DOJ sues Stephanie Winston Wolkoff over Melania Trump tell-all

  • The Justice Department on Tuesday sued Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, a former friend of first lady Melania Trump. 
  • The civil complaint claims Wolkoff violated a nondisclosure agreement by publishing a tell-all about her time advising the first lady and planning President Donald Trump’s inauguration. 
  • Wolkoff’s “Melania and Me” includes claims about the first lady’s animosity toward Ivanka Trump and reasoning for wearing a controversial jacket to the US border.
  • Read the DOJ’s lawsuit below.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The Department of Justice sued a former friend of first lady Melania Trump on Tuesday, claiming she violated a nondisclosure agreement by publishing a tell-all about her time working for the White House. 

In “Melania and Me: The Rise and Fall of My Friendship with The First Lady,” which was released last month, Stephanie Winston Wolkoff detailed her work planning President Donald Trump’s 2017 inauguration and advising the first lady in the first year of the Trump administration.

Wolkoff left the White House in 2018 following a scandal involving how much her company made from working on the inauguration. Anecdotes in her book include:

Stephanie Grisham, the first lady’s chief of staff and spokeswoman, has called Wolkoff’s book “not truthful.”

In a civil complaint filed Tuesday in a Washington, DC, district court, the DOJ accused Wolkoff of breach of contract and breach of fiduciary obligations, and asked the court to transfer all money she makes from the book into a government trust.

stephanie winsteon wolkoff melania trump

Wolkoff and Melania Trump in New York City in 2008.


BILLY FARRELL/Patrick McMullan via Getty



The complaint said Wolkoff signed a “strict confidentiality” agreement, promising not to publish any information gleaned from her time working for the first lady, unless given express written permission. 

“In particular, the Agreement makes clear that, by virtue of being placed in a position of trust as an advisor, Ms. Wolkoff  ‘may have access to nonpublic, privileged and/or confidential information’ while serving the First Lady,” the complaint said.

“Because of the trust placed in Ms. Wolkoff by the First Lady, and in consideration for access to the White House and sensitive information, Ms. Wolkoff agreed to maintain strict confidentiality regarding this information.”

DOJ lawyers say that Wolkoff never sent a manuscript to the White House for review, and therefore is in “flat violation” of her “contractual obligations and fiduciary duties.” 

The DOJ is seeking the court to rule in its favor, and has set up a government trust for the proceeds of the book to go to so that Wolkoff is “not unjustly enriched by her breach of duties.”

Read the lawsuit here:

[documentcloud url=”http://www.documentcloud.org/documents/7230987-Stephanie-Winston-Wolkoff-DOJ-Lawsuit.html” responsive=true]

‘Bullying tactics’

 

Simon & Schuster, which published Wolkoff’s book, did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment on the lawsuit.

However, Wolkoff issued comment on the lawsuit to Reuters, saying the confidentiality provisions ended “when the White House terminated the agreement.” 

“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

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White House, Trump campaign push unusual DOJ announcement about 7 ‘discarded’ military votes

The Trump campaign on Thursday accused the Democrats of “trying to steal the election” after seven military ballots cast in favor of the president were found “discarded” in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania — despite no immediate allegations of any malfeasance.

“BREAKING: FBI finds military mail-in ballots discarded in Pennsylvania. 100% of them were cast for President Trump. Democrats are trying to steal the election,” Matt Wolking, deputy communications director for the Trump campaign, tweeted Thursday afternoon, linking to a press release from David Freed, the U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Pennsylvania.

Freed said his office had begun “an inquiry into reports of potential issues with a small number of mail-in ballots at the Luzerne County Board of Elections.”

“At this point we can confirm that a small number of military ballots were discarded. Investigators have recovered nine ballots at this time. Some of those ballots can be attributed to specific voters and some cannot. All nine ballots were cast for presidential candidate Donald Trump,” the statement said.

Freed’s office put out a revised statement hours after the first saying the number of Trump ballots was actually seven.

“Two of the discarded ballots had been resealed inside their appropriate envelopes by Luzerne elections staff prior to recovery by the FBI and the contents of those 2 ballots are unknown,” the updated statement said.

Both statements were highly unusual as U.S. Attorneys typically do not publicly announce they’ve opened an inquiry. The U.S. Attorney’s office declined to give further comment about the probe, except to say the general election ballots were improperly opened by county staff.

The second statement noted that Freed’s office had been investigating the case with the FBI since Monday at the request of Luzerne County District Attorney Stefanie Salavantis.

Salavantis is a Republican, and Trump won the county by almost 20 points in 2016. Salavantis was told about the find last week by the county’s elections director, the county solicitor said in a statement.

While the nature of the inquiry, including whether there’s a criminal component, is unclear, the Justice Department’s 2017 guidelines for “Federal Prosecution of Election Offenses” says that, “Because the federal prosecutor’s function in the area of election fraud is not primarily preventative, any criminal investigation by the Department must be conducted in a way that minimizes the likelihood that the investigation itself may become a factor in the election.”

In the evening, DOJ released a letter Freed sent to the county board of elections, reporting his initial findings — including that at least part of the problem appeared to be bureaucratic.

“The FBI has recovered a number of documents relating to military ballots that had been improperly opened by your elections staff, and had the ballots removed and discarded, or removed and placed separately from the envelope containing confidential voter information and attestation,” the letter said.

It noted, “the appropriate method for processing received military ballots is to securely store the ballot, unopened” until Election Day, but that some elections staffers said

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House Dems call for an ‘emergency’ DOJ watchdog review of Durham probe

President Donald Trump has sought more prosecutions related to Durham’s probe, and has called for FBI and intelligence officials he views as his political enemies to be punished.

The Democrats are asking Horowitz to expedite a review of various aspects of Barr’s comments and Durham’s review. Among them: Whether Barr’s public commentary complies with DOJ policy and the 2018 inspector general report; whether DOJ has implemented Horowitz’s earlier recommendations on politically sensitive investigations; if a Durham report issued before the election would comply with department policies; whether Durham has the legal authority to be conducting his probe, including a formal scope memo; and whether Durham is permitted to issue a public report about anyone who hasn’t been charged with a crime.

Senate Democrats sought a similar probe in a letter to Horowitz on Thursday.

Barr has rejected the notion that any findings issued by Durham ahead of the election would inappropriately influence the campaign. He has argued that DOJ practices prohibit such steps but only if they are aimed at candidates themselves or their very close associates.

Barr has publicly indicated that the Durham probe does not contemplate investigating former Vice President and Democratic nominee Joe Biden or former President Barack Obama. He has at times publicly characterized potentially explosive findings in Durham’s investigation but has denied that there’s political pressure to move it quickly.

Last week, a top Durham aide and long-serving federal prosecutor, Nora Dannehy, resigned from the DOJ amid a push from the president to publish the results of the probe before the election.

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White House asked DOJ to defend Trump in lawsuit from rape accuser

  • In a highly unusual move, the Justice Department on Tuesday attempted to take over President Donald Trump’s legal defense in a defamation lawsuit brought by the writer E. Jean Carroll, who has accused him of rape. A claim the president denies.
  • Attorney General William Barr told reporters Wednesday that the DOJ intervened at the request of the White House, according to The New York Times.
  • Barr defended the DOJ’s move, saying it “was a normal application of the law,” The New York Times reported.
  • But legal experts have cast doubt on that reasoning and why the DOJ waited ten months to intervene — just weeks after a court ruled Carroll could seek evidence from Trump such as DNA samples and a deposition.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Attorney General William Barr told reporters Wednesday that the Department of Justice’s surprising decision Tuesday to intervene in a lawsuit against President Donald Trump came at the direct request of the White House.

On Tuesday, the DOJ said in court filings that it intends to replace Trump’s personal lawyers in a defamation case brought by advice columnist E. Jean Carroll, who has publicly accused Trump of raping her and sued him in November after he denied the allegations.

