Melania Trump’s former friend says she thought the first lady was different than her husband Donald Trump before coming to a realization that ‘a Trump is a Trump.’
Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, whose memoir ‘Melania & Me’ comes out on September 1, told ABC News she had given Melania ‘the benefit of the doubt’ that she was ‘different’ from the president.
‘I gave Melania the benefit of the doubt that – you know, she was my friend. She was different than Donald was,’ Wolkoff said in an interview that will air Monday on ‘Good Morning America.’
And, now, Wolkoff says she realized: ‘A Trump, is a Trump, is a Trump.’
Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, whose memoir ‘Melania & Me’ comes out on September 1, talks to ABC News in an interview that will air Monday on ‘Good Morning America’
Wolkoff told ‘GMA’ that she thought Melania Trump was different from her husband Donald – the first couple are seen at the White House on Thursday night as the president accepted the Republican nomination for a second term
Wolkoff’s memoir traces her friendship with the first lady, going back to their days when Wolkoff worked for Vogue and the then-Melania Knauss was a struggling model dating a New York real estate mogul.
The two women evolved into a friendship that included monthly lunch dates and New York society events.
But that friendship crashed and burned, starting with Trump’s election.
Wolkoff will detail her side of the story about her dramatic and controversial exit from the East Wing, where she was a contract employee, in February 2018 amid questions about the money her firm had made from its work on President Trump’s inauguration celebration.
Additionally, the memoir will delve into Melania’s relationship with her stepdaughter Ivanka Trump, confirming the longstanding rumors of friction between the two women.
The book claims Melania Trump plotted to keep Ivanka Trump out of the photos of President Donald Trump taking the oath of office on Inauguration Day with her ‘Operation Block Ivanka.’
The first lady approved seating arrangements for the inauguration platform that would keep Ivanka Trump out of the camera shot during the moment her father was sworn in as the 45th president of the United States.
The plot is unveiled in an excerpt of Wolkoff’s book published in New York Magazine earlier this week.
Wolkoff writes that: ‘Ivanka texted me a photo of Barack Obama’s swearing-in, his hand on the Bible, Michelle, Malia, and Sasha standing to his left. She wrote, ‘FYI regarding the swearing in. It is nice to have family with him for this special moment.”
But, instead, Wolkoff and the incoming first lady launched ‘Operation Block Ivanka’ to keep the first daughter out of the shot.
The two women went to great lengths to thwart Ivanka.
They took advantage of Wolkoff’s position on the inauguration planning committee to gain advance information on how the day would play out in order to make their scheme work.
Melania Trump plotted to block Ivanka Trump from being in photos of President Trump taking the oath of office on Inauguration Day, in what was dubbed ‘Operation Block Ivanka’
Melania Trump wanted an image like the one above – with her Trump and their son Barron
A forthcoming memoir about first lady Melania Trump – seen above with President Trump on night three of the Republican National Convention – details her tense relationship with Ivanka
Wolkoff, a former Met Gala planner and personal friend of Melania’s, was tapped to help produce Inauguration Day and the events surrounding it.
Using her position, she had an executive of her company, WIS Media Partners, take detailed notes on the inauguration platform at the U.S. Capitol building during one of the walk throughs that proceed such events. Walk throughs allow organizers and staff of the attendees to do a practice run of how the day will play out. It allows all the details of the day to be worked out: what time people arrive and in what order, where they will sit, and how the day will play out in precise order.
Using the detailed sketch her employee drew up of the platform on the East Front of the Capitol, where Trump was sworn in with his family and VIP guests behind him, Melania and Wolkoff were able to work out where the cameras would be located on and how the chairs for the family should be positioned to get the images they wanted.
‘Using his sketch, we were able to figure out whose face would be visible when Donald and Melania sat in their seats, and then when the family stood with Chief Justice John Roberts for Donald to take the oath of office,’ Wolkoff wrote. ‘If Ivanka was not on the aisle, her face would be hidden while she was seated. For the standing part, we put Barron between Donald and Melania.’
Melania and Wolkoff then arranged for Donald Trump Jr., the president’s oldest son, to be stand next to Melania instead of Ivanka, further keeping her out of the shot.
Wolkoff blames ‘exhaustion and stress’ for some of the drama but also acknowledges the pettiness of it.
‘Yes, Operation Block Ivanka was petty. Melania was in on this mission. But in our minds, Ivanka shouldn’t have made herself the center of attention in her father’s inauguration,’ she wrote.
A wide shot of the swearing-in on Inauguration Day shows Ivanka Trump positioned near the back of her siblings
Ivanka Trump can be seen behind Melania Trump on the inaugural platform at the U.S. Capitol
A rare shot of Ivanka and Melania together on Inauguration Day – this was taken at the viewing stand in front of the White House where the first family watched the inauguration parade go by
She notes their Operation Block Ivanka was a result of the first daughter trying to control the schedule for inauguration day and make sure her family – husband Jared Kushner and their three children – had prominent positions on the big day.
‘It was Donald’s inauguration, not Ivanka’s. But no one was brave enough to tell her that. Melania was not thrilled about Ivanka’s steering the schedule and would not allow it. Neither was she happy to hear that Ivanka insisted on walking in the Pennsylvania Avenue parade with her children,’ she noted.
Wolkoff’s book gives legitimacy to years of talk of a rivalry between Melania and Ivanka that has accumulated in an intense, competitive relationship between the two women.
The two most prominent women in President Trump’s life – his 50-year-old wife and his 38-year-old eldest daughter – have little overlap in the White House complex: Ivanka Trump, who serves as an adviser to her father, has an office in the West Wing. Melania Trump works out of the East Wing on the opposite side of the building.
They have never hosted a joint initiative or event. And are rarely seen together at events.
Mary Jordan’s book ‘The Art of Her Deal’ portrayed a tense, at times combative, relationship between the two with Melania calling Ivanka ‘Princess’ and Ivanka referring to her stepmother as ‘portrait.’
Jordan’s book also claimed Ivanka tried to have the First Lady’s Office be renamed the First Family’s Office, which the White House has denied.
An administration official told DailyMail.com that Wolkoff was a ‘disaster’ in her role in the East Wing and ‘took advantage’ of the first lady.
‘Stephanie was a complete disaster in her temporary role at the White House. She was erratic and dishonest, and was extremely mean to everyone. She threw the First Lady’s name around a lot without her knowledge, making people fear Mrs. Trump for no reason,’ the administration official said.
‘I think the most disturbing aspect was her extreme paranoia. I recall one time she was convinced the wrong shade of paint had been applied to an office on purpose, as a way to show disrespect to the East Wing. The truth is that she only began to claim how close the two were once President Trump took office – she took advantage of Mrs. Trump and was abusive to everyone around her,’ the person said.
Wolkoff confirms that Melania refers to her stepdaughter as ‘Princess’ and paints an unflattering portrait of Ivanka trying to amass power and prestige at her stepmother’s expense.
New York magazine’s Olivia Nuzzi confirms in her piece that Wolkoff has tapes of conversations she had with the first lady. Nuzzi described what she heard: ‘Melania’s voice was familiar, but she sounded softer, not quite as guarded and steely as she does in public. She was reassuring Wolkoff that things would be okay, that she didn’t do anything. It was a bit hard to follow, but it sounded like she cared. Like she was trying to be there for a friend.’
She offers details about Ivanka such as this: ‘I received an email from her office. ‘I notice that Ivanka’s car is not part of the family motorcade. Is there any way to add that?’ It. Never. Ended.’
Melania Trump was also reported to be annoyed Ivanka Trump wanted to walk with them in the inauguration parade
Instead, the adult children marched further back: Eric Trump, Lara Trump, Ivanka Trump and Tiffany Trump
Wolkoff, a Manhattan socialite, is a longtime event planner for some of the highest-profile fashion events in New York City. In addition to her work on the Met Gala – know as fashion’s biggest night – she also orchestrated Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week’s Lincoln Center expansion and has worked closely with legendary Vogue editor Anna Wintour.
