Last February, first lady spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham told the New York Times that the East Wing had “severed the gratuitous services contract” with Winston Wolkoff in the wake of scrutiny over extravagant spending for Trump’s 2017 inauguration. The paper had previously reported that an event planning firm set up by Winston Wolkoff, a former Vogue employee who once oversaw fashion events like the Met Gala, received $26 million from President Trump‘s nonprofit inaugural committee to plan two celebrations for his big day.
News of the hefty price tag prompted backlash for the Trumps, though Grisham insisted at the time that the first lady had “no knowledge of how funds were spent.”
Winston Wolkoff, meanwhile, called reporting on her involvement “unfair” and insisted that she only made a $1.62 million profit for her work, which she divided among employees at her event planning firm. She told the Times that she expected “to remain a trusted source for advice and support on an informal basis” for Melania Trump, a friend since her days at Vogue.
But those expectations don’t appear to have panned out, according to a new statement the socialite has given to the Times amid a federal investigation into the inauguration committee’s spending.
“Was I fired? No,” Winston Wolkoff said in the statement. “Did I personally receive $26 million or $1.6 million? No. Was I thrown under the bus? Yes.”
She also told the paper that she had signed a non-disclosure agreement and therefore couldn’t “speak freely without the fear of legal or financial repercussions.” According to the Times, records show that she was personally paid $500,000 for her work, while other vendors were paid millions.
While Winston Wolkoff, who is cooperating with federal prosecutors, can’t disclose financial terms, she is speaking out about how her departure was handled. She says that the first lady and then-deputy White House counsel Stefan Passantino assured her last February that her contract being terminated was “not personal,” but rather a formality applying to “all” employees with “gratuitous service agreements.”
“You didn’t do anything wrong, and there’s nothing wrong with this kind of contract, and I don’t want you to think that this has anything to do with” the inaugural spending, Passantino allegedly told her, according to a statement from Winston Wolkoff to the Times. “So this is not personal.”
But White House officials, she says, made remarks that suggested otherwise, linking her exit to outcry over the inauguration scandal. She singled out Grisham’s comment about her contract being “severed,” which Winston Wolkoff calls a “misleading statement.”
“A decision was made to state publicly that I had been ‘severed,’ Winston Wolkoff told the paper of Grisham’s remarks. “That was not fair or accurate ... [Grisham] informed me that she had consulted with others within the White House and it was decided that ‘this messaging is the best way to go in order to minimize the negative press stories of today and protect’ [the first lady and the White House].”
Grisham responded to Winston Wolkoff’s accusations by telling the Times that the former adviser is lashing out because of a “bruised ego.”
“The White House ended Mrs. Wolkoff’s contract, period,” Grisham, who is marking the first anniversary of the first lady’s Be Best campaign on Tuesday, said in a statement. “I’m not going to waste my time arguing the semantics of what the word ‘severed’ means simply because someone decided to run to the media with hurt feelings and a bruised ego. As stated more than a year ago, I wish Mrs. Wolkoff well.”
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