Melania Trump has cut ties with a key aide and close friend after it emerged she had made millions from planning the presidential inauguration ceremony.
Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, who has been friends with Mrs Trump for years, had her contract with the First Lady cancelled last week after records showed that her company had been paid $26 million to help plan Mr Trump’s inauguration.
Ms Wolkoff, 47, was Mrs Trump’s first hire in her new role and had been working as an unpaid senior adviser to the office of the First Lady since Mr Trump’s election.
But last week Stephanie Grisham, Mrs Trump’s spokeswoman, said the office had “severed the gratuitous services contract with Ms Wolkoff”.
Ms Grisham told the New York Times that Mrs Trump “had no involvement” with the event planning and added that she “had no knowledge of how funds were spent”.
Ms Wolkoff was let go after the Trumps expressed their outrage over the news that Ms Wolkoff’s company was paid such a hefty figure by a nonprofit group that oversaw the inauguration ceremony and connected events, sources close to the First Lady told the newspaper.
Mr Trump’s inauguration drew smaller crowds than his predecessor President Barack Obama, but figures show his parties cost twice as much.
The non-profit inaugural committee which heads up the events promised that the ceremony and surrounding events would be “workmanlike” but raised a record $107 million from wealthy donors and corporations and gave $5 million to charity.
Before she took on her role planning the inauguration, Ms Wolkoff had worked as an events planner for Vogue magazine and helped stage the famous celebrity-filled Met Gala.
She has worked closely with Vogue’s editor, Anna Wintour, for a number of years to co-ordinate the event.
Ms Wolkoff has defended her work on the inauguration and argued that her contract being terminated by Mrs Trump’s office was unrelated.
“I was informed by the White House counsel’s office that all gratuitous volunteer contracts were ended,” she told the New York Times, saying "I expect to remain a trusted source for advice and support on an informal basis”.
Ms Wolkoff added that she was "proud of the work" her company did to support the inauguration and that the majority of the money was paid to subcontractors.
The firm “retained a total of $1.62 million for all of its consulting and creative services, which was divided among our staff of 15 members (including myself),” she said in an email.
An unnamed official from the inaugural committee said Ms Wolkoff’s firm oversaw a range of responsibilities from securing venues and table settings to organising satellite feeds for broadcasters.
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