On Tuesday, the Department of Justice sued author Stephanie Winston Wolkoff. She is the former close friend of First Lady Melania Trump who broke a nondisclosure agreement by writing a tell-all book about her. The DOJ claims Wolkoff revealed confidential information obtained during her work for Mrs. Trump. The lawsuit asks that Wolkoff turn over profits from the book to a government trust.
The book is titled “Melania and Me: The Rise and Fall of My Friendship with the First Lady.” The most current statistics from its Amazon page are #144,933 in Kindle Store, #116 in Mid Atlantic U.S. Biographies, #2,583 in Biographies & Memoirs (Kindle Store). I’m not sure how much the profits amount to but these rankings reflect book sales. Ironically, Wolkoff dedicated the book to Melania. Most of the book, according to the reviews, centers around criticizing her former best friend and spreading gossip. With friends like that, who needs enemies? The two women have been friends since 2003, a time in which Melania was Trump’s girlfriend. Wolkoff is a former special events director for Vogue magazine. She served as executive producer and chief creative officer of the 58th Presidential Inauguration and senior advisor to inauguration chairman Thomas J. Barrack, Jr. Wolkoff was a volunteer adviser to the First Lady. The lawsuit calls the book a “flat violation” of breach of contract and breach of fiduciary obligations to the first lady.
The suit, whose lead signatory is acting Assistant Attorney General John Coghlan, accuses Winston Wolkoff of “flat violation” of breach of contract and breach of fiduciary obligations to the first lady.
The complaint says that Winston Wolkoff agreed in 2017 to a so-called gratuitous services agreement. That pact contained a confidentiality clause in which she “promised to maintain strict confidentiality over ‘nonpublic, privileged and/or confidential information’ that she might obtain during her service,” the suit says.
That deal “included no termination date” for its conditions, according to the suit, which says that Wolkoff had “access to significant confidential information related to the First Lady’s official duties as well as to more private aspects of her role in the First Family.”
There is also a claim by the DOJ that Wolkoff had indirect access to information the First Lady had that was related to the president’s official duties.
Despite Winston Wolkoff’s promise of confidentiality, the Justice Department said, she “has written a book that Simon & Schuster [the book’s publisher] promotes as a ‘scathing tell-all’ and an ‘epic scream of a tell-all.’”
The lawsuit alleges that Wolkoff never submitted a draft of the book to Melania Trump, her chief of staff, or to the Office of the White House Counsel. She “never received authorization to disclose any information she learned pursuant to her work under the Agreement.” Wolkoff admitted during an appearance on the Rachel Maddow show on MSNBC that she received a cease and desist warning before the book was published in September. “The last thing that any of these people want is for the truth to be told.” Last month, on The View, she said she didn’t violate the 2017 NDA.
In a statement, Wolkoff said she will not be bullied.
“The president and first lady’s use of the U.S. Department of Justice to silence me is a violation of my First Amendment rights and a blatant abuse of the government to pursue their own personal interests and goals,” she said.
“I will not be deterred by these bullying tactics,” she added.
In other book news, guess who is back? Omarosa Manigault Newman. She wrote a book about her time in the Trump White House and now the Trump campaign wants her to correct her inaccurate statements. The campaign wants her to pay $1 million in campaign ad expenditures, a “corrective” ad campaign. The proposal asks that the ads be run for “targeted audiences” in 15 “select states” that are also battleground states in the election, including Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. All of those states will be important in Trump’s re-election bid.
The Trump campaign last week filed a document from an expert witness, obtained by the Times, in the arbitration case over Manigault Newman’s comments against Trump in her 2018 book “Unhinged” and associated interviews.
The filing was written by Eric Rose, a crisis management expert, who proposed that Manigault Newman could fund an advertising campaign that would cost more than $846,000. He did not mention a designated timeline for the advertising campaign, but the document mentions “voters” and was filed weeks ahead of Election Day, the Times noted.
“It would be my recommendation that Ms. Manigault Newman pays for the corrective ads/corrective statements outlined above to counteract the long-term adverse effects of information that appeared as a result of Ms. Manigault Newman violating her confidentially agreement,” he said, according to the Times.
“If corrective ads are not placed, voters may continue to hold beliefs about the president as a result of Ms. Manigault Newman’s statements,” he added.
Rose suggested Manigault Newman’s negative remarks about Trump were “given heightened veracity because of her relationship with the president” and “corrective remedies are justified.” The advertising campaign’s goal would be to “provide a paid media recommendation with the goal of reaching audiences reached by negative statements disseminated by Ms. Manigault Newman,” he wrote, according to the Times.
Omarosa’s lawyer isn’t keen on the idea, to say the least.
Manigault Newman’s lawyer John Phillips told the Times the campaign’s submission of the expert witness document was the height of “weaponized litigation.”
“Friday, we found out their bullets are commercials they want Omarosa to go do,” he said. “This isn’t free speech. It’s speech with a gun to your head.”
Phillips added that the submission came after Manigault Newman’s team asked the president’s lawyers how they would prove damages were owed.
These two examples of alleged violations of NDAs signed for the Trump family are not the only ones we’ve seen. It does show that even if a high profile person protects himself/herself with a legal agreement for privacy, it will likely be broken when one party chooses to exploit the friendship or employer for monetary gain. What is unusual is the amount of books that have been published against President Trump and now Melania during their time in the White House. Often, but not always, the books do not come out until the president leaves office.
The WSJ has an interesting article about the increase of political book sales during the Trump administration.
“2020 is on track to be the biggest year for political books since we began tracking U.S. book sales in 2004,” said Kristen McLean, executive director of business development at NPD BookScan. And that is before 3 million hardcover copies of the first volume of President Obama’s presidential memoirs hit the bookshelves next month.
During the first three years of the Trump administration, more than 1,000 titles were published about the president, more than twice the 450-plus titles about Mr. Obama during the first three years of his presidency, according to NPD, which tracks book sales.
Sales of print political books through mid-September were up 85% from a year earlier, while political e-book sales in the first half of the year were 20% higher than in 2019, according to NPD, which said its political-book category includes political-science books, political biographies and autobiographies.
Overall sales are up 6% for print books and 7.6% for e-books over the same periods, NPD said—a remarkable feat given that many bookstores closed temporarily in the early months of the coronavirus pandemic. That live entertainment options, including movie theaters and concerts, largely went dark or sharply scaled back during the pandemic also drove demand, publishers said.
Lockdowns have increased reading by book lovers and demands for political books that are written about Trump and his administration. Let’s just say that Trump has made book sales great again.