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Justice Department drops lawsuit against Melania Trump's ex-friend over tell-all book

Maria Puente, USA TODAY
·5 min read
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Former first lady Melania Trump's ex-best friend Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, who wrote a scathing memoir about their relationship and its bitter dissolution, is off the hook now that a Trump-era civil lawsuit against her has been dropped by the Biden administration.

The Department of Justice has dropped the breach-of-contract lawsuit against Wolkoff, according to court documents filed this week. The government’s filing was followed by U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly’s order dismissing the case.

The Trump administration filed the lawsuit against Wolkoff in October, accusing her of breaking an official nondisclosure agreement in publishing her book, "Melania and Me: The Rise and Fall of My Friendship with the First Lady," which came out in September.

In the book, Wolkoff described her nearly two-decade friendship with Melania Trump, how she helped plan the inauguration of Donald Trump and worked as a volunteer to set up the first lady's office, staff and agenda.

Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, former friend to first lady Melania Trump, at Trump Tower in New York on Dec. 5, 2016.
Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, former friend to first lady Melania Trump, at Trump Tower in New York on Dec. 5, 2016.

She describes how she felt betrayed by being blamed by her former friend for cost overruns, disorganization and possible corruption in the Trump inaugural celebration. Wolkoff says she has cooperated with investigators looking into the latter claim.

But attorneys in the Trump Justice Department's civil division claimed Wolkoff violated her contract with the government by not sending a draft of her book to the White House for review and by not obtaining permission to write it, among other alleged misdeeds.

According to the complaint, “Ms. Wolkoff promised to maintain strict confidentiality over ‘nonpublic, privileged and/or confidential information’ that she might obtain during her service." The complaint alleged Wolkoff had “indirect access to deliberative information, to which the First Lady was privy, related to the President’s official duties on behalf of the country.”

On Thursday, Wolkoff said that her story involves "moral resilience in the face of adversity, intimidation and emotional duress."

“To be attacked legally by the Trumps who used the power of the presidency and the government to do their dirty work (and specifically the DOJ as their personal bulldog) was pretty scary," she told USA TODAY in a statement. "They spent years abusing their power and making threats, trying, however possible, to discredit me and damage my reputation.

"As my lawyer previously has observed, this lawsuit was entirely meritless and represented an effort by the Trumps to enlist the DOJ to pursue entirely personal goals and interests," her statement said. "Writing and speaking the truth is a fundamental American principle. The fact that the DOJ dropped this frivolous, bullying, anti-American case makes me feel like we are living in America again and not in some lawless dictatorship.”

Wolkoff's lawyer, Lorin Reisner, told USA TODAY in a statement that he and his client are "very pleased" the case was dropped and dismissed.

"This case never should have been brought," his statement said. "The NDA at issue is facially unconstitutional and the dismissal is a resounding victory for the First Amendment and the interests of justice.”

In November, Trump lost his bid for reelection to Democrat Joe Biden. Now that his administration is in charge, the case against Wolkoff is over.

The Justice Department has not given a reason for dropping the matter, though it's not unusual for cases brought by one administration to be dropped by a succeeding government.

Wolkoff used the decision to drop the suit to continue her criticism of how she says the Trumps have treated her since she joined his 2016 campaign for the presidency. Her Twitter account has featured similar tweets since her book was published.

"After 4 years of Trump's tyranny against me with lies, defamation, emotional torment, constant lawsuits, subpoenas, and millions of dollars in expenses, I have proven Melania's own ruthless actions and heartless words exposed the TRUTH (over falsehood) and JUSTICE prevailed," she posted on Feb. 9.

"Melania opened Pandora's box involving the DOJ," she added in another tweet, featuring a picture of the judge's order dismissing the case. "The enormous trove of communications & documentations I possess and shared tell the true story about 'why' and 'how' the contracts were 'created' and 'terminated' and who was involved. TRUTH PREVAILS."

The Trumps have since moved to their resort estate Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach County, Florida.

"Melania and Me: The Rise and Fall of My Friendship with the First Lady," by Stephanie Winston Wolkoff.
"Melania and Me: The Rise and Fall of My Friendship with the First Lady," by Stephanie Winston Wolkoff.

Several books were published about Melania Trump during the Trump administration but Wolkoff's book was particularly galling to the first lady judging from statements she issued via her spokeswoman, Stephanie Grisham.

“This book is not only wildly self-aggrandizing, it’s just not truthful,” Grisham told USA TODAY in an email. “It is an exercise in bizarre twisting of the truth and misguided blame for the sake of self-pity. It’s unfortunate and concerning that she’s overstated their friendship and her very brief role in the White House to this degree.”

After Wolkoff launched her promotional campaign for the book, she released secret audio tapes she made of her conversations with the first lady, when they were still talking to each other. In them, Trump is heard expressing negative views of her job and her media coverage.

Trump responded with a scorching statement of her own, posted on the White House website, that attacked Wolkoff and the media for covering Wolkoff's "salacious claims."

"A person who said she 'made me' even though she hardly knew me, and someone who clung to me after my husband won the Presidency," Trump wrote. "This is a woman who secretly recorded our phone calls, releasing portions from me that were out of context, then wrote a book of idle gossip trying to distort my character."

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Melania Trump: DOJ drops lawsuit against Stephanie Winston Wolkoff