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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High drug prices driven by profits, House committee reports find

Enormous drug company profits are the primary driver of soaring prescription drug prices in America, according to a damning investigation that Democrats on the House Oversight Committee began releasing Wednesday.

The first two reports in the investigation focus on Celgene and Bristol Myers Squibb’s Revlimid cancer treatment, the price of which has been raised 23 times since 2005, and Teva’s multiple sclerosis drug Copaxone, which has risen in price 27 times since 2007.

The costs have little to do with research and development or industry efforts to help people afford medication, as drug companies often claim, according to the inquiry.

“It’s true many of these pharmaceutical industries have come up with lifesaving and pain-relieving medications, but they’re killing us with the prices they charge,” Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., said as the hearings began Wednesday. He added, “Uninhibited pricing power has transformed America’s pain into pharma’s profit.”

The top Republican on the committee, James Comer of Kentucky, called the investigation a partisan attack. “These hearings seem designed simply to vilify and publicly shame pharmaceutical company executives,” Comer said.

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Much of the drug industry’s profits come at the expense of taxpayers and the Medicare program, say the reports, which say that they are used to pay generous executive bonuses and that they are guarded by aggressive lobbying and efforts to block competition, regulation or systemic change in the United States while the rest of the world pays less.

“The drug companies are bringing in tens of billions of dollars in revenues, making astronomical profits, and rewarding their executives with lavish compensation packages — all without any apparent limit on what they can charge,” committee chair Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., wrote in a letter attached to the first two staff reports.

Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., a former chair of the committee who died last October, launched the investigation more than a year ago. It has produced more than a million documents. CEOs of Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, Celgene and Bristol Myers Squibb were testifying Wednesday.

Officials of Amgen, Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals and Novartis were scheduled to appear Thursday.

Celgene CEO Mark Alles verified the accuracy of the documents obtained by the committee but stuck with the standard explanation that the company’s pricing is entirely aboveboard and merited.

“The pricing decisions for our medicines were guided by a set of long-held principles that reflected our commitment to patient access, the value of a medicine to patients in the health care system, the continuous efforts to discover new medicines and new uses for existing medicines and the need for financial flexibility,” Alles said. He said that in 2018, Celgene “committed to full pricing transparency by limiting price increases to no more than once per year,” pegged to national health expenditures projected by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

Teva CEO Kåre Schultz declined to address specific questions about much of the report, saying he took over only in 2017, in part to repair a company suffering after

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High drug prices driven by profits, House panel report finds

Enormous drug company profits are the primary driver of soaring prescription drug prices in America, according to a damning investigation that Democrats on the House Oversight Committee began releasing Wednesday.



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The first two reports in the investigation focus on Celgene and Bristol Myers Squibb’s Revlimid cancer treatment, which saw its price hiked 23 times since 2005, and Teva’s multiple sclerosis drug Copaxone, which went up in price 27 times since 2007.

Those costs have little to do with research and development or industry efforts to help people afford medication, as drug companies often claim, according to the probe.

“It’s true, many of these pharmaceutical industries have come up with lifesaving and pain-relieving medications, but they’re killing us with the prices they charge,” said Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) as the hearings began Wednesday. He added that “uninhibited pricing power has transformed America’s pain into pharma’s profit.”

The top Republican on the committee, Rep. James Comer of Kentucky, called the investigation a partisan attack. “These hearings seem designed simply to vilify and publicly shame pharmaceutical company executives,” Comer said.

Much of the drug industry’s profits come at the expense of taxpayers and the Medicare program, are used to pay generous executive bonuses and are guarded by aggressive lobbying and efforts to block competition, regulation or systemic change in the United States while the rest of the world pays less, the reports say.

“The drug companies are bringing in tens of billions of dollars in revenues, making astronomical profits, and rewarding their executives with lavish compensation packages — all without any apparent limit on what they can charge,” committee chair Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) wrote in a letter attached to the first two staff reports.

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the former committee chairperson who died last October, had launched the probe more than a year ago. It has since produced more than a million documents. CEOs of Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, Celgene and Bristol Myers Squibb were testifying Wednesday.

Amgen, Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals and Novartis were scheduled to appear Thursday.

Celgene CEO Mark Alles verified the accuracy of the documents obtained by the committee but stuck with the standard explanations that the company’s pricing is entirely aboveboard and merited.

“The pricing decisions for our medicines were guided by a set of long-held principles that reflected our commitment to patient access, the value of a medicine to patients in the health care system, the continuous efforts to discover new medicines and new uses for existing medicines and the need for financial flexibility,” Alles said. He said that in 2018 Celgene “committed to full pricing transparency by limiting price increases to no more than once per year,” pegged to Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ projected national health expenditures.

Teva CEO Kåre Schultz demurred from addressing specific questions about much of the report, saying he took over only in 2017, in part to repair a company suffering after its Copaxone patent finally expired.

He also sounded the familiar refrain that prices

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House panel says drugmakers inflated prices to boost profits and reap bonuses

The Democrat-led reports come just weeks before Election Day, and amid efforts by President Donald Trump to show progress on slashing drug costs, one of his 2016 campaign promises.

