Monday, July 15

Melania Trump Parts Ways With Adviser Amid Backlash Over Inaugural Contract


 

 

The first lady, Melania Trump, has parted ways with an adviser after news about the adviser’s firm reaping $26 million in payments to help plan President Trump’s inauguration.

Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, who has been friends with Mrs. Trump for years, had been working on a contract basis as an unpaid senior adviser to the office of the first lady.

Stephanie Grisham, Mrs. Trump’s spokeswoman, said the office had severed the gratuitous services contract with Ms. Wolkoff, who Ms. Grisham said had been employed as a special government employee” to work on specific projects. “We thank her for her hard work and wish her all the best.

The contract was terminated last week, according to two people with direct knowledge of the situation.

They said the move was prompted by displeasure from the Trumps over the news, first reported by The New York Times, that a firm created by Ms. Winston Wolkoff was paid nearly $26 million for event planning by a nonprofit group that oversaw Mr. Trump’s inauguration and surrounding events in January 2017.

Mr. Trump, who is notoriously tight with money, was also enraged to learn that Ms. Winston Wolkoff brought on an associate, David Monn, to help plan inaugural events, according to people who spoke to him. Mr. Monn’s firm was paid $3.7 million, according to a tax filing by the nonprofit group, the 58th Presidential Inaugural Committee.

Ms. Grisham said that the first lady had no involvement with the inaugural committee and that she had no knowledge of how funds were spent.

Ms. Winston Wolkoff, in an email, defended her work on the inauguration, denounced news coverage of it and challenged the characterization that her contract with Mrs. Trump’s office was terminated as a result of the news about payments from the inaugural committee.

I was informed by the White House counsel’s office that all gratuitous volunteer contracts were ended, she said.

She asserted that the development would not affect her relationship with Mrs. Trump, who attended Ms. Winston Wolkoff’s 40th birthday party in 2010 and has traveled in the same circles for years.

I expect to remain a trusted source for advice and support on an informal basis, she wrote.

In another email, Ms. Winston Wolkoff said, I am proud of the work that we did to support the inauguration.

She said her firm, WIS Media Partners, spent the overwhelming majority of the money it was paid by the inaugural committee on services to subcontractors, including for satellite feeds to be provided to broadcasters worldwide.