Melania Trump launched 'Operation Block Ivanka' to minimize Ivanka's inauguration presence, according to a new book based on secret tapes recorded by the first lady's former friend

insider@insider.com (Eliza Relman,Jake Lahut)
  • Melania Trump's former close friend and adviser Stephanie Winston Wolkoff reportedly secretly taped the first lady making disparaging comments about her husband and stepdaughter Ivanka.

  • Wolkoff drew on those tapes and years of friendship with Melania to write a book about their tumultuous relationship, "Melania and Me: My Years as Confidant, Advisor and Friend to the First Lady."

  • In an excerpt of her book published Thursday, Wolkoff describes Melania's tense relationship with Ivanka and an effort by the first lady to minimize her stepdaughter's role in the inauguration.

  • An administration official denied Wolkoff's account of Melania's efforts to block Ivanka's face from appearing on TV during the inauguration and accused Wolkoff of having an "odd obsession with the Trump family."

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melania ivanka trump
Melania and Ivanka Trump on election night at the New York Hilton Midtown on November 9, 2016.

First lady Melania Trump's former close friend and adviser Stephanie Winston Wolkoff secretly taped the first lady making disparaging comments about her husband and stepdaughter Ivanka, according to multiple media reports.

Wolkoff drew on those tapes and years of friendship with Melania to write a book about their tumultuous relationship, "Melania and Me: My Years as Confidant, Advisor and Friend to the First Lady." The New York Times reported that Wolkoff likely planned to hand the tapes of Melania over to a news outlet ahead of the book's September 1 release.

Wolkoff joined the first lady's office as an unpaid adviser after the inauguration, The New York Times reported. She resigned amid controversy over the inauguration's finances and reporting that she was paid $26 million for her work.

"Was I fired? No," Wolkoff said in 2018. "Did I personally receive $26 million or $1.6 million? No. Was I thrown under the bus? Yes."

'Operation Block Ivanka'

An excerpt of the book published Thursday in New York magazine details the buildup and immediate aftermath of President Donald Trump's inauguration, which Wolkoff played a key role in organizing.

Drama with Ivanka Trump was an issue from the start, according to Wolkoff.

Ivanka, whom Wolkoff says Melania referred to as "princess," wanted to play a more central role in the inauguration than the incoming first lady was comfortable with, according to the book.

"It was Donald's inauguration, not Ivanka's," Wolkoff writes. "But no one was brave enough to tell her that. Melania was not thrilled about Ivanka's steering the schedule and would not allow it. Neither was she happy to hear that Ivanka insisted on walking in the Pennsylvania Avenue parade with her children."

Wolkoff said this led to "Operation Block Ivanka," an effort to ensure Ivanka would not be shown by TV cameras on the inauguration stage during key moments of the ceremony, including when Donald Trump was sworn in or when he took the oath of office from Chief Justice John Roberts.

"Yes, Operation Block Ivanka was petty," Wolkoff writes. "Melania was in on this mission. But in our minds, Ivanka shouldn't have made herself the center of attention in her father's inauguration."

An administration official denied Wolkoff's account of "Operation Block Ivanka" and accused Wolkoff of having an "odd obsession with the Trump family."

"I'm not sure how that could be possible when Ivanka was on stage for the swearing in, and at every inaugural event – just like her brothers and sister," an administration official told Business Insider. "This sounds like more of Stephanie's bizarre storytelling, and odd obsession with the Trump family."

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Melania and Ivanka Trump at the White House on January 20, 2017.

Family turf wars

Things got only more tense once the Trump family began settling in at the White House.

Since Melania was in Manhattan for the first months of the Trump administration — which The Washington Post's Mary Jordan would later write in her book was part of Melania's effort to acquire leverage in renegotiating her prenuptial agreement and secure a better inheritance for her son Barron — Wolkoff was left to serve as the first lady's "linebacker" in a turf war with Ivanka and her husband, Jared Kushner.

Wolkoff writes that she and Melania Trump immediately suspected Ivanka was leaking to the press when they started seeing "reports that the East Wing was a dark, lonely, sad, cobwebbed place."

"We suspected Ivanka immediately," she writes. "According to Vicky Ward's book Kushner, Inc., Ivanka said during the transition that the First Lady's office would become, under Daddy's administration, the 'Trump Family Office.'"

Wolkoff adds, "The West Wing wasn't big enough for the Kushners. They wanted the East Wing as well."

Wolkoff also blasts Ivanka for using a private email account to conduct official White House business — the same charge so effectively weaponized by the Trump campaign against Hillary Clinton.

"Ivanka was asking her work contacts at the White House to write to her at her private email — the exact offense the Trumps had lambasted Hillary Clinton for during the general election," she writes. "Would anyone chant 'Lock her up!' about Ivanka's private server? Doubtful. The email thing was hypocritical, to say the least. But the Trumps made their own rules."

Wolkoff's book is being published by Simon & Schuster, which is behind other recent books by close former Trump associates, including the president's niece Mary Trump and former national security adviser John Bolton.

The publishing house said Wolkoff's book would provide new details about Melania's reactions to the "Access Hollywood" tape and allegations that her husband had affairs and made hush-money payments, as well as why the first lady controversially wore a jacket with the words, "I really don't care, do u?" printed on it.

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