The Justice Department sued to enforce a Trump White House non-disclosure agreement against a former friend of Melania Trump’s, pitting the U.S. government against a Manhattan socialite involved in a very public breakup with the First Lady.
The feds alleged in the lawsuit that Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, a former unpaid “adviser” of the First Lady and a key planner in the 2017 inauguration, broke an NDA that she signed while volunteering at the White House.
That agreement, the government argued, “included no termination date,” suggesting that while Wolkoff’s volunteer duties were time-limited her ability to speak out was not.
Wolkoff recently published a tell-all account of her friendship with Melania, titled Melania & Me.
Wolkoff, the former chief planner of the Met Gala, said in the book that millions of dollars contributed to Trump’s inaugural may be unaccounted for, and also dished on the icy relationship between the First Lady and First Daughter, Ivanka.
The Justice Department claimed that Wolkoff broke her NDA by writing about “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.”
“Ms. Wolkoff’s service facilitated her access to significant confidential information related to the First Lady’s official duties as well as to the more private aspects of her role in the First Family, along with indirect access to deliberative information, to which the First Lady was privy, related to the President’s official duties on behalf of the country,” the lawsuit reads.
An attorney for Wolkoff, Lorin Reisner, did not immediately return TPM’s request for comment.
The lawsuit marks a virtually unprecedented move by the Justice Department to enforce a bizarre contract on an unpaid volunteer who wrote a book disclosing “core matters on which the President is entitled to receive confidential advice” like “the importation of big game trophies” and discussions around Melania’s “Be Best” program, an initiative to combat cyberbullying.
The Justice Department sued to stop former National Security Adviser John Bolton from publishing a memoir of his time in the White House in June, in a move that was seen as political retribution. The book was published anyway, and that lawsuit remains ongoing.
Separately, the Justice Department has sued to recoup profits gained from books where classified material was published. The DOJ recently won a lawsuit against Edward Snowden, seizing profits from his memoir Permanent Record.
But nowhere does the Justice Department allege that Wolkoff published classified information. Rather, federal lawyers chide Wolkoff, saying that “few individuals are permitted such access and for someone in Ms. Wolkoff’s position (a former director of special events at Vogue and producer of Met Galas), the ability to see firsthand the protocols and operations of the White House was a tremendous personal and professional opportunity of great value.”
The government also alleged that Wolkoff breached her agreement by speculating that had Melania Trump “been present at the White House during a particular period in time leading up the issuance of the ban, the President might not have signed Executive Order 13,769,” banning citizens of certain muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S.
As in the Snowden case, the Justice Department is asking a federal judge to direct all proceeds from Wolkoff’s book to the federal government.
Read the lawsuit here: