Justice Dept. sues to seize profits of tell-all Melania Trump book, citing White House nondisclosure pact

In a statement, Wolkoff said she fulfilled all the terms of the agreement and that its confidentiality provisions ended when the White House terminated it.

Winston Wolkoff, 50, had a 15-year friendship with Melania Trump before she was ousted in 2018 as an unpaid senior adviser to the first lady in a scandal involving President Trump’s $107 million inauguration. Winston Wolkoff has said she felt “betrayed” when news accounts focused on $26 million paid to her event-planning firm by the inauguration. Most of the money went to pay for inaugural events, and she personally retained $484,126, The Washington Post has reported.

In the book, Winston Wolkoff described what she viewed as extensive mismanagement and opaque accounting for the inauguration, after which she cooperated with law enforcement investigators.

But the former right-hand events planner to Vogue editor Anna Wintour has created a larger media storm this month by playing excerpts of phone conversations that she began secretly recording with the first lady in February 2018 without her knowledge.

Melania Trump’s chief of staff, Stephanie Grisham, has lambasted Winston Wolkoff for the recordings.

“Secretly taping the first lady and willfully breaking an NDA to publish a salacious book is a clear attempt at relevance,” Grisham said in an Oct. 2 statement to CNN. “The timing of this continues to be suspect — as does this never-ending exercise in self-pity and narcissism.”

The lawsuit is likely to draw renewed attention to the tapes, which capture Melania Trump venting in profane language about her frustrations with critical media coverage, expectations about her role in planning White House Christmas decorations and defending the administration’s separation of migrant children at the U.S.-Mexico border.

“Who gives a f— about the Christmas stuff and decorations?” Trump said in one portion played in interviews with Winston Wolkoff by CNN’s Anderson Cooper.

On another recording, the first lady refers to porn star Stormy Daniels as “the porn hooker.” Porn actresses took to Twitter and accused her of shaming sex workers. The recording played on “Mea Culpa,” a podcast hosted by Trump’s former attorney, Michael Cohen, who went to jail for lying to investigators about paying hush money to Daniels, who said she had an affair with Trump before he became president. President Trump has denied the affair.

According to the lawsuit, Winston Wolkoff served as an adviser to the first lady from January to August 21, 2017, helping Melania Trump assemble her staff, remodel the East Wing and communicate with the media.

Winston Wolkoff then entered a formal “Gratuitous services Agreement” that included, among other things, the handling of “nonpublic, privileged and/or confidential information,” the suit asserts. Serving as a volunteer policy and media adviser, Winston Wolkoff agreed 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,” the Justice Department said in court filings.

The agreement also bound Winston Wolkoff to not disclose her work with the first lady’s office to anyone without written

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McConnell says he hasn’t been to White House since August, citing Covid-19 protocols

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Thursday that he hasn’t been to the White House since early August, citing a difference in coronavirus protocols at the White House and in the Senate.



a man wearing glasses and looking at the camera: (Photo by Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images)


© Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images
(Photo by Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images)

“I haven’t actually been to the White House since August the 6th because my impression was their approach to how to handle this is different from mine and what I insisted that we do in the Senate, which is to wear a mask and practice social distancing,” McConnell said at a Kentucky event in response to a question about whether he believes President Donald Trump should be disclosing more information about his recent coronavirus diagnosis.

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The comments, which he more or less repeated at a second event shortly after, underscore the sharp differences in how the Kentucky Republican has approached the pandemic compared to Trump’s White House. For months, McConnell hasn’t just worn a mask, but regularly taken opportunities while on camera to urge others to do the same. And while there are a small number of senators who forgo masks on occasion, the vast majority in the chamber wear them in Washington.

The White House, McConnell said at the second event, wasn’t “approaching the protection from this illness in the same way that I thought was appropriate in the Senate.”

The Kentucky Republican is married to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, who is tested regularly and has tested negative, a department spokesman told CNN last week. CNN has reached out to the department to ask when Chao was last at the White House.

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McConnell on Thursday made clear that he speaks frequently with the President by phone, however, and added, “I think he’s perfectly fine. He seems normal and we’ve been discussing the very issues that you all are discussing with me right now. Of course, the biggest thing we’re doing at the moment is the Supreme Court.”

The comments from the majority leader, who is up for reelection this cycle, come in the wake of the President’s Covid-19 diagnosis as well as the recent Covid diagnoses of three Senate Republicans, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Mike Lee of Utah and Thom Tillis of North Carolina.

In an email to GOP senators after the positive results were made public, McConnell again reiterated the need to operate safely in the midst of the once-in-a-century pandemic, urging his members to stay healthy so they can all return when the Senate comes back into session on October 19.

“We need to lead now, with extra prudence and care, not just for our own health and well being, but to be able to perform our elected duties and to be examples to the country,” McConnell wrote in last weekend’s email, which was obtained by CNN. “Wear masks, stay distant, and come back safely on the 19th.”

