A former senior adviser to Melania Trump says she secretly taped conversations with the first lady because she needed to collect “evidence” as their personal friendship and professional relationship unravelled, and she plans to release private text messages and other insights in a new book.
“It is disgraceful in any other context, but who would believe any of this otherwise? You couldn’t make this up,” Stephanie Winston Wolkoff told MSNBC in an interview Tuesday evening.
Among the most scathing claims by Winston Wolkoff is that she and the first lady communicated about official White House business over private email.
The first lady is not technically employed by the federal government, and is therefore not governed by the same law that restricts the use of personal email for government business. However, during the 2016 presidential race, then-candidate Donald Trump slammed Hillary Clinton for her use of private emails as U.S. secretary of state as he encouraged chants from his supporters to “lock her up.”
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“I think the Trumps are the Trumps and they do whatever they want to do, and they go by their own rules,” Winston Wolkoff told CNN on Wednesday morning regarding the emails. “It’s unfortunate, but oh my God, I don’t think they look at themselves in the mirror and actually see what the rest of the world sees.”
Winston Wolkoff’s allegations come ahead of the release of her new book, “Melania and Me,” which recounts their friendship in detail, including quotes from the first lady. The book also delves deeper into the U.S. president’s US$107-million inauguration in 2017 — the most expensive ever. Winston Wolkoff, whose firm was paid $26 million to plan the inauguration, claims she was thrown under the bus after the event’s extravagant price tag became public.
“Melania and the White House had accused me of criminal activity, had publicly shamed and fired me and made me their scapegoat. At that moment in time, that’s when I pressed record. She was no longer my friend, and she was willing to let them take me down, and she told me herself that this is the way it has to be,” she told MSNBC.
“So I was going to do anything in my power to make sure that I was protected, and at first I did think that maybe she would come to my aid, maybe she would tell the truth. She turned her back, she did. She folded like a deck of cards, and I was shocked when she did it.”
DONALD AND MELANIA IN PRIVATE
Winston Wolkoff, a former director of special events for Vogue magazine, said she was occasionally invited to dinner with the Trump family.
"I have to tell you, some of those really intimate times around the dining room table, even the first day after the inaugural I had went over to the White House with the family, it’s very personal,” she said.
The dynamic between the president and the first lady is unique to anyone else in the family, Winston Wolkoff said.
“They joke with one another, but she’s very honest with him, and that’s what separates Melania from anyone else in that home.”
But Melania’s relationship with Ivanka Trump is tense, Winston Wolkoff said, because Ivanka often oversteps her boundaries.
“Melania called her princess, we called her princess. (Ivanka) really is a princess who wanted to be queen, and she broke all the rules to get there. Rules don’t apply to her,” she said.
“Ivanka usurped Melania in every way that she possibly could, and its unfortunate because as the first lady of the United States you expect to go into the White House and have some form of assistance as well as budgets as well as access.
Like I keep saying, it was like banging my head against the wall. Ivanka really wanted to control her place in the administration.”
One-on-one, Winston Wolkoff said she and Melania shared something special.
“There was a quality about Melania that she didn’t share with anybody else. There was a special friendship that we shared amongst ourselves. It was only the two of us. I hadn’t really spent time with Donald,” she said.
“She was like that older, confident, coiffed sister that nothing was ever a big deal. For me, I wear my heart on my sleeve and everything is chaos and I’m a mess — I am who I am. She just kept it chill. She was teflon, almost.”
THE JACKET CONTROVERSY
One of the first lady’s most controversial moments over the last four years came after she visited migrant children who’d been detained at the U.S. border with Mexico and wore a jacket with the words “I really don’t care, do u?” across the back. At the time, her spokesperson denied any “hidden message” in the outfit.
Winston Wolkoff offered a different take: the first lady wanted to send a clear message of defiance to the media, but that message ended up becoming “convoluted.”
"She did not feel the press would cover a good deed. She felt the press only wanted to cover something that was damaging to the administration,” Winston Wolkoff said.
“That jacket was really the first representation of Melania going on her own, and her office saying, ‘It’s just a jacket.’ It’s anything but just a jacket. The reality is, she wore it to get attention.”
The real message the first lady was trying to convey, Winston Wolkoff said, was that she didn’t care what liberals or conservatives thought about her decision to visit the border.
“I don’t care what anybody says. I’m doing the right thing and I’m going to the border. That’s the messaging. Because I do think deep in her heart, that was there, but it got so convoluted.”
The first lady’s spokesperson has previously told CNN that Winston Wolkoff’s book is “not only wildly self-aggrandizing, it's just not truthful,” and suggested that she inflated her friendship with the first lady and “very brief role” in the White House.
Asked whether she’s willing to release tapes of her private conversations with the first lady, Winston Wolkoff told MSNBC that she’s already played them privately for an upcoming “report” and is willing to do whatever it takes to prove that she’s telling the truth.
“The more they continue to come after me, and the more they continue to lie about what they’ve said and done and do, the more I will continue to prove their claims false. The last thing they should be doing is coming after me.”