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While Melania Trump supported her husband on the campaign trail, making public appearances and giving speeches on his behalf, aides to former President Donald Trump say his wife didn't always believe he would win the 2016 election.
Speaking to Insider as part of its sweeping oral history of how Trump ultimately took over the Republican Party, his former personal attorney Michael Cohen alleged, "Melania played a very limited role during the campaign not believing Donald would actually win. However, when directly asked for her opinion on a matter by Donald, she offered it readily."
Despite allegedly not having confidence in the campaign, Melania, now 51, did share some of her husband's more controversial opinions, according to former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski. He claimed the former First Lady agreed when Trump said that late Sen. John McCain was not a war hero, for instance.
In 2015, while campaigning in Iowa, Trump said of McCain — who spent five-and-half years in a North Vietnamese prison while serving as a Navy pilot — "He's not a war hero. He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren't captured."
Lewandowski told Insider that he remembered that day "vividly."
"We had a whole day planned in Iowa that day. I remember it very vividly," Lewandowski said. "I waited for Mr. Trump to walk off the stage, and I said, 'I'd like to speak to you.' ... And I said: 'Sir, by all accounts, John McCain is a war hero. You need to apologize.' He said, 'Yeah, no apologies.' "
Lewandowski then explained to Insider that his own concerns surrounding the controversy were not shared by Trump's wife.
He continued: "We flew from Iowa back to New Jersey, and this guy Dave picked us up in the car and we drove over to Mr. Trump's home. As we walked in the door, Mrs. Trump was waiting for us. She said: 'You're right. John McCain isn't a war hero. What he has done for the veterans has been shameful.' "
Representatives for Melania disputed Lewandowski's account, telling PEOPLE the information was "inaccurate."
"This story is inaccurate. Mrs. Trump respects and values all service men and women who have served and are currently serving our great Nation," her office told PEOPLE in an emailed statement.
In his new book, Frankly, We Did Win This Election, Michael C. Bender offers an inside look at the Trumps' last days in the White House, and a particularly colorful scene of the election night party held at the Trump White House in 2020.
Bender writes how plans to hold an event on election night (and amid a pandemic) met resistance from Mrs. Trump, who turned down the idea more than once.
"I'm not comfortable with it," Mrs. Trump, who preferred to have no large social gatherings at the White House during the pandemic, reportedly told former Chief of Staff Mark Meadows.
Still, the party — which Bender writes was "mostly a party for the kids" (i.e. the President's eldest children Don Jr., Ivanka, and Eric Trump) — went ahead, though it devolved after the President and his team realized he was losing to Joe Biden.
"What the f—?" Trump yelled into the phone after Fox News announced that Biden had won Arizona, according to the book (A source close to Eric told PEOPLE at the time that, as the vote-counting became clear, the family grew, "very upset. It's been hard to watch").