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McConnell avoids White House, citing laxity on masks, COVID-19 precautions

The Daily Beast

Putin Is Facing the Toughest Fight of His Presidency as Former USSR Goes up in Flames

Yesterday, October 7, was Russian President Vladimir Putin’s 68th birthday, and, in keeping with his Soviet-style personality cult, it would normally have been an occasion for Putin to bask in public fanfare. But this year was different. Putin is holed up at his residence outside Moscow, where he has been since early April, avoiding infection from the coronavirus that is again rampant in Russia, while unrest surges in three countries of the former Soviet Union, and France and Germany are pushing for new EU economic sanctions against Russia because of the poisoning of Russian democrat Alexei Navalny.In honor of Putin’s birthday, the Russian news agency Tass released the final episode of a series entitled 20 Questions with Vladimir Putin, a special interview project to commemorate Putin’s twenty years as leader. In this episode Putin does not discuss pressing economic issues or international affairs, but rather his hobbies, family and other personal matters. Significantly, while Putin mentions that he enjoys his “sweet” grandchildren, he also confesses to his interviewer that “when you occupy this position, sometimes it feels like you cease to be a human being and become nothing more than a mere function.”Funeral for Reporter Who Set Herself on Fire Reawakens Russia’s Passion to Stand up to PutinNo wonder Putin has begun feeling like an automaton. Bad things have been happening to Putin in battalions lately. On July 9, just as the number of coronavirus cases in Russia had begun to decline and the virus seemed under control, mass protests erupted in the Siberian district of Khabarovsk over the arrest on unsubstantiated murder charges of the popular governor, Sergei Furgal.The unrest in Khabarovsk, a cause for deep concern in the Kremlin, was soon overshadowed by events in Belarus, where the largest political rally in over a decade took place in Minsk on July 30 in support of the opposition presidential candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya. Opposition protests, accompanied by mass arrests, plunged Belarus into turmoil after Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, in power for 26 years, reported a landslide victory in the August 9 presidential elections. Despite a severe crackdown, the protests have continued. On October 4, 100,000 people marched in Minsk demanding Lukashenko’s resignation.The events in Belarus, a neighboring country that serves as Russia’s strategic buffer to NATO states, pose a huge dilemma for Putin. The overthrow of an authoritarian leader like Lukashenko by a grassroots democratic movement would set a dangerous example that Russians might at some point follow. But if the Kremlin sends paramilitary forces into Belarus to support Lukashenko, as Putin suggested last month might be done, such a move could result in more Western sanctions against Russia, which would further damage Russia’s faltering economy.Adding to the Kremlin’s troubles, a violent conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia erupted on September 27 over the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, which lies in Azerbaijan, but is controlled by ethnic Christian Armenians who are backed

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BuzzFeed News Pulls Reporter From White House, Citing Virus Risk

BuzzFeed News has pulled a political correspondent from the White House press pool, citing concerns that the area has become a coronavirus hot zone after President Trump, many of his top aides — including the press secretary Kayleigh McEnany — and several journalists have tested positive for the virus.

A BuzzFeed News spokesman, Matt Mittenthal, confirmed that the company on Tuesday had withdrawn the correspondent, Kadia Goba, from her Wednesday shift out of concern for her safety. The spokesman added that BuzzFeed News was awaiting further guidance from the White House Correspondents’ Association.

Reporters rotate into the White House press pool, a group of journalists that represents the wider corps to share coverage of the president and the day’s events. The pool includes representatives of wire news services, newspapers and news sites, as well as television and radio outlets.

“Anyone that knows me understands I’d rather be at the White House working today,” Ms. Goba said, “but at the same time, there are obvious concerns about working indoors during an outbreak.”

She added, “I don’t want to be knocked out for the rest of the election because I’m sick.”

After BuzzFeed News notified other news organizations on Tuesday that its reporter would not work her shift, an email circulated among members of the press pool asking for someone to fill in.

“We are in uncharted territory,” Todd J. Gillman, the Washington bureau chief of The Dallas Morning News, who coordinates the print pool, wrote in the email, which was reviewed by The New York Times.

“No one wants anyone to take unwarranted risk,” he added. “Nor do we want the pool system to collapse.”

Politico sent a reporter, Meridith McGraw, to cover the White House in place of the BuzzFeed correspondent.

In addition to the president and Ms. McEnany, the coronavirus outbreak has ensnared nearly a dozen members of the Trump administration. Two other members of the White House press team, including a relative of Ms. McEnany’s, are known to have tested positive. At least three journalists who have covered the White House reported that they were infected, including Michael D. Shear, a reporter at The Times.

In a statement on Wednesday, the White House Correspondents’ Association said that dozens of tests had been conducted on members of its press corps since Friday, and that there had been no additional cases of the coronavirus.

The association continued to encourage the wearing of masks and the use of regular testing on Wednesday, and said it had pushed the White House to give the press corps more information about known infections so that journalists could evaluate the risk.

“Still, despite everything we’ve experienced in recent days, it would be foolish of us to assume that the situation at the White House or on the campaign trail will improve dramatically over the coming four weeks,” the statement said.

“That means that we as a press corps, and each of us individually, must be cleareyed about the potential risks of Covid exposure on the

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