Three former White House lawyers who worked for the Clinton, George W. Bush and Obama administrations say the contract offered to former adviser and friend of Melania Trump is unusual and inappropriate.
The contract presented to Stephanie Winston Wolfoff in 2017, called the “Free Service Agreement,” requires her not to disclose the work she does on behalf of Melania Trump unless she receives explicit written permission. She agreed to do the work without pay.
Winston Wolfoff, a friend of Melania’s in New York, had planned the celebrations for President Trump̵
She is now on trial by the Department of Justice for violating the confidentiality agreement in the contract, writing her book, Melania and I, a New York Times bestseller that describes the breakdown in their relationship.
“I would not approve of this agreement when I was a White House adviser,” said Neil Eggleston, who worked for President Barack Obama.
in a statement, Winston Wolfoff said: “The use by the president and first lady of the US Department of Justice to silence me is a violation of my First Amendment rights and a clear abuse of government to pursue their personal interests and goals.”
Donald Trump has a long-established model of asking Trump’s employees and business partners to sign non-disclosure agreements. The practice continued at the White House, and NBC News reported that it also extended to doctors at Walter Reed Hospital who saw Trump during an unscheduled visit in 2019.
Former White House attorneys have said that government officials are not usually forced to sign non-disclosure agreements such as those provided to Winston Wolfoff because they violate First Amendment rights. An exception is made for classified information.
White House staff members are required to obtain a security clearance and must complete an extensive SF-86 form and submit a financial disclosure form.
Winston Wolfoff’s contract, which was reviewed by NBC News, states that she is not a civil servant and does not explicitly provide for filling out SF-86 forms or financial disclosures. It states: “Successful verification of inquiries, investigation of the past, investigation of criminal history and / or verification of income tax will be a prerequisite for the authorization to provide these gratuitous services.”
However, Winston Wolfoff told NBC News that she was asked to complete SF-86 and financial disclosure forms. She says she did so and received a White House pass and was allowed to use government telephones and a computer.
Richard Painter, the White House’s chief ethics lawyer under President George W. Bush, called the deal, which Winston Wolfoff was offered, “strange” and “a fundamentally unfair agreement and a breach of public trust.” Painter said such a deal opens up the possibility for many people to “run around the White House” who have not gone through the proper screening process.
“There’s a question about whether the contract is valid,” said Jack Quinn, a White House attorney for President Bill Clinton, in part because Winston Walkoff was not paid. ‘A contract, in order to be valid, usually requires an offer, acceptance and’ examination ‘, the latter meaning something valuable, usually either paid or done as work. It is difficult to see what attention this volunteer received. “
The Justice Department wrote in its lawsuit that working in the White House was of “enormous” professional and personal value to Winston Wolfoff.
But during the termination of the contract in 2018, Winston Wolfoff said that the then White House ethics lawyer Stefan Pasantino had told her that the contract was a “risk” and that the White House, Donald Trump and Melania Trump had agreed to terminate the contract. . He told her that she was welcome to visit the White House as a “friend” of the first lady, but that she should stop all work she was doing on her initiative.
Pasantino did not respond to a request for comment.
On Friday, Melania Trump criticized Winston Wolfoff in a blog post, saying that Winston Wolfoff “hardly knows her”, holding on to her “after Trump’s upset victory in 2016 and now” trying to distort my character. “