The Department of Justice this week filed suit against Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, a former friend of first lady Melania Trump, alleging that she violated a nondisclosure agreement by publishing a tell-all book, Melania and Me: The Rise and Fall of My Friendship with The First Lady.
Citing a broad, open-ended “gratuitous services” agreement, DoJ attorneys say Wolkoff was legally bound to keep details of her work and interactions with the first family confidential. In its complaint, DoJ attorneys say the author “never submitted a draft of the book to the First Lady, her Chief of Staff, or the Office of White House Counsel” and “never received authorization to disclose any information she learned pursuant to her work under the Agreement,” which includes, according to the complaint, “personnel decisions in the Office of the First Lady, work on the First Lady’s Be Best initiative, and engagement in conversations with the President of the United States,” topics DoJ attorneys say fall squarely within the scope of her nondisclosure agreement.
The government is seeking to seize the author’s earnings from the book and place them into “a constructive trust.”
Published in September by Simon & Schuster, Wolkoff’s book does not involve state secrets. But it does detail the author’s personal relationship with the first lady and an insider look at the first family, which culminated with her agreeing to work as a volunteer on President Trump’s record-breaking $107 million, scandal-ridden inauguration event. Wolkoff’s contract with the administration was abruptly terminated in 2018, however, after it was disclosed that a company Wolkoff had set up for the inauguration allegedly received $26 million—Wolkoff has vehemently denied that money went to her.
“Did I personally receive $26 million or $1.6 million? No,” Wolkoff told reporters in May of 2019 of the brewing scandal around the inauguration. “Was I thrown under the bus? Yes.” At the time, Wolkoff also told reporters at the New York Times that she could not offer further details on inaugural spending, citing "a nondisclosure agreement with the committee that had no expiration date."
In a statement to Reuters issued yesterday, Wolkoff said she "had fulfilled all the terms of her agreement with Melania Trump" and that the confidentiality provisions in her contract ended when the White House terminated her contract. “The president and first lady’s use of the U.S. Department of Justice to silence me is a violation of my First Amendment Rights and a blatant abuse of the government to pursue their own personal interests and goals,” Wolkoff said.
Update: A spokesperson for Wolkoff's publisher, Simon & Schuster has issued the following statement: "The Department of Justice’s action is a transparent attempt to use the government as a means of intimidation against authors. We stand behind our author, Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, and her right to tell her story."