Given the way they tend to look at each other at public events, it’s fair to assume (as many have) there’s some tension between Donald Trump’s wife, First Lady Melania Trump, and his daughter, “the Honorable” Ivanka Trump. While Melania’s dagger eyes at the 2020 RNC most recently made headlines, new tell-all book Melania and Me: The Rise and Fall of My Friendship with the First Lady suggests that Ivanka’s friendly appearance isn’t telling the whole story. Author Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, an old friend and former advisor to Melania in the White House, paints a picture of a long, pernicious plot to take over Melania’s first lady role, repeatedly limiting her stepmother’s communications and progress and seeking to intervene and take over high-profile events. Wolkoff quotes Ivanka early on as telling her that perceptions are more important than reality — but our perception after reading this book is that Ivanka’s had her on the first lady role for some time.
According to Wolkoff, Ivanka’s ambition and desire for the spotlight were well-known from the start, and in stark contrast to Melania’s preference for keeping her private life private. So, when Donald entered the White House and Melania’s openness as a public figure didn’t change, Ivanka began campaigning to fill that role.
“Melania lived in New York. She didn’t appear in public or release statements to the press. Her social media was quiet,” Wolkoff admits. “Ivanka rushed in to fill the void as ‘acting’ First Lady, issuing constant social media posts and press releases galore about her involvement with women’s issues, lobbying Daddy about climate change (alas, unsuccessfully), and attending every meeting she could slink her way into.”
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Early in Donald’s term, as the media continued to speculate about Melania’s absence, Wolkoff was asked to confirm or deny a statement leaked to Us Weekly — and its contents left her with little doubt about who had “let this slip.”
“This statement made me bark: Melania is leaving a lot of the traditional First Lady duties to Ivanka and Jared so she can focus on being a mom. She feels her role is to be a mom first and also support Donald so he can do his job,” Wolkoff writes. “I could only guess the identity of Ian’s source.”
By that point, Wolkoff had established throughout inauguration planning that Ivanka had a knack for getting what she wanted — and a well-formed suspicion about Ivanka and Jared’s relationship with the press.
“Ivanka had garnered a reputation as being one of the biggest leakers of stories that made Jared and her look good — and, perhaps equally important, made everyone else look bad,” Wolkoff revealed.
As Melania’s first lady tenure continued, then-senior advisor to FLOTUS Wolkoff found herself constantly frustrated by delays, and believed herself to be the only one looking out for Melania’s interests and public image.
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“Can you imagine Barbara Bush or Hillary Clinton being ignored or denied by West Wing bureaucrats the freedom to send out a press release?” Wolkoff writes. “In our private discussions, Melania and I talked about why the delays and runarounds were happening,” Wolkoff describes of early days in the White House. “We circled around it again and again, asking, ‘Who gains from an impotent, invisible First Lady?’ Our list was short. Very short.”
When Ivanka did make her presence known, it was to flag FLOTUS duties she was interested in taking on, such as hosting the International Women’s Day luncheon or decorating the East Wing, which Wolkoff says she tried to rename the “Trump Family Office.” Wolkoff describes her as “relentless and driven” in her pursuit of taking on more White House power, and Melania’s frustration only rose with each attempt.
“Topic A in the East Wing: Ivanka would never stop trying to muscle in on Melania’s events,” Wolkoff sums up. “We had to be vigilant.”
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