On her program on Tuesday night, Rachel Maddow read from a newly published book entitled, “Melania and Me,” which was written by a former close friend of the First Lady, Stephanie Winston Wolkoff.
In the book, Wolkoff shared details of how she was scapegoated by the administration in the midst of a scandal involving the president’s inaugural committee.
As Maddow noted on Tuesday, there is still $40 million in funds that are unaccounted for in connection to the president’s 2017 inauguration.
In her book, Wolkoff describes how Donald Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, approached her and said the Trump family is trying to destroy her for “no reason at all, other than someone else took a lot of money and buried it in their pockets.”
Cohen, of course, was referring to the inaugural committee money.
Rachel Maddow reads from a new book that reveals how a close friend of Melania Trump was used as a scapegoat for $40 million in missing funds from Donald Trump’s inauguration. #ctl #p2 #maddow pic.twitter.com/ABRnST9ZNJ
— PoliticusUSA (@politicususa) September 2, 2020
In terms of what they released publicly, there’s, like, $40 million that they just don’t account for, that just don’t appear on the balance sheet. And sure enough, as I mentioned, it’s the First Lady’s friend, Ms. Winston Wolkoff, who gets blamed in the press and subsequently she gets basically disinvited from her ongoing White House job advising the first lady, a job that she had been doing anyway for free. Having been scapegoated for this and having all the major questions about what happened with those tens of millions of dollars still unanswered, six months after she was thrown out on her ear, Ms. Wolkoff says she got a visit from Michael Cohen, from the president’s lawyer, who days later would go on to plead guilty to multiple felonies. He and Ms. Wolkoff knew each other. They had seen each other. Months earlier, he had dropped by her apartment to check in on her when the whole inaugural scandal thing was melting down in early 2018. But then he checked back in with her six months later in August. And this is — this is remarkable. Check this out. “On August 18th, 2018, Michael Cohen called me. ‘Hello, Steph,’ he said. ‘The FBI and SDNY have the recording I made of our conversation.’ ‘What are you talking about?’ I asked. ‘A recording of what?’ Michael said, ‘I recorded our conversation to use for contemporaneous notes.’ I was stunned. He continued, ‘You need to have your lawyer get in touch with my lawyer to talk about whether the conversation is privileged or not.’ ‘Privileged,’ I asked? ‘What do you mean? Which conversation?’ He replied, ‘The one where you were crying.’ Wait a second, I needed to digest what Michael had just told me. He had a recording of our conversation, the tape that was seized in the FBI raid? When did he tape me? He came to my house that one time he was wearing a trench coat — oh, my god, if that tape went public. ‘Michael, why the F did you tape our conversation,’ I asked, beside myself. I had asked Michael for his legal opinion, not to record our conversation without telling me. He explained, ‘I couldn’t sit down with a notepad. I wanted to make a memo in order to strategize to exonerate you and clear your name. They destroyed you for no f-ing reason at all, other than someone else took a lot of money and buried it in their pockets, and you had to be the fall guy. The same way I’m the fall guy for Donald getting his bleep licked by a porn star. Sorry.
Just a blip of corruption in the Trump era
Earlier this year, the District of Columbia filed a lawsuit claiming that the inaugural committee was used to enrich the Trump family business.
According to the suit, “The president’s inaugural committee was aware it was being vastly overcharged for services at Trump’s Washington, D.C., hotel in 2017, and still shelled out over $1 million at the hotel, including cash for a private party for the Trump’s three older children.”
As ProPublica reported in 2018, “The inauguration paid the Trump Organization for rooms, meals and event space at the company’s Washington hotel.”
The idea that the Trump family would misuse inaugural funds for personal gain is no surprise. What is surprising is that this story isn’t a bigger scandal.
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Sean Colarossi currently resides in Cleveland, Ohio. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and was an organizing fellow for both of President Obama’s presidential campaigns. He also worked with Planned Parenthood as an Affordable Care Act Outreach Organizer in 2014, helping northeast Ohio residents obtain health insurance coverage.