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Justice Department sues author over book about her relationship with Melania Trump

"It's my story," said author Stephanie Winston Wolkoff. "It's my life. I've been gagged for too long."
US-ENTERTAINMENT-LITERATURE
The book "Melania and Me: The Rise and Fall of My Friendship with the First Lady" by Stephanie Winston Wolkoff at bookstore in New York City on Sept. 1.Timothy A. Clary / AFP via Getty Images

The Justice Department has sued Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, author of a book about her relationship with first lady Melania Trump, saying she violated a binding promise of confidentiality.

Winston Wolkoff, a friend of Melania Trump's from New York, managed the inauguration festivities for President Donald Trump in January 2017 and then served as an unpaid adviser to the first lady during the first year of the Trump administration before they parted ways.

Her book, "Melania and Me: The Rise and Fall of My Friendship with The First Lady," was published six weeks ago and quickly became a New York Times bestseller.

On Tuesday, Winston Wolkoff told NBC News: "It's my story. It's my life. I've been gagged for too long."

"The White House, President Trump, first lady Melania Trump and the Trump administration have been the source of false, misleading and defamatory information about me," she said. "I am defending myself against the defamatory falsehoods according to my constitutional rights to defend my reputation and set the record straight."

The Justice Department's lawsuit says that Winston Wolkoff signed a "gratuitous services agreement" in August 2017 to serve as an adviser to Melania Trump and that publication of the book violates a confidentiality clause in the agreement.

According to the suit, "Ms. Wolkoff promised to maintain strict confidentiality over 'nonpublic, privileged and/or confidential information' that she might obtain during her service under the Agreement."

IMAGE: Stephanie Winston Wolkoff
Stephanie Winston Wolkoff speaks at the U.N. Women for Peace Association's awards luncheon in New York on March 10, 2017.Presley Ann / Paul Bruinooge/Patrick McMullan/Getty Images file

The lawsuit asks that the book's profits be placed into a trust and that Winston Wolkoff cover the costs and fees of the Justice Department's attorneys.

Two months before the book was published by Simon & Schuster, a Justice Department lawyer in the civil division wrote to warn Winston Wolkoff not to publish the book, citing the agreement she signed "promising to protect information covered by the Agreement from disclosure."

At the time, her attorney, Lorin Reisner of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, responded that Winston Wolkoff had "[f]ully satisfied the terms of the Gratuitous Services Agreement" and said the "agreement was formally terminated by the government effective February 20, 2018. Accordingly, any confidentiality duties imposed by the agreement terminated more than two years ago."

Read the Justice Department letter and Reisner's response.