On Tuesday evening, a former advisor and friend of Melania Trump suggested that she has revealing audio recordings of her conversations with the First Lady. For a President who has seemingly deflected scandals that for any other politician might be deemed fatal, could the prospect of the newest scandal be the one that actually costs Donald Trump the presidency?
Stephanie Winston Wolkoff’s new book, Melania and Me: The Rise and Fall of My Friendship with the First Lady, was published on Tuesday by Gallery Books. The former special events coordinator for Vogue and founding fashion director for the Lincoln Center in NYC, Winston Wolkoff became friends with Trump in 2003, and in the newest Trump tell-all she provides a biographical sketch of the First Lady as well as revealing details of her time in the White House. The one-time advisor to the First Lady also provides some salacious details about the First Lady’s relationship with the President, his children, and even some of his policies.
But it is the prospect that Winston Wolkoff recorded conversations with the First Lady that has the political world abuzz. During an interview with ABC news on August 25th, when asked about the contents of her book, Winston Wolkoff only submitted that she “can back up everything that’s in the book, 100 percent.” At the time, the author demurred when asked if she had recorded any conversations with the First Lady. But on Tuesday, Winston Wolkoff told MSNBC that tapes do, in fact exist.
“Melania and the White House had accused me of criminal activity, had publicly shamed and fired me, and made me their scapegoat,” Winston Wolkoff said to MSNBC host Rachel Maddow. “At that moment in time, that’s when I pressed record. She was no longer my friend and she was willing to let them take me down and she told me herself that is the way it has to be.”
The accusations Winston Wolkoff alludes to relate to reports of financial improprieties related to President Trump’s 2017 inauguration. The inauguration production, which drew the attention of federal investigators, paid Winston Wolkoff as an executive producer for the inauguration. Reports questioned the appropriateness of the purported $26 million Winston Wolkoff’s firm, SWW Creative, was paid for its services. Following the inauguration, Winston Wolkoff became an advisor to the First Lady, but based on both the contents of the book as well as her recent media appearances, it appears that the longtime relationship has more than soured; it has become combustible.
The question is, will the prospect of recordings of Melania Trump blow up into an even bigger problem for President Trump?
On one level, it would seem that the simple prospect of recordings of his wife would pose no real threat to a President who has been accused of everything from sexual assault to collusion with foreign governments. Despite all of the accusations and assertions about the impropriety of Donald Trump, he remains popular with his base and has a very real chance, perhaps even likelihood, of reelection. Tapes of his wife speaking about potentially embarrassing, or even incriminating, topics would seemingly be mere ripples in a sea of controversy that always engulfs the President.
But the timing of the purported “Melania Tapes” also comes at a time when the nation is deciding whether to reelect the President or elect his rival, Democratic candidate Joe Biden. With the first ballots being able to be mailed in as early as this month, the next nine weeks will be a critical period when even those voters who tend to tune out politics start paying attention. The potential drop of revealing audio recordings that embarrass the President and the First Lady (at the best), or incriminate them in wrongdoing (at the worst), could be a distraction that the Trump campaign cannot afford.
Without a doubt, the President’s supporters will dismiss Winston Wolkoff, much like Melania Trump’s Chief of Staff, Stephanie Grisham, already has. In a statement to ABC on August 31, Grisham remarked:
“Anybody who secretly tapes their self-described best friend is by definition, dishonest. The book is full of mistruths and paranoia, and clearly based on some imagined need for revenge.”
Perhaps. Yet even without evaluating Winston Wolkoff’s motives, one thing is clear. The constant throwing of sticks and stones has not broken any of President Trump’s political bones – at least not yet. But audio tapes are a different story, and we might be at the beginning of a big one that could bring down a President.
And that’s reason enough to listen in.