Secret recordings released on Thursday purportedly feature first lady Melania Trump expressing frustration at having to spend time fulfilling traditional first lady responsibilities while receiving criticism over the issue of family separation of illegal immigrants at the border.
In a tape obtained by CNN, which the network says was secretly recorded by the first lady’s former friend and senior adviser Stephanie Winston Wolkoff after she left the White House, Trump complains about having to focus on decorating the White House for Christmas while receiving scorn in the media over her husband’s policies.
“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 says.
“I’m working … my a** off on the Christmas stuff, that you know, who gives a f*** about the Christmas stuff and decorations? But I need to do it, right?”
She continued, “OK, 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 f****** break. Where they were saying anything when Obama did that? I can not 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.”
President Trump’s policy had been that adults would be separated from children if officials found that the adult is falsely claiming to be the child’s parent, or is a threat to the child, or is put into criminal proceedings. The differing policy between the two administrations comes in respect to criminal proceedings: Under the Obama administration, the practice had been to give a free pass to adults who were part of a family unit.
Trump enacted a policy to prosecute all adults to send a message that the U.S. takes seriously its immigration laws and to deter against re-entry. He later halted the zero-tolerance practice with an executive order on June 20, 2018.
Melania Trump’s chief of staff Stephanie Grisham criticized Wolkoff’s decision to release the recording.
“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,” she said in a statement.
Trump goes on, in another recording, to defend the detention centers’ quality and care standards saying, “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.”
“They are taken care of nicely there,” she continued. “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.”
Trump also questioned how true some of the immigrants’ claims of danger in their home countries were.
“A lot of like moms and kids they are teached how to do it. 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,’ ” Trump said, mimicking a dramatic voice. “So they are allowed to stay here.”
“It’s not true that they would, you know what I mean,” Trump said, adding that “they’re not professional but they are teached by other people what to say to come over and to you know let them go to stay here. Because they could easily stay in Mexico but they don’t want to stay in Mexico because Mexico doesn’t take care of them the same as America does.”
Wolkoff, who released a book about her relationship with Trump titled Melania and Me, said in an appearance on CNN on Thursday that she believed the first lady may have felt maternal concern for the children but pushed it aside to support her husband’s agenda.
“I think that as a mother, those maternal instincts in her were set off and she did care,” Wolkoff said. “But there is no husband to come to, the leader of the free world, to discuss how she’s feeling about that. So regardless of that, she steps in line and she just decides that what she has heard and what she’s been told is what the rule of law is in our country.”
Wolkoff left the White House as investigations were launched into inaugural activities and a rift formed between the two women. Wolkoff and her events firm was reportedly paid more than $26 million for planning and execution of the inauguration, most of which went to subcontractors. Wolkoff’s firm reportedly received $1.6 million, while Wolkoff herself walked away with $500,000 for her work on the inauguration, according to the New York Times.