As her husband’s administration was separating migrant families at the U.S.-Mexico border in the summer of 2018, first lady Melania Trump dismissed the gravity of the situation, telling a friend and former aide: “They said, ‘Oh, what about the children that were separated?’ Give me a fucking break.”
CNN aired her comments ― reportedly made in July 2018 to Stephanie Winston Wolkoff ― on Thursday. Winston Wolkoff, who wrote the book “Melania and Me” about her relationship with the first lady, has said previously that she began recording phone conversations with her after the White House accused her of profiting excessively from her work organizing inauguration events in 2017.
In a series of these audio recordings obtained by CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360,” Melania Trump is heard telling Winston Wolkoff about her husband’s family separation policy.
Though she admits that it’s “sad” that children are separated from their families, she says the kids are “nicely” taken care of and provided with some comforts, like beds and cabinets for their belongings.
“They didn’t have that in their own countries,” she tells Winston Wolkoff of the amenities provided to the kids.
“Yeah, they’re not with parents, it’s sad. But when they come here alone or with coyotes or illegally, you know, you need to do something,” she adds.
Migrant children have described being held in cages at U.S. Customs and Border Protection facilities. Photos captured at these detention centers show children sleeping on thin mattresses on the floor with nothing but foil blankets to protect them.
In the recordings, Melania Trump is also heard railing against her critics who challenged her on this immigration policy.
“They say I’m complicit. I’m the same like him, I support him. I don’t say enough. I don’t do enough,” she tells Winston Wolkoff.
“I’m working my ass off [doing] Christmas stuff,” she continues, referring to her responsibilities as first lady to prepare the White House for the holiday season. “Who gives fuck about Christmas stuff and decoration? But I need to do it, right? ... OK, and then I do it and I say that I’m working on Christmas planning ... and they said, ‘Oh, what about the children that were separated?’ Give me a fucking break.”
Winston Wolkoff was also asked by host Anderson Cooper about the infamous jacket the first lady wore in June 2018 while boarding a plane to visit migrant children at the southern border.
The author said the jacket ― which had the phrase “I really don’t care. Do U?” written on the back ― had been a “publicity stunt” to “garner the attention of the press.”
In one of the recordings, Winston Wolkoff is heard asking the first lady why she chose to wear the jacket on that occasion.
“I’m driving liberals crazy, that’s for sure ... and they deserve it,” she replies.
A White House spokesperson insisted at the time that “there was no hidden message” to Trump’s fashion choice.
“I’d hope you guys would want to cover her visit with children today. It’s a jacket. ... After today’s important visit to Texas, I hope the media isn’t going to choose to focus on her wardrobe,” said then-White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham.
In a statement to CNN this week, Grisham, who now serves as the first lady’s chief of staff, lambasted Winston Wolkoff for releasing the recordings.
“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,” Grisham said.