It was during her work at Vogue that she met Melania. The then-Melania Knauss was a model dating Trump and about to be launched into society at the Met Gala. Trump proposed to Melania at the 2004 event. Then-Vogue fashion director André Leon Talle traveled to Paris with her to help her pick out her wedding dress.
Stephanie Winston Wolkoff’s book ‘Melania and Me: The Rise and Fall of My Friendship with the First Lady’ will be released on September 1
‘Before her Vogue makeover, Melania was a very pretty young woman who seemed like she was playing fancy dress-up – more a brunette Marilyn Monroe than a Jackie O. After Melania’s makeover, André Leon Talley’s achievement, she was transcendent, high fashion, editorial worthy,’ Wolkoff writes in her memoir.
‘And the more time I spent with Melania, the more I genuinely liked her. Being with her was like having the sister I never had before – but a really confident, perfectly coiffed, ultimate older sister. In her world, nothing was a big deal, and everything was just as it should be. Just being with her made me feel good. She had her s*** together!,’ she added.
The two women became friends. In addition to her work on the inauguration, Wolkoff was one of Melania’s first hires for her East Wing staff, where she had a contract position instead of being a fulltime government employee.
Wolkoff recounts how, in January 2017, it was just her and Melania’s then-chief of staff Lindsay Reynolds working in the vast suite of East Wing offices when Reynolds got notice that some of Kushner’s staff were coming to look at office space on their turf.
At the time of the incident, Melania Trump was still living in New York, where she was spending the first part of 2017 so Barron could finish out the school year.
Turf wars are common in the White House under every administration where the cramped, crowded office space is at a premium. The East Wing, however, is usually the purview of the first lady’s office and areas under her control, such as the office that coordinates White House tours. There are other auxiliary offices there, such as the military liaison office.
But Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner were looking to move their people in.
‘The West Wing wasn’t big enough for the Kushners. They wanted the East Wing as well,’ Wolkoff writes.
‘I called Melania to tell her what was going on, and she said, ‘This is ridiculous! You have to do something!’,’ she recounted.
‘I dug into my bag; pulled out my red Sharpie and yellow Post-it notes; scribbled ‘conference room,’ ‘chief of staff,’ ‘deputy of advance,’ etc., on them; and slapped them on the office doors. By putting our mark on each office, Jared’s people couldn’t very well say, ‘Well, if no one’s using it … we’ll take it,” Wolkoff wrote.
A person who worked on the transition team denied that Ivanka and Kushner tried to take East Wing office space, telling DailyMail.com it didn’t happen.
She also describes a conspiracy to keep Melania Trump from hiring the full amount of staff a first lady needed, using the budget and staff vetting process ‘like a weapon to prevent Melania from filling them.’
She argues Ivanka enlisted then-chief of staff Reince Priebus, his deputy chief of staff Katie Walsh and influential staffer Hope Hicks to help her efforts.
‘Ivanka was relentless and was determined to be the First Daughter Lady and to usurp office space out from under Melania; she wanted to be the only visible female Trump on the premises, and she was actively using her influence with Katie Walsh, Reince Priebus, and Hope Hicks to thwart our efforts,’ Wolkoff says.
‘Ivanka wasn’t playing by the rules, but she never, ever, got in trouble,’ she added.
Stephanie Winston Wolkoff’s memoir has tapes of Melania Trump speaking ill of Trumps; above Pamela Gross Finkelstein, Judith Giuliani, Melania Knauss Trump and Stephanie Winston Wolkoff attend a luncheon in New York together in 2006
David Wolkoff, Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, Melania Trump and Donald Trump at an event in New York in February 2008 – Wolkoff served as an informal, unpaid adviser to Melania in the East Wing until she left amid the controversy surrounding the inauguration
Wolkoff’s memoir, ‘Melania and Me: The Rise and Fall of My Friendship with the First Lady,’ is the first book to come from a former member of the first lady’s inner circle.
