Justice Department Sues Melania Trump's Ex-Friend for Allegedly Breaking NDA with Tell-All Book
The U.S. Justice Department filed a lawsuit this week against First Lady Melania Trump’s longtime friend and former White House aide Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, who released a scathing tell-all book about her last month.
In the lawsuit — filed Tuesday — the DOJ accuses the first lady’s former assistant and friend of breaking a non-disclosure agreement she had signed with the government by publishing personal details about Mrs. Trump in her memoir, Melania and Me.
The department said in its filing that it was suing Wolkoff "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 DOJ also asked the court to establish a government trust to collect profits from Wolkoff's book, according to the filing, and complains the author did not send a copy of her memoir to the First Lady, her staff, or the White House counsel's office in order to clear the book's details ahead of its Sept. 1 publication.
The Justice Department has filed previous complaints against former Trump administration officials over published details regarding matters of national security in memoirs.
Wolkoff, in a statement to CNN, referred to the DOJ’s lawsuits as “bullying tactics” by the federal government.
"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 told the network. "I fulfilled all of the terms of the Gratuitous Service Agreement and the confidentiality provisions ended when the White House terminated the agreement."
However, the DOJ lawsuit — first reported on by Reuters — argued that while Wolkoff’s tenure at the White House had an end date, the confidentiality agreement she signed did not.
A DOJ spokesperson simply told PEOPLE in a statement Wednesday that “this was a contract with the United States and therefore enforceable by the United States.”
Wolkoff is a former Vogue lieutenant who met the first lady in New York City around 2003. Their longtime friendship led to Wolkoff joining Mrs. Trump, 50, in Washington, D.C. as a top East Wing aide once President Donald Trump was elected.
The former aide has said she left her position in early 2018.
Wolkoff's memoir recounts her friendship with the first lady and divulges details about Mrs. Trump’s allegedly tumultuous relationship with her step-daughter Ivanka Trump and shares an intimate view of the first lady’s take on everything from her husband’s crass comments about women, to her work on the “Be Best” initiative.
Stephanie Grisham, a spokesperson for Mrs. Trump, dismissed the memoir earlier this year in a statement saying the book is "not only full of mistruths and paranoia, it is based on some imagined need for revenge."
A month after the memoir's release, Wolkoff also shared audio recordings she secretly taped during conversations she had with the first lady, during an interview on CNN.
"Anybody who secretly tapes their self-described best friend is by definition dishonest," Grisham told PEOPLE when asked about the tapes earlier this year.
In the recordings, the first lady is heard complaining about criticism directed at her husband's immigration policies, which includes separating families at the U.S.-Mexico border.
Mrs. Trump is also heard venting frustration over traditional White House duties first ladies have taken up in the past, saying in one recording, "Who gives a f— about the Christmas stuff and decorations? But I need to do it, right?"
"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?' " Mrs. Trump adds. "Give me a f—— break."
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