COLD WAR in the White House
In an explosive new book, Melania Trump’s former aide lifts the lid on the First Lady’s true feelings — and reveals the ‘Operation Block Ivanka’ that was a...
WHEN a notorious recording of then presidential candidate Donald Trump surfaced in late 2016 — in which he boasted of chasing women and ‘grabbing them by the p***y’, the first reaction was one of shock and disgust around the globe.
The second was to wonder what his wife would say. now we know. According to a former confidante, the answer is not very much.
Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, one of new York’s top society party planners and a former longtime friend of Melania Trump, says the future First Lady had always reassured her that ‘I know who I married’.
A few days after the shocking revelations, the glamorous pair lunched at the pierre Hotel in Manhattan, says Wolkoff.
Mrs Trump was all smiles, but her friend had to ask: ‘Aren’t you angry?’
She shook her head, saying: ‘nope! He is who he is. I told him that if he ran for president, he had to be ready for everything to be opened up and exposed. His whole life.’
When her friend said that, if she became First
Lady, she would be quizzed on such behaviour, Melania was dismissive: ‘Of course, I will [say nothing]! It’s my life. It’s nobody’s business.’
And — although a few days later she dismissed her husband’s horrible bragging to an interviewer as ‘kind of a boy talk’ — so it has proved. Amid all the chaos of the Trump presidency — not only in the Oval Office but in the relentless revelations about his personal life, including alleged affairs with porn stars and topless models — Mrs Trump has maintained an almost Sphinx-like silence.
The Slovenian-born former model remains the great mystery of the presidency. We’ve been left to speculate over what was going on when she failed to join her husband in Washington in the first months of his presidency; when she was caught grimacing on camera at the inauguration or when she wore a jacket bought from High Street chain Zara bearing the message: ‘I really don’t care, do u?’
now a bombshell new book — written by a woman who knew her for decades and was the First Lady’s spokesman and image adviser — claims to provide the answers to what Melania Trump really thinks and does.
Wolkoff claims that while she might choose to ignore her husband’s foibles, the First Lady has little time for other members of the Trump family — especially her ambitious step-daughter, Ivanka, whom she dubbed ‘the princess’.
It was Ivanka, Wolkoff alleges, who ‘wanted to be the only visible female Trump’ and was behind stories in the media describing the east Wing — the First Lady’s part of the White House — as a neglected, lonely place.
In Melania & Me: The rise And Fall Of My Friendship With The First Lady’, Wolkoff is set on telling her side of the story after, she says, she was ‘thrown under the bus’ by the Trump administration following accusations — which she claims were inaccurate — that her firm was paid $26 million for organising Trump’s lavish inauguration celebrations.
Although she dedicates her book to Mrs Trump, Wolkoff is hardly flattering.
She says she realised the First Lady is ‘not a normal woman’ after porn star Stormy Daniels and a topless model described their alleged affairs with her husband. Mrs Trump said nothing publicly and only privately confided that ‘it’s politics!’.
And when the U.S. media speculated that the Zara jacket trumpeted Mrs Trump’s sympathy for migrants and opposition to her husband’s hardline stance, she reportedly texted Wolkoff to say: ‘ Liberals are getting crazy again!’
She writes of 50- year- old Mrs Trump: ‘The secret to her happiness is to be authentically and unapologetically skin-deep. She lives through her external attractiveness and how her appearance is perceived.’
Indeed, appearances matter so much to Mrs Trump, says Wolkoff, that she refused to move into the White House until the Obamas’ bathroom suite had been replaced.
Melania is, apparently, a ‘great admirer of Jacqueline Kennedy’, and Wolkoff says she saw her try to mimic the former First Lady’s legendary style on occasions.
The White House has dismissed the book as trying to ‘profit off of lies and mischaracterisations meant to harm the First Family’. It says it ‘belongs in the fiction section’.
Wolkoff counters this by claiming she has taped some of the conversations she had with Mrs Trump and says the Trumps know she can back up ‘100 per cent’ everything she says in the book.
It was back in 2003 that Wolkoff says she became close to Melania Trump while she was working for U.S. Vogue (its editor-in-chief Anna Wintour is credited with transforming Donald’s third wife’s style).
While others see Melania as glacial and impenetrable, Wolkoff saw her back then as warm and kind — a woman who loves using heartshaped emojis as much as her husband loves tweeting. She now admits she was fooled. ‘A Trump is a Trump is a Trump,’ she says.
MELANIA TRUMP’S career ‘is to support her husband’, and those in the U.S. media who claim the First Lady has given subtle signals of rebellion need to understand that, says Wolkoff.
She rejects claims that Mrs Trump never wanted to be First Lady, insisting her friend told her ‘many times’ she wanted Donald to win in 2016.
Melania, who was 28 when she met Trump, told Wolkoff that the reason their marriage had lasted so long was because, unlike his previous wives, she didn’t pressure him emotionally or demand a role in his business empire.
‘Just let him do what he’s going to do,’ she advised Wolkoff when the party planner complained about her own husband’s golf obsession. ‘Why get in a fight about something that won’t change?’
This advice ‘came from her own life experience and how she’d managed her own marriage’, claims Wolkoff.
