Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, a former Trump inauguration official, says she was "thrown under the bus"

Federal attorneys previously issued a subpoena to Trump's inaugural committee seeking information about its donors

By Matthew Rozsa

Staff Writer

Published May 7, 2019 2:59PM (EDT)

Stephanie Winston Wolkoff (Getty/Drew Angerer)
Stephanie Winston Wolkoff (Getty/Drew Angerer)

Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, a former inauguration official for President Donald Trump, claims that she was "thrown under the bus" by the administration and earlier reports that she was fired were inaccurate.

"Was I fired? No. Did I personally receive $26 million or $1.6 million? No. Was I thrown under the bus? Yes," Winston Wolkoff said in a new statement to The New York Times.

Winston Wolkoff's lawyer also recently let inaugural committee officials know she was cooperating with federal law enforcement in Manhattan, who are in the process of investigating the committee's fundraising and spending practices. That inaugural committee spent more than $107 million — the largest amount of any inauguration committee in history — and oversaw an event that became mired in controversy after Trump publicly lied about the size of the crowd in attendance at his swearing-in.

As ABC News previously reported, questions surrounding the committee's finances first surfaced after tax filings revealed Winston Wolkoff's earnings:

Questions about inaugural spending first were raised last year when tax filings disclosed that among payments to the five largest vendors was one of nearly $26 million to an event-planning firm run by a one-time adviser and close friend of Melania Trump. The adviser, Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, created a company called WIS Media Partners, based in California, that handled some of the festivities. That firm paid out contracts to other sub-contractors.

Winston Wolkoff was paid $1.62 million directly for her work, ABC News has previously reported. The tax filing showed that the committee spent $104 million of the $107 million it raised, compared with Obama's 2009 inauguration, which spent about $51 million of the $53.2 million raised by his team.

The New York Times describes Winston Wolkoff as a social heavyweight and friend of the first lady, who decided to help plan Trump's inauguration practically at the spur of the moment:

Ms. Winston Wolkoff was one of Mrs. Trump’s earliest advisers, a friend from the first lady’s days in New York and one of the few trusted aides who helped put together initiatives for her official government portfolio. Ms. Winston Wolkoff, a New York socialite who is best known for her role in producing the Met Gala, joined the planning for the inauguration, along with others from the president’s orbit, including most of his adult children, in a hastily arranged setup after Mr. Trump’s surprise victory, all of them forced together by circumstance.

Winston Wolkoff told the Times she was not at liberty to discuss the committee's controversial expenses due to a nondisclosure agreement she was required to sign — one that does not have an expiration date. She said that if the Trump inaugural committee "were to release me from this obligation, I would be able to speak freely without the fear of legal or financial repercussions. Otherwise, I am regrettably unable to provide any substantive comment."

In February, it was revealed that U.S. attorneys in the Southern District of New York had issued a subpoena to Trump's inaugural committee seeking information its donors. "We have just received a subpoena for documents. While we are still reviewing the subpoena, it is our intention to cooperate with the inquiry," a spokesperson for Trump's inaugural committee told ABC News at the time.

In August, Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz told ABC's "This Week" that "I think [Trump] has constitutional defenses to the investigation being conducted by Mueller. But there are no constitutional defenses to what the Southern District is investigating. So, I think the Southern District is the greatest threat."

Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who has also served as a federal prosecutor, told ABC News in February that "this is why I've been saying for months that the Southern District of New York investigation presents a much more serious threat to the administration, potentially, than what Bob Mueller is doing."

By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer at Salon. He received a Master's Degree in History from Rutgers-Newark in 2012 and was awarded a science journalism fellowship from the Metcalf Institute in 2022.

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