There’s long been speculation about where First Lady Melania Trump’s allegiances lie. During the last four years, she’s mostly kept quiet, other than an ill-advised “Be Best” initiative to combat cyberbullying and trip to an immigrant children’s shelter on the Texas/Mexico border where she wore a jacket that read, “I really don’t care. Do U?” on the back.
On Thursday, new insight into her behind-the-scenes beliefs emerged with the release of audio secretly recorded by her former aide and friend, Stephanie Winston Wolkoff. Wolkoff left the White House in 2018 after it was revealed her firm reportedly made $26 million off the planning of Trump’s inauguration, per the New York Times. In the summer of 2018, after Wolkoff had exited her East Wing role, she secretly taped Trump expressing disillusionment with several aspects of her life at the White House. “They say I’m complicit. I’m the same like him, I support him. I don’t say enough I don’t do enough where I am,” Trump said of criticism she received due to her husband’s separation of migrant children at the border. The First Lady added, “I’m working my ass off on the Christmas stuff, that you know, who gives a fuck about the Christmas stuff and decorations? But I need to do it, right?”
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When Wolkoff confirmed she would have to carry out her yuletide duties, Trump continued, “Okay, and then I do it and I say that I’m working on Christmas and planning for the Christmas and they said, ‘Oh, what about the children that they were separated?’ Give me a fucking break. Where they were saying anything when Obama did that?’ I cannot go, I was trying get the kid reunited with the mom. I didn’t have a chance—needs to go through the process and through the law.” (CNN, where the tapes were originally aired, notes that Obama’s policy was to only separate children “when authorities had concerns for their well-being” or couldn’t confirm a legal guardian.)
Trump also suggested that children separated from their families were treated better at the border detention centers than in their home countries. “The kids, they say, ‘Wow I will have my own bed? I will sleep on the bed? I will have a cabinet for my clothes?’ It’s so sad to hear it but they didn’t have that in their own countries, they sleep on the floor,” she claimed. “They are taken care of nicely there. But you know, yeah, they are not with parents, it’s sad. But when they come here alone or with coyotes or illegally, you know, you need to do something.”
The First Lady, who became a U.S. citizen in 2006, also criticized the tactics she alleged some immigrant families use to illegally enter the country. “A lot of like moms and kids, they are teached how to do it,” Trump is recorded as saying. “They go over and they say like, ‘Oh, we will be killed by a gang member, we will be, you know, it’s so dangerous.’ So they are allowed to stay here.” Trump went on to say of the migrants, who travel from several different countries, “Mexico doesn’t take care of them the same as America does.”
According to Wolkoff’s tapes, Trump takes a similar stance to her husband when it comes to #FakeNews. She claimed that news outlets would not cover her efforts to help children at the border during a scheduled visit “because they are against us because they are liberal media.” Trump added, “Yeah, if I go to Fox, they will do the story. I don’t want to go to Fox.”
When asked why she would wear her infamous “I don’t really care” jacket to a visit with children separated from their families, she said it was a trolling method for the press. “I’m driving liberals crazy, that’s for sure,” Trump said. “And that, you know, that’s—and they deserve it, you understand. And everybody’s like, ‘Oh, my God. This is the worst. This is the worst.’ After, I mean, come on. They are crazy, okay?”
All of these recordings supplement Wolkoff’s new tell-all book, Melania and Me, which the First Lady’s Chief of Staff says raises suspicions. “Secretly taping the First Lady and willfully breaking an NDA to publish a salacious book is a clear attempt at relevance. The timing of this continues to be suspect—as does this never-ending exercise in self-pity and narcissism,” the First Lady’s chief of staff, Stephanie Grisham, said in a statement to CNN.
The recordings arrive mere weeks before the next presidential election, and on the same day the Trumps tested positive for COVID-19. Melania tweeted on Friday that she is “feeling good” and “quarantining at home” with her husband.
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