Melania Trump has been the subject of two biographies by journalist – CNN’s Kate Bennett’s ‘Free Melania’ and The Washington Post’s Mary Jordan’s ‘The Art of Her Deal’ – but Wolkoff was a longtime personal friend to the first lady.
The two women had a falling out over Wolkoff’s work for the inauguration and reports on how much money she was paid for the gig.
Wolkoff left the East Wing in February 2018 after news reports showed that her firm, WIS Media Partners, received a $26 million payment for its work on the inaugural.
The firm in turn spent $24 million on subcontractors, a person familiar with the inaugural planning told DailyMail.com at the time. The source said Wolkoff provided ‘the whole look and feel – the creative vision’ for 18 or 20 inaugural events.
Her personal take from Trump’s inaugural committee was reported to be about $500,000 while the rest went to other producers working on the event.
Melania Trump dismissed her from the East Wing with an email.
‘I am sorry that the professional part of our relationship has come to an end, but I am comforted in the fact that our [friendship] far outweigh[s] politics,’ the first lady wrote. ‘Thank you Again! Much love.’
Wolkoff’s book will address the financial controversy but it will also be about the loss of her friendship with the first lady.
Additionally, the tapes she has of Melania Trump show the first lady trashing her husband Donald Trump and his adult children, with the harshest words coming for Ivanka, according to media reporter Yashar Ali, who first reported their existence.
He did not have details of the statements Melania Trump allegedly made but noted they will be in Wolkoff’s book. He added that Wolkoff taped the first lady without her knowledge.
Ali tweeted: ‘In her book, Stephanie Winston Wolkoff quotes the First Lady making disparaging remarks about Ivanka Trump and some of the president’s other adult children. She even makes some negative remarks about her husband, President Trump.’
Stephanie Grisham, Melania’s current chief of staff, said she’s never heard the first lady make any disparaging remarks about President Trump or the first family.
‘No. I’ve never heard Mrs. Trump say anything disparaging about the family,’ Grisham told MSNBC’s Hallie Jackson on Tuesday.
‘They’re a close-knit family. She’s talked about them many times publicly,’ she added.
Grisham was dismissive of the speculation that the first lady trash talked the family.
‘I’ve heard a little bit about this book. I don’t know much about it. It sounds like it’s just another one of those books that unfortunately people are writing,’ she said.
Grisham also noted if the first lady was recorded without her knowledge it was ‘unfortunate’ that she would be taken advantage of by a friend.
‘If there were any recordings taken it’s really unfortunate to take advantage of somebody’s trust like that while being a friend, but I don’t know much about the book. We’re focused on the work we’re doing,’ she said.
Stephanie Winston Wolkoff came under investigation for her role in planning Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential inauguration – she’s seen with Melania Trump at a January 2017 dinner ahead of the inaugural
The book will address some of the most controversial and infamous moments involving Melania Trump, including Stormy Daniels claim she had an affair with Trump, which he has denied, and that infamous jacket she wore: ‘I really don’t care, do u?’
The pre-order blurb for the book hints at a string of revelations.
‘How did Melania react to the Access Hollywood tape and her husband’s affair with Stormy Daniels? Does she get along well with Ivanka? Why did she wear that jacket with ‘I really don’t care, do u?’ printed on the back? Is Melania happy being First Lady? And what really happened with the inauguration’s funding of $107 million? Wolkoff has some ideas,’ the description says.
‘What Melania wants, Melania gets’ – reads the tag line in the book’s description on Amazon.com.
Wolkoff, the former director of special events at Vogue who headed nine Met galas, met Melania Knauss in 2003 and ‘had a front row seat to the transformation of Donald Trump’s then girlfriend from a rough-cut gem to a precious diamond,’ the book’s description reads.