The Justice Department filed a lawsuit on Tuesday against a former friend of first lady Melania Trump, arguing that her recent tell-all book about her time advising President Trump’s wife in the East Wing violated the nondisclosure agreement that she had signed.
DOJ lawyers filed a 17-page complaint with 12 pages of attachments with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia arguing that the U.S. government “brings this civil action for breach of contract and breach of fiduciary obligations” against Stephanie Winston Wolkoff for publishing her book in early September “in flat violation of Ms. Wolkoff’s contractual obligations and fiduciary duties.”
Wolkoff served as an adviser to the first lady starting in 2017, and in August of that year, Wolkoff agreed to maintain confidentiality related to “nonpublic, privileged, and/or confidential information.”
The agreement included that she was “specifically prohibited from publishing, reproducing or otherwise divulging any such information to any unauthorized person or entity in whole or in part” and promised not to make public “work with FLOTUS … to any person or entity to whom disclosure has not been authorized in writing by FLOTUS, the Chief of Staff to the First Lady, or the Office of the White House Counsel” and agreed not to “use or reference gratuitous services in connection with any merchandising or other commercial activity.”
Wolkoff guaranteed she would protect nonpublic information “from unauthorized disclosure.”
In addition to her book, Melania and Me: The Rise and Fall of My Friendship with the First Lady, Wolkoff also leaked a number of surreptitiously recorded conversations between herself and Melania Trump.
Wolkoff’s lawyer, Lorin Reisner, did not immediately respond to the Washington Examiner’s request for comment.
Trump’s inaugural committee paid $26 million to an event planning firm founded by Wolkoff, the New York Times reported in 2018. In 2019, in response to a Wall Street Journal report that investigators were looking into Trump inaugural spending, Reisner said: “Stephanie is not going to comment on these reports. She remains proud of her work on the inauguration, and we are confident that her conduct was proper in all respects.”
The Justice Department said Tuesday that Wolkoff’s book had been published “in violation of these binding commitments” and pointed to her publisher, Simon & Schuster, promoting the book as a “scathing tell-all” per a review from the New York Times and an “epic scream of a tell-all” per a review from People magazine.
“Ms. Wolkoff 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,” the Justice Department wrote. “The book, however, discusses in detail Ms. Wolkoff’s work under the Agreement as an advisor to the First Lady, including involvement in 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. These topics fall squarely within the category of materials that, under the terms of the Agreement, Ms. Wolkoff expressly agreed not to divulge without obtaining written authorization.”
The Justice Department said that “the United States seeks to hold Ms. Wolkoff to her contractual and fiduciary obligations and to ensure that she is not unjustly enriched by her breach of the duties she freely assumed when she served as an advisor to the First Lady.”
The Trump administration then asked the court to “impose a constructive trust for the benefit of the United States over, and require an accounting of, all monies, gains, profits, royalties, and other advantages that Defendant and her agents, assignees, or others acting on her behalf have derived, or will derive, from the publication, sale, serialization, or reproduction in any form including any movie rights, rights to adapt the book in any form including documentaries, or other reproduction rights, of Melania and Me.”
This isn’t the first time the Trump administration made a move like this. The Justice Department argued this summer that former Trump national security adviser John Bolton’s book, The Room Where It Happened, “still contains classified information” in filing a civil lawsuit, and the DOJ opened a criminal inquiry into Bolton in September.
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