A "gratuitous services contract" for an unpaid adviser to Melania Trump has been "severed," the first lady's rep announced, after news emerged that Stephanie Winston Wolkoff's event-planning company had been paid $26 million to help with President Trump's inauguration. Two sources tell the New York Times that Melania's deal with Winston Wolkoff, said to be a longtime friend, was nixed last week after "displeasure from the Trumps" over a Times report on the payments by the inaugural committee to WIS Media Partners. Melania Trump "had no knowledge of how funds were spent" and "no involvement" with the committee, per her rep. Winston Wolkoff says she's "proud" of the services WIS provided. The Times breaks down how the $107 million raised by the committee was doled out, with four event-planning firms scooping up $57 million; WIS received the biggest chunk of that.
Winston Wolkoff, who incorporated her firm just weeks before the inauguration, was tapped by the head of the committee, Thomas J. Barrack Jr., himself a friend of the president for years. Melania Trump was said to have made the initial introduction between the two, but Barrack was the one who picked WIS, per a source. He'd promised the committee would be frugal for a "workmanlike" inauguration, donating leftover cash to charity. That amount came to $5 million, which was less than anticipated, the Times notes. (Inaugural officials say it's more than what President Obama's committee gave.) A government watchdog official calls the expenditures "fiscal mismanagement at its worst," but Winston Wolkoff says media coverage has been "unfair." She's also not completely separating from the first lady, noting, "I expect to remain a trusted source for advice and support on an informal basis." (Read more Melania Trump stories.)