The United States Justice Department has accused the author of a tell-all book about First Lady Melania Trump of breaking their nondisclosure agreement and asked a court to set aside profits from the book in a government trust.
In a complaint filed in the US District Court in Washington, DC on Tuesday, Justice Department lawyers said Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, a former aide who fell out with the first lady, failed to submit for government review a draft of her book, Melania and Me: The Rise and Fall of My Friendship with the First Lady, which offers an unflattering portrayal of President Donald Trump’s wife.
There was no immediate comment from lawyers for Wolkoff.
The complaint said the Justice Department has jurisdiction in the case because of the first lady’s traditional public role dating back to Martha Washington, wife of the first US president, George Washington.
The government asked that any profits Winston Wolkoff might realise from the book and subsequent movie deal or documentaries be set aside into a “constructive trust,” with the monies ultimately going to the Treasury Department.
Published six weeks ago, the book was for a time on the New York Times best seller list. It sells for $16.80 on Amazon.com.
“The United States seeks to hold Ms Wolkoff to her contractual and fiduciary obligations and to ensure that she is not unjustly enriched by her breach of the duties she freely assumed when she served as an adviser to the first lady,” said a copy of the complaint seen by Reuters News Agency.
It said Wolkoff and Mrs Trump, in August 2017, sealed a “Gratuitous Services Agreement” related to “nonpublic, privileged and/or confidential information” that she might obtain during her service under the agreement.
“This was a contract with the United States and therefore enforceable by the United States,” said Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec.
Wolkoff’s tenure at the White House ended in early 2018 after it was disclosed that her company had received $26m to help plan Trump’s inauguration in January 2017.
She helped produce Trump’s inauguration and later worked for the first lady as an unpaid White House adviser.
The White House has dismissed her book as “full of mistruths and paranoia”.
According to a series of secret recordings released to and aired on CNN earlier this month, Mrs Trump expressed support for the care that migrant children separated from their families received in US detention centres
On the release of the tapes on October 1, the first lady’s chief of staff and spokeswoman, Stephanie Grisham, said Wolkoff’s “only intent was to secretly tape the first lady in order to peddle herself and her salacious book”.