Meet Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, the former friend of Melania Trump who’s being sued by the DOJ for publishing a tell-all about the first lady

stephanie winsteon wolkoff melania trump
Stephanie Winston Wolkoff and Melania Trump pictured in New York City in 2008.
  • Stephanie Winston Wolkoff published a tell-all about the "rise and fall" of her 15-year friendship with first lady Melania Trump on September 1. 
  • On October 13, the Justice Department filed a lawsuit against Wolkoff, claiming that the publication of the book was in violation of a nondisclosure agreement she signed.
  • Wolkoff, a former special events planner for Vogue, helped plan President Donald Trump's inauguration in 2017. 
  • She was fired from the White House in 2018 after a scandal involving spending on the inauguration. 
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
On September 1, Stephanie Winston Wolkoff published a book about the "rise and fall" of her friendship with first lady Melania Trump.
melania and me
Wolkoff's book viewed on display at a Barnes & Noble bookstore on 5th Avenue in New York City on September 1, 2020.
In the book, Wolkoff said that Trump believed someone was trying to sabotage her when they let her read a plagiarized speech at the 2016 Republican National Convention.
melania trump 2016 rnc
Melania Trump pictured during her speech at the 2016 Republican National Convention.

Trump was accused of plagiarizing a 2008 speech by former first lady Michelle Obama, with several reports pointing out that a number of Trump's passages appeared to be directly lifted from Obama's.

Wolkoff said Trump wasn't embarrassed, but suspicious.

"She was suspicious that the plagiarism had been left in on purpose," Wolkoff wrote in her book. "Someone in Trump World didn't want Melania to shine."

"We talked about who that might be. Who stood to gain by making Melania look bad? Our conversations were guarded, and she kept it light, as always."

"But it seemed to her, and to me, that the plagiarized speech was like drawing first blood between rivals," Wolkoff wrote. "Or was it a warning that Melania should stay in the background?"

Source: Business Insider

While promoting her book, Wolkoff told The Washington Post that Trump used a private email account when she first moved to Washington, DC.
stephanie winston wolkoff
Wolkoff speaks at the UN Women For Peace Association 2019 Awards Luncheon at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City on March 1, 2019.

"Melania and I both didn't use White House emails," Wolkoff told The Post.

It drew comparisons to Hillary Clinton's use of a private server during her time as President Barack Obama's secretary of state, which Donald Trump repeatedly criticized during his 2016 presidential campaign.

Wolkoff also told CNN that Trump deliberately wore a controversial jacket to visit detained children at the US border in 2018 to get press attention.
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Trump departs Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland on June 21, 2018, wearing a jacket with the words "I really don't care, do u?" on the back.

The jacket read "I don't really care, do u?"

Wolkoff told CNN that she thought the first lady meant to say that she didn't care what either liberals or conservatives thought about her trip to the border.

"She wanted everyone to know that she went to the border," Wolkoff said. "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."

At the time, the first lady's office released a statement saying there was no message behind the jacket, but Trump herself later admitted to ABC that there was "a kind of message" to the jacket.

Source: CNN, Business Insider

Since then, Wolkoff has released audio of her phone conversations with Trump, in which the first lady complained about having to put up Christmas decorations and being connected to the administration's immigration policies.
melania christmas
Trump is seen answering phone calls from children at the White House on December 24, 2018.

In the conversations, which were recorded in the summer of 2018, Trump is heard complaining about having to balance both planning the White House's Christmas decorations and blowback from the administration's migrant child separation policy. 

"I'm working ... my a-- off on the Christmas stuff, that you know, who gives a f--- about the Christmas stuff and decorations? But I need to do it, right?" the first lady is heard saying in the tapes, which were first aired on CNN in October. 

"OK, and then I do it and I say that I'm working on Christmas and planning for the Christmas and they said: 'Oh, what about the children that they were separated?'"

"Give me a f---ing break."

According to the book, Wolkoff met Melania in 2003, when Wolkoff was director of special events for Vogue and Melania, then-girlfriend of Donald Trump, was seeking the help of Vogue journalist André Leon Talley in shaping her style.
stephanie winston wolkoff anna wintour
Stephanie Winston Wolkoff and Anna Wintour attend Dennis Basso Fall 2008 Fashion Show at The Tents on February 5, 2008 in New York City.

Source: "Melania and Me"

Wolkoff said her friendship with Trump blossomed around regular lunch dates at expensive New York City eateries.
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Melania Trump and Stephanie Winston Wolkoff pictured attending a Bottega Veneta fashion show luncheon in New York City in May 2006.

Source: "Melania and Me" 

When Donald Trump won the election in 2016, Melania asked her friend to help advise her as first lady and plan his inauguration, using the skills Wolkoff had honed organizing the Met Gala for years.
stephanie winston wolkoff trump tower
Wolkoff seen leaving Trump Tower in December 2016, when she was working on the inauguration of Donald Trump.

Source: "Melania and Me"

But just a year later, Wolkoff was let go from her position at the White House after reports that her company profited excessively from working on the inauguration.
Trump inauguration
President Donald Trump delivers his inaugural address on the West Front of the US Capitol on January 20, 2017, with his wife Melania in the background.

Source: The New York Times

Wolkoff later told The New York Times that she had been "thrown under the bus," and that she was told privately that the termination of her position had nothing to do with inauguration spending.
liberty inaugural ball
The Trumps dance at the Liberty Inaugural Ball at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, in Washington, DC, on January 20, 2017.

Source: The New York Times

On October 13, 2020, the Department of Justice sued Wolkoff, claiming that publishing "Melania and Me" was in violation of a nondisclosure agreement that Wolkoff signed.
bill barr
US Attorney General Bill Barr on October 15, 2020.

The Justice Department is calling on the court to funnel the profits of the book into a government trust so that Wolkoff doesn't profit from the move.

You can read the lawsuit here:

In response, Wolkoff said her confidentiality agreement with the first lady is no longer valid, and accused the Trumps using "bullying tactics."
stephanie winston wolkoff
Wolkoff in an October 2, 2020 interview with CNN.

In a statement published by Reuters, Wolkoff said that the confidentiality provisions with Melania Trump ended "when the White House terminated the agreement."

"The president and first lady's use of the US 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 added.

"I will not be deterred by these bullying tactics."

Her publisher, Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster also told Page Six: "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."

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