breaking her silence on an awkward moment that was broadcast live. “It was a lovely frame,” Obama said on the show, which was scheduled to air Thursday.
In a clip of her appearance that was released Wednesday, Obama recounted the moment she received the surprise gift.
— Ellen DeGeneres (@TheEllenShow) February 1, 2018
It might seem obvious now that it had to be a frame, but on Inauguration Day there were few clues. Melania Trump delivered it to Obama after she exited a limousine outside the White House and the couples shook hands and hugged. On a day full of pomp and protocol, the couples were then supposed to pose for a photograph, as two Marines saluted by their sides.
But instead of pivoting for the photograph, Melania Trump handed Michelle Obama a rectangular box wrapped in robin-egg blue paper and a white bow. Obama grabbed it with two hands and then panicked. It was not part of the script, she confirmed on the show.
“I mean, this is like a state visit, so they tell you that you’re going to do this, they’re going to stand here,” Obama said in the interview with DeGeneres. “Never before do you get this gift, so I’m sort of like, OK,” she said.
Holding the box, she turned to her left toward one of the Marines, glancing in all directions for a spot to place the gift. The Marine did not budge. It could not go on the ground. At last, she appeared to give up, resigned that it would appear in an official photograph to commemorate the transfer of power.
But then Barack Obama stepped in. “No, no, no,” he said, looking at the package. “Hold on a second.”
Barack Obama grabbed it and walked it inside the White House.
It was not seen in public again.