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First lady 'rarely' ventures into the West Wing to offer president policy advice

Michelle Obama says she rarely ventures into the West Wing to dispense policy advice to her husband — and sometimes holds back from talking shop when the president has finished work for the day.

In an ABC “Nightline” interview airing in part Monday night, the first lady said her attention is focused on her own projects. She has taken the lead on issues such as reducing childhood obesity and supporting military families.

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"I rarely step foot in the West Wing,” Obama told "Nightline" anchor Cynthia McFadden. “In fact, people are shocked when they see me there. I rarely walk in that office because the truth is, he's got so many wonderful advisers. He's got a phenomenal cabinet. He's got people who are in the trenches on these issues every single day, and I'm kind of stepping in and out, and I've got my own set of issues. So I don't even have the kind of expertise and the time in to be able to provide the kind of advice and guidance that he's already getting."

Though she stays out of the West Wing, Obama has been utilized widely on the campaign trail. A Bloomberg analysis last month showed she had raised at least $17.5 million over 56 fundraisers, and that number has increased since.


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And while the first lady holds degrees from both Princeton and Harvard Law School, she said she sometimes holds back from peppering her husband with criticism or concerns in the residence.

"In a job like this, the last thing the president of the United States needs when he walks in the door to come home is someone drilling him and questioning him about the decisions and choices that he's made,” she said. "There are definitely times when I may feel something, but I'll hold back because I know he'll either get to that on his own or it's just not time."

The first lady frequently cites motherhood as her first priority and believes her decision to stay at arm's length from business decisions of the White House has allowed her family to strive in a less-than-ordinary living situation. 

"One of the things that Barack and I try to do in our lives, which I think is one of the reasons our family is so whole, is that we make sure family is family. It's not this sort of quasi-business relationship,” she said.

Michelle Obama was initially hesitant at the thought of her husband running for public office. The first lady said his plan to run for the presidency could have been quickly thwarted early if she didn’t agree to it. But, in a sentiment cited frequently on the campaign trail, she said she couldn’t deny the American people someone she believes is a great leader.

“Would I want to be the one who stood in the way of this person potentially running this country?” she said. “And I couldn't do that, because then I had to think beyond myself and my family and I had to think of sort of the broader benefits that this country could gain from his leadership."

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