A person close to the White House confirmed that there have been tensions between the two and “it was clear that the First Lady was not a fan of Ivanka trying to make the East Wing a family office.”
But a person familiar with how the West Wing worked at the time said: “There was never once discussion about an East Wing office. She always wanted to be in the policy office of the West Wing between the Domestic Policy Council and the National Economic Council.”
Winston Wolkoff, a longtime Manhattan fashion and society party planner, was heavily involved in the planning of the president’s inauguration before leaving the White House in Feb. 2018 after negative reporting about her inauguration role appeared in the New York Times. In her book, she describes how Melania didn’t want to move to the White House right away in part because she didn’t want to have to use the same shower and toilet as former First Lady Michelle Obama and was waiting for the bathroom to be renovated.
She also describes the difficulties of being first lady, including early on when Melania didn’t even have access to her husband’s schedule. Melania also faced an unrelenting media climate where she got mostly negative press for the first five months of being first lady because she had stayed in New York as Barron finished out his school year. But Winston Wolkoff also describes a fun side of Melania, who loves using emojis in text messages, and was her frequent lunchtime companion until they had a falling out two years ago. The two no longer speak, according to the book.
Stephanie Grisham, Melania Trump’s chief of staff and spokesperson, said in a statement: “This book is not only wildly self-aggrandizing, it’s just not truthful. It is an exercise in bizarre twisting of the truth and misguided blame for the sake of self-pity. It’s unfortunate and concerning that she’s overstated their friendship and her very brief role in the White House to this degree.”
An early copy of the book, which publishes Tuesday, was shared with POLITICO. Here are some of its most revelatory nuggets:
— Donald Trump wanted his inauguration to look like a North Korean military parade. When discussing the parade with Winston Wolkoff and Ivanka during the transition, Trump said: “I want tanks and choppers. Make it look like North Korea,” he told them. Winston Wolkoff wrote: “He really wanted goose-stepping troops and armored tanks? That would break tradition and terrify half the country.” For the inauguration, Mark Burnett, the creator of “The Apprentice,” the television show which paved the way for Trump’s popularity, also wanted to “light the sky with drones, and Donald and Melania loved the idea.” No drones ended up being used to spice up the inauguration — they could have posed a safety risk.
— Inauguration officials, led by former deputy campaign manager Rick Gates, briefly considered having Trump and his entourage drive across the country for two to three days right before the inauguration in a “Sea to Shining Sea” trip. “Donald couldn’t walk down Fifth Avenue and the PIC [Presidential Inaugural Committee] was proposing to have him travel three thousand miles on unsecure routes in three days? Was this a joke?” she writes.
Gates, whose book “Wicked Game” is coming out this fall, told POLITICO that he “thought it was a fantastic idea” because the inauguration organizers wanted to make it “the people’s inauguration.” But he said it was actually going to be a “flying tour” with stops in three or four cities from West to East, but the tour didn’t end up materializing.
Another idea that was briefly considered: the “Ivanka Trump/Leo DiCaprio Environmental Ball” that was going to be held at the National Portrait Gallery. “Give me a break!” Melania said about the proposed event, which never went anywhere.
— Kayleigh McEnany, who is now White House press secretary, was once interested in becoming Melania’s chief of staff. Melania “really liked” McEnany and was especially impressed with her Harvard Law degree. Because vetting took a while, McEnany eventually instead took a job of national spokesperson for the RNC, which raised eyebrows with Melania. The first lady texted Winston Wolkoff saying: “She prefer [sic] to do this than being [my] senior advisor? Seriously?” McEnany told Winston Wolkoff that she had met with “the family,” and they preferred that she be their spokesperson on the outside. (Asked for comment, White House spokesperson Sarah Matthews said in a statement: “Kayleigh would have been incredibly honored to work for the First Lady but had already accepted an opportunity with the RNC.”)
— Melania’s team considered and then rejected a variety of names for her major initiative, which is aimed at helping children develop healthy habits. “Children First,” “Shield Your Children,” “Be a Cyber Buddy,” “Protect Your Children” and “Speak Up” were among the names that were floated internally but cast aside, although not before Winston Wolkoff bought domain names for them and others on GoDaddy with her own money.
The initiative eventually became “Be Best,” which Melania came up with herself, although Winston Wolkoff told her that the “phrase sounded illiterate” and should instead be “Be the Best” or “Be Your Best.” “No,” Winston Wolkoff writes. “Melania, lover of Sharpies, drew the two-word logo with block letters and said, ‘I drew it myself, so no one say I plagiarized it,” a likely reference to how Melania’s 2016 convention speech had plagiarized some of what Michelle Obama had said at a previous Democratic convention.
— Melania and Jared Kushner and Ivanka are big fans of the Kennedys and their Camelot myth. “It’s no coincidence that all three of their children—Arabella, Joseph, and Theodore—share names with Kennedy family members. Edward ‘Ted’ Kennedy and Joseph Kennedy you know; Arabella Kennedy was JFK and Jackie’s stillborn daughter,” Winston Wolkoff writes.
— Melania and Donald Trump are not fans of Valentine’s Day or of being very sentimental towards each other. Winston Wolkoff said she never remembers Melania telling her that her husband had sent her flowers or taken her out for Valentine’s Day. She also never mentioned planning a sweet surprise for Donald either. Melania once texted her, “Don’t like Valentine’s Day. So commercial” and later texted, “Donald thinks the same way. We don’t care about Valentine’s Day.”
— Melania doesn’t place a high importance on other people’s wants and desires, according to the book. Winston Wolkoff says that she has sometimes said over the years: “Pleasing anyone else is not my priority!” The author said that she wished she had Melania’s confidence and her ability to put herself first without thinking much of others.
— Michael Cohen, the “slavishly devoted” former Trump fixer who pleaded guilty to tax fraud, making false statements and campaign finance violations, helped get Barron Trump, the son of Donald and Melania, into a top Manhattan private school, Columbia Grammar and Preparatory School, where two of Winston Wolkoff’s kids went as well.
Winston Wolkoff said that Melania “enlisted” Cohen to help Barron get into schools, including Columbia Grammar, where he served on the board. Winston Wolkoff also writes about how even though most parents at the school were Democrats, Melania was “inundated” with requests for playdates with Barron after Trump won the presidency.