Donald Trump is not all that popular — even among his own family members, it seems. According to journalist Yashar Ali, First Lady Melania Trump’s former friend Stephanie Winston Wolkoff caught her on tape “making disparaging remarks about the president and his adult children.” Melania’s comments will apparently be featured in an upcoming book from Wolkoff called Melania and Me: The Rise and Fall of My Friendship with The First Lady, which is set to be released by Simon & Schuster on September 1. Simon & Schuster, notably, has been behind similar recent books including memoirs from Trump’s former national security adviser John Bolton and his niece, Mary Trump.
Ali notes that it’s “unclear what exactly Wolkoff is alleging that the First Lady said about the president and his adult children but two sources familiar with the contents of her book confirmed that she reveals the details in her book including harsh comments about Ivanka Trump, the president’s eldest daughter and senior advisor.” Ivanka has sometimes seemed more visible than Melania herself while the two of them have been in the White House, although Melania did attract some attention recently for leading a renovation of the Rose Garden that many folks thought wasn’t great.
Wolkoff’s connection to Melania runs for over a decade, according to Ali, but the two of them apparently grew distant after Wolkoff insists that she was made into what Ali summarizes as a “scapegoat” for the scandal surrounding the spending behind Trump’s 2017 inauguration. According to Ali, Wolkoff “says in the book that she was a scapegoat for the controversy (and the subsequent federal investigation) surrounding the Inaugural Committee’s spending.”
Wolkoff helped work on the inauguration, and she served for awhile as an informal adviser to the First Lady, but she was eventually dismissed, and officials “privately said she had been ousted from her job, primarily because the president and the first lady were angry over the spending,” a New York Times report says. However, at the time, Wolkoff says that she was told by then-deputy White House counsel Stefan Passantino that her dismissal was “not personal.”
Trump’s Inaugural Committee raised more money than any other Inaugural Committee in history, and federal prosecutors subsequently looked into the sources of the money, including $900,000 that came from a venture capitalist named Imaad Zuberi. According to The New York Times, “some of the funds Mr. Zuberi donated to the inaugural committee came from other people,” and Zuberi has been criminally charged with obstruction over backdating a check meant to reimburse one of those people and “deleting emails with individuals who provided money to him around the time of his $900,000 donation, including a foreign citizen.” Money from foreign citizens is prohibited from being used for U.S. political causes.
As an earlier New York Times report explains, Wolkoff herself “may have inadvertently prompted the [federal] investigation when she relayed her concerns about the [inaugural] committee to Mr. Trump’s former fixer, Michael D. Cohen, a friend, who recorded the conversation.” Federal prosecutors later discovered that recording on Cohen’s cellphone. Authorities in D.C. launched their own, separate investigation, concluding earlier this year that the inaugural committee “misused non-profit funds to enrich the president’s family business.” Wolkoff is somewhat a part of that investigation too, since emails from her and fellow former Trump ally Rick Gates “warning the inaugural committee that it was being grossly overcharged” for accommodations at Trump’s own D.C. hotel were cited by the D.C. Attorney General’s office in their recent lawsuit over the charges.