Something of a homebird, Melania, says Wolkoff, was happy to remain in the shadows in the couple’s preWhite House days, sitting around in the Manhattan penthouse in Trump Tower in her Trump-branded bathrobe or ‘ marching around with weights on her ankles, pumping her pink dumbbells’.
The woman who, in her modelling days, preferred trips to the cinema alone rather than parties ‘ is like Marlene Dietrich. She “vonts to be alone”,’ writes Wolkoff.
Or at least alone with her son, 14year-old Barron Trump.
EMBARRASSMENT does not seem to trouble her — whether giving a speech that turned out to have been plagiarised from one by Michelle Obama or by the re-publication of a naked shot from her modelling days, Mrs Trump simply shrugs it off.
‘ She doesn’t do shame,’ says Wolkoff.
It was in the aftermath of the Trump shock election victory in late 2016 that Wolkoff agreed to work gratis to help organise the Trump inauguration celebrations. It proved to be ‘eight weeks of hell’, she says.
The most outrageous idea came from Mr Trump himself, she says.
‘I want tanks and choppers. Make it look like north Korea,’ he told Wolkoff of his vision of the inauguration parade along pennsylvania Avenue.
Overwhelmed by the workload, she recruited Jon reynaga, an old British friend who was a former senior Downing Street aide to Tony Blair. Another British recruit was former soldier turned reality TV guru Mark Burnett, who handled the entertainment side.
While Melania had never been close to ‘ Daddy’s girl’ Ivanka, the ‘ cold war’ between the two women rapidly developed after Mr Trump was elected president, says Wolkoff.
As she and Wolkoff went through the inauguration schedule, Melania paused over plans for an ‘ Ivanka Trump/Leonardo DiCaprio environmental Ball’ to be held in Washington’s national portrait Gallery, according to Wolkoff.
‘ Give me a break!’ Melania reportedly scoffed. Ivanka’s ball never happened.
Mrs Trump clashed with the ‘relentless and driven’ Ivanka on everything, from which of them should oversee the redecoration of the Oval Office — Trump naturally wanted a lot more gold — to where the First Daughter should sit at her father’s swearing-in ceremony.
‘Ivanka was very focused on Ivanka,’ says Wolkoff. ‘ Seating position and photo ops were of paramount importance . . . If she could have swapped spots with Melania, you bet she would have!’
Ivanka sent Wolkoff photos of Barack Obama’s swearing- in, surrounded by his family, to support
her case that she should be included in her father’s ceremony.
In response, Melania and Wolkoff launched ‘Operation Block Ivanka’ to ‘keep her face out of that iconic “special moment” ’, with Wolkoff and her team even studying camera angles to make sure Ivanka’s face would be hidden in pictures.
‘Yes, Operation Block Ivanka was petty,’ Wolkoff admits now.
‘Melania was in on this mission. But in our minds, Ivanka shouldn’t have made herself the centre of attention at her father’s inauguration.’
At the ceremony, cameras filmed Mr Trump turning to smile at his wife. She returned it, but as soon as he turned back, she scowled.
The media made much of it, but Wolkoff says the real explanation was that Barron, who was then only ten years old, had accidentally kicked his mother’s ankle.
When Wolkoff suggested that Mrs Trump explain publicly what had happened, she retorted: ‘Who cares what they think?’
Famously, Jacqueline Kennedy didn’t care what others thought of her either, and was also regarded as something of an enigma. Indeed, Melania’s interest in the most alluring of First Ladies is one of the few things she shares with Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner. The couple are obsessed with apeing the Kennedys, says Wolkoff.
‘ Ivanka and Jared are big
Camelot [the name given to the Kennedy administration] fans, too. It’s no coincidence that all three of their children—Arabella, Joseph and Theodore — share names with Kennedy family members,’ she writes.
Mrs Trump apparently shares Mrs Kennedy’s addiction to the finer things in life, too. At the start of the presidency, she told Wolkoff: ‘I’m not moving to DC until the Residence has been renovated and redecorated, starting with a new shower and toilet.’
Wolkoff says Melania ‘did not go so far as to say that she would not sit on the same throne as Michelle Obama’, but it was clear that she did not want to ‘conduct her most personal business on a previously used john’.
It is, however, the relationship between Donald and Melania that fascinates most. When Wolkoff pushed Melania to arrange a Valentine’s Day date with her husband, she found the idea ‘hysterical’.
Neither of them are ‘sentimental types’, says Wolkoff, adding: ‘I can’t recall her ever telling me about Donald sending her flowers or her girlishly planning a special surprise or treat for him.’
In fact, on that particular Valentine’s Day, Trump instead reportedly had dinner with media magnate Rupert Murdoch.
In February 2018, Wolkoff was sacked after her firm was accused in the media of having been paid $26 million by the Trump Inaugural Committee.
She says much of the money went to other people, and blames White House officials as well as Ivanka Trump for unfairly pinning the blame on her for the stratospheric costs. Melania Trump knew the truth but didn’t defend her, adds Wolkoff.
She now says she wishes she had never met the First Lady, let alone worked for her — something that she ruefully acknowledged her friends had been telling her right from the start.