While Trump’s personal lawyers have been defending him since then, DOJ lawyers argued Tuesday that Trump was “acting within the scope of his office” when he made the comments, meaning the suit should fall under the Federal Torts Claim Act, which would put the US government on the hook for defending him and taxpayers for covering his legal costs.

The timing and highly unusual nature of the DOJ’s intervention has raised questions about its motivations and drawn scrutiny from legal experts.

Last month, a New York state court ruled that Carroll could proceed with efforts to gather evidence, including DNA samples and a deposition of Trump. But the DOJ’s move, which came on the last day Trump could have appealed the ruling, could stall that discovery process and put Carroll’s case in jeopardy.

Under the FTCA, which is also known as the Westfall Act, federal employees cannot be sued while acting in their official capacity. If the new federal judge assigned to the case, Lewis A. Kaplan, agrees with the DOJ’s rationale for intervening, he could toss the case out.

“This was a normal application of the law,” Barr said in defense of the move, according to The New York Times, adding: “The law is clear. It is done frequently. And the little tempest that is going on is largely because of the bizarre political environment in which we live.”

While the government has won several cases involving the Westfall Act, legal experts have cast doubt on the DOJ’s assertion that the law applies to Carroll’s case against Trump.

“The specific facts here raise the question of whether attacking a private citizen and denigrating her appearance — rather than simply denying her allegations — is part of the president’s job. A court might

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White House asked DOJ to defend Trump in defamation case, Barr says

The White House asked the Justice Department to take over the defense of President Donald Trump in a defamation lawsuit filed by a woman who has accused Trump of sexual assault in the 1990s, Attorney General William Barr said Wednesday.



a man wearing a suit and tie: US President Donald Trump (R) and US Attorney General William Barr step off Air Force One upon arrival at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland on September 1, 2020.


© MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images
US President Donald Trump (R) and US Attorney General William Barr step off Air Force One upon arrival at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland on September 1, 2020.

Because Trump addressed and denied the accusations by E. Jean Carroll while serving as president, Barr said, the federal government is allowed to step in.

The attorney general also said politics is to blame for the reaction to the Justice Department paying for Trump’s defense and possibly killing the lawsuit.

“This was a normal application of the law. The law is clear. It is done frequently. And the little tempest that’s going on is largely because of the bizarre political environment in which we live,” Barr said in a news conference in Chicago.

“Officials who are elected and answer press questions while they’re in office, even if those questions relate to their personal activity, and could bear upon their personal fitness, is in fact in the course of federal employment, and can be therefore certified under the Westfall Act,” Barr said.

Carroll, a veteran columnist for Elle Magazine, said Trump falsely called her a liar after she accused him of sexual assault.

“President Trump knows that I told the truth when I said that he had sexually assaulted me in a dressing room at Bergdorf Goodman. He also knows that he was lying when he said that he had never met me before and that I ‘wasn’t his type,'” Carroll said in a statement Tuesday.

Carroll’s lawyers have not yet responded in court to the motion to replace Trump’s private lawyers.

Barr said the White House followed the proper course of action to request the Justice Department’s intervention.

“The process involves the employing agency, which in the case of a president has been the White House, sending in a memorandum requesting certification,” Barr said. “That process was followed in this particular case.”

The White House did not confirm Barr’s statement, but in a statement said the Justice Department’s move “adheres to the plain language and intent of the Statute which the courts have confirmed applies when elected officials, such as members of Congress, respond to press inquiries including with respect to personal matters.”

CNN legal analyst and University of Texas law professor Steve Vladeck said Barr’s comments are misleading when it comes to the President.

“Yes, DOJ ‘frequently’ seeks to take over tort claims against federal employees,” Vladeck said. “But there’s no ‘frequent’ history of doing so when the defendant is the President — or of waiting as long as DOJ did here to invoke the statute.”

The lawsuit was filed in November, and a New York judge last month ruled that the lawsuit could proceed against Trump. Carroll is also seeking to require Trump provide

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