The Department of Justice has filed a lawsuit against Melania Trump’s former best friend, accusing her of breaking a non-disclosure agreement and not submitting a draft of her tell-all book about her relationship with the first lady to the federal government for pre-publication review.
Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, the planner of President Donald Trump’s 2017 inauguration, penned Melania and Me: The Rise and Fall of My Friendship with the First Lady about the sudden souring of her relationship with the first lady. The look into Melania’s inner circle, published nearly two months ago, painted an unflattering portrait of the first lady, as did several clandestine recordings Wolkoff later shared.
Filed in Washington, D.C. District Court, the lawsuit accuses Wolkoff of breach of contract and breach of fiduciary obligations. Justice Department prosecutors contend that a “gratuitous services agreement” Wolkoff and Melania Trump signed in August 2017 had no end date and that Wolkoff had access to sensitive “deliberative information” about the the first lady’s duties, similar to claims the agency made when attempting to keep the book, which was published in September, from store shelves.
“This was a contract with the United States and therefore enforceable by the United States,” Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said.
Wolkoff’s attorneys previously called the claims “unfounded and meritless” and said the contract had been terminated more than two years ago.
Justice Department lawyers wrote, “Ms. Wolkoff agreed, among other things, ‘that [she was] specifically prohibited from publishing, reproducing or otherwise divulging any such information to any unauthorized person or entity in whole or in part.’” The Department has requested the court redirect any profits earned from the book to the federal government via a constructive trust.
The first lady’s chief of staff Stephanie Grisham referred The Daily Beast’s questions on Tuesday afternoon to the Justice Department.
The Daily Beast first reported the Justice Department’s threats to sue Wolkoff in late September and on Wolkoff’s assistance in a federal probe into the financing of the inauguration.
The charges against Wolkoff, who has been close friends with the first lady for years and previously served as her volunteer adviser when President Donald Trump first took office, come after the 49-year-old leaked at least one 2018 secret recording of Melanie Trump.
In one of the tapes played by CNN host Anderson Cooper earlier this month, the first lady can be heard saying to Wolkoff: “I’m working like—my ass off—on Christmas stuff, you know? Who gives a fuck about Christmas stuff and decorations? But I need to do it, right?”
Later in the July 2018 exchange, Melanie continues: “Then I do it. And I say that I’m working on Christmas planning for the Christmas. And they said, ‘Oh, what about the children that they were separated?’ Give me a fucking break. Where they were saying anything when Obama did that?” Melania also expresses similar antipathy towards the press in the conversation, stating the “liberal media” are against her.
During her interview with Cooper, Wolkoff described the first lady as having an “internal conflict” about her varying roles.
The Justice Department has filed suit over Trump tell-all books before. In June, the agency sued former National Security Advisr John Bolton to block the publication of his White House memoir, The Room Where It Happened, and reroute the profits from it into a government trust.
Asawin Suebsaeng contributed reporting.