Ivanka Trump, Donald Trump’s daughter and senior adviser, sought to undermine Melania Trump in a series of White House turf wars, according to a new book by a former confidante of the first lady.
After one such fight, over interference in the first lady’s attempts to appoint a new chief of staff, Melania referred to her stepdaughter and her allies as “snakes”.
The latest news of dysfunction in the nation’s first family comes as Melania Trump prepares to speak in support of Donald at the Republican national convention in Washington on Tuesday night. Ivanka is scheduled to introduce her father as he accepts the party’s nomination for his re-election, on Thursday.
Melania & Me, by Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, will be published on 1 September, in the turbulent wake of a tell-all bestseller by Trump’s niece Mary Trump. The Guardian has obtained a copy.
One instance of internecine warfare detailed by Wolkoff concerns suspicions that the former Trump deputy campaign chief Rick Gates was behind a scandal over plagiarism from Michelle Obama that dogged Melania Trump’s speech to the last Republican national convention, in Cleveland in 2016.
An aide to Melania took the blame for the fiasco, but Wolkoff writes: “If Ivanka controlled Rick, and Rick had allegedly written Melania’s convention speech, did that mean Ivanka was behind that major faux pas/sabotage?”
According to publisher Simon & Schuster, Wolkoff, an events planner in New York high society, has known Melania Trump since 2003, their friendship formed “over lunches at Manhattan hot spots, black-tie parties, and giggle sessions in the penthouse at Trump Tower”.
Wolkoff went to work for Melania Trump in the White House unpaid, hiring staff, organizing events, writing speeches and creating policy initiatives.
But first she helped plan Donald Trump’s inauguration. The special counsel Robert Mueller and authorities in New York, New Jersey and the District of Columbia have all investigated alleged self-dealing around those events, on which Gates also worked.
In February 2018, the New York Times reported that from $107m raised to pay for the event, about double what Barack Obama raised in 2009, an events company started by Wolkoff was paid nearly $26m. Wolkoff personally received $1.62m, the paper said, of which she banked $500,000.
Wolkoff left the White House shortly after that, according to the New York Times because of fallout from its report, which included a government watchdog group accusing the inaugural committee of “fiscal mismanagement at its worst”.
The first lady declined to defend her friend. Simon & Schuster says Melania & Me is a response to a “betrayal” that “nearly destroyed Wolkoff”.
On Monday, citing unnamed sources, the reporter Yashar Ali said Wolkoff made use of taped conversations which contained “harsh comments” about Ivanka Trump and “even some negative remarks about [Melania’s] husband, President Trump”.
Of Donald Trump, regarding his alleged extramarital relationships and his boast of grabbing women “by the pussy”, Wolkoff quotes the first lady as saying “I know who I married” and insisting her first priority is her son, Barron.
Ivanka is portrayed as determined to steal her stepmother’s fire at official events, even using Gates, who was ultimately convicted of conspiracy and lying to the FBI during Mueller’s investigation of Russian election interference, as an “inside source” on the first lady’s plans.
Among clashes described by Wolkoff are attempts to gatecrash the inauguration, leading Wolkoff and Melania to run “Operation Block Ivanka”; a tussle over seating for Donald’s first address to Congress; the “snakes” episode, over a job offer to Kayleigh McEnany, who later became Donald Trump’s press secretary; and the first lady’s fury over a leak about a family viewing of the film Finding Dory while protests raged over Trump’s first travel ban against some Muslim-majority countries.
“Ivanka’s fingerprints were all over it,” Wolkoff writes, adding that a furious first lady sent “a tirade of texts asking who approved Ivanka Trump – a White House staffer – to use the screening room, which was part of the residence, aka Melania’s domain”.
“This is my home,” Wolkoff says the first lady told her. “Do they come walking into my apartment in New York whenever they want? No!”
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