The 16-page lawsuit includes a demand that a federal judge divert all proceeds from the sale of Winston Wolkoff’s book to the federal government, a consequence of her alleged “breach of contract.”
According to government lawyers, Winston Wolkoff’s tenure as a White House aide — from January 2017 to August 2017 — entailed the signing of a blanket nondisclosure agreement that bound her well beyond her tenure of public service unless she obtained permission from Melania Trump and White House counsel.
“The book, however, discusses in detail Ms. Wolkoff’s work under the Agreement as an advisor to the First Lady, including involvement in personnel decisions in the Office of the First Lady, work on the First Lady’s ‘Be Best’ initiative, and engagement in conversations with the President of the United States,” DOJ lawyers say. “These topics fall squarely within the category of materials that, under the terms of the Agreement, Ms. Wolkoff expressly agreed not to divulge without obtaining written authorization.”
The lawsuit quickly reignited fears among some outside legal experts that the Justice Department was training its resources at the White House’s perceived enemies.
“This is a complete abuse of the Justice Department’s finite resources to bring a personal lawsuit on behalf of the First Lady against a former advisor,” said Brad Moss, a national security attorney. “The case law has been expressly clear for decades that former officials cannot be contractually censored for anything other than classified information, and no amount of legal hairsplitting over Wolkoff’s ‘status’ as a volunteer is going to change that.”
The lawsuit is the latest move by the Justice Department to intervene in disputes between the Trumps and their former aides, such as ex-national security adviser John Bolton, who is fighting a lawsuit that claims he disclosed classified information in his explosive tell-all, “The Room Where it Happened.”
But unlike Bolton, the government doesn’t allege Winston Wolkoff disclosed any classified material. Rather, the suit suggests she disclosed details about the deliberations behind Melania Trump’s “Be Best” initiative to combat cyberbullying, as well as personnel decisions that the first lady discussed with the president.
“Melania and Me contains a detailed accounting of Ms. Wolkoff’s work with the First Lady, including non-public, privileged, or confidential information that Ms. Wolkoff obtained during the course of performing the role specified in the Agreement,” DOJ argues.
“Ms. Wolkoff also purports to describe conversations, involving the President, on other policy matters. For example, Ms. Wolkoff claims that she discussed with the First Lady the President’s decision to eliminate a ban on the importation of big game trophies and that the First Lady convinced the President to put that decision on hold,” DOJ continued.
“Such accounts purporting to disclose internal policy deliberations undermine the expectation of future Presidents and First Ladies that their confidential deliberations will be protected and preserved from the public glare. The President’s policy conversations are self-evidently core matters on which the President is entitled to receive confidential advice without fear that such internal deliberations will be leaked to the press.”
Daniel Lippman contributed to this report.