Neither company immediately responded to requests for comment.

Highlights: Celgene raised the price of cancer medicine Revlimid 22 times since it launched in 2005, more than tripling its price. Those hikes were not necessarily linked with rising costs or innovation: In 2014, for instance, former CEO Mark Alles ordered an emergency price increase so Celgene could meet its quarterly revenue targets.

“I have to consider every legitimate opportunity available to us to improve our Q1 performance,” Alles wrote in an email. He appears before the committee Wednesday along with Bristol CEO Giovanni Caforio.

Bristol continued with another increase after buying Celgene last year. Revlimid now costs more than $16,000 a month.

The panel’s report also details tactics that Teva Pharmaceuticals used to ward off competition, such as introducing new formulations of multiple sclerosis medicine Copaxone and contracting with payers to limit generic substitutions for the blockbuster medicine.

Teva has raised Copaxone’s price 27 times since its launch in 1997, inflating its cost from $10,000 then to nearly $70,000 today. Bonuses for Teva workers soared as well — the committee reports that “lower level employees were aware of the direct link between their compensation and Copaxone’s price and revenue.”

Teva CEO Kåre Schultz testifies for the pharmaceutical company on Sept. 30.

The panel said that other costs, such as rebates that drugmakers pay to pharmacy benefit managers, do not account for the consistently rising drug prices. Manufacturers typically point to these rebates — used to ensure products’ places on insurer formularies — to justify price hikes because a chunk of the cost goes to those payer discounts.

Heart of the pricing debate: Democrats have long pushed for Medicare to directly negotiate prices with drugmakers, a stance that President Donald Trump also took on the 2016 campaign trail. The committee argues that companies are “taking full advantage” of Medicare’s inability under federal law to negotiate.

While Trump abandoned the negotiation plan in office, he has tried and largely failed to advance other measures to cut drug costs. The president this summer announced an ambitious plan to link Medicare payments to lower costs paid abroad — an approach the industry vehemently opposes.

What’s next: Robert Bradway, CEO of Amgen; Mark Trudeau, CEO of Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals; and Thomas Kendris, U.S. president of Novartis, testify on Oct. 1.

Amgen makes Enbrel — one of the world’s best-selling autoimmune drugs — and Sensipar, a kidney failure treatment. Both are blockbuster medicines that have seen significant price increases over the past two decades.

Mallinckrodt sells H.P. Acthar Gel, a decades-old inflammation drug that the manufacturer acquired in 2014 after the previous owner, Questcor, raised its price from $40 to $31,000 per vial. Mallinckrodt continues to raise the price.

Novartis manufactures Gleevec, a cancer medicine that saw prices rise more than 395 percent in roughly 15 years.

The House

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U.S. judge questions Bolton’s political motives as he battles White House lawsuit for book profits

“Isn’t the question whether the information is classified or not?” Lamberth prodded Bolton’s defense. “You’ve engaged in that whole political diatribe, but it really has no place in what we’re arguing today.”

The oral argument came after a lawyer for the career government official who conducted the initial review for classified information in Bolton’s manuscript contended in a letter to the court that Trump aides had “commandeered” the process, then erroneously claimed the memoir contained classified information and failed to propose edits to facilitate publication.

Lamberth refused to halt publication in a June 20 ruling, saying the government acted too late to prevent the sale of already distributed books.

At issue Thursday was Bolton’s motion to toss out the case, and the government’s motion for a summary ruled that the government can seize Bolton’s profits because the book contained classified information.

Bolton attorney Charles J. Cooper argued that the government had failed to allege he knowingly disclosed such information and asserted that the nondisclosure agreements he signed required him to obtain written authorization to release only material he knew to be classified.

If unsure, Cooper argued, he was required only to confirm from “an authorized official” — in this case, he said, Ellen Knight, the National Security Council’s senior director for records access — that the information was unclassified. Cooper claimed that this is what Knight verified by phone and email after the initial review and that Bolton knew of no other classified information remaining in the manuscript he submitted to his publisher April 27.

“The government must be able to allege that Bolton knew or had reason to believe that his manuscript contained SCI, or it contained a description of activity that derived from SCI,” the most sensitive compartmented information, Cooper argued. “They have not alleged that, and we would submit they cannot allege that.”

Arguing for the government, Deputy Associate Attorney General Jennifer B. Dickey denied that the contracts required violations to be known. Dickey said there was no dispute that Bolton gave the manuscript to his publisher without receiving formal written authorization that the pre-publication review he initiated was concluded.

The government earlier produced six samples of what it asserted was classified material, three of which were classified before April 27 and one Gen. Paul M. Nakasone, director of the National Security Agency, said in a declaration “implicates” the most sensitive level of material.

“It would make no sense for the pre-publication review to attach and then say an author could opt out before written authorization that it was completed,” Dickey argued. If he objected with the process, Bolton should have sued instead of walking away.

“What is unprecedented is for the most recent national security adviser, who had been entrusted with classified information on a daily basis, who has a Yale law degree and experienced counsel, would think it’s consistent with his contractual or fiduciary duty to simply sign off to his publisher on April 27 without waiting for written authorization that it did not contain

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