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Melania Trump’s ‘volunteer’ rankles White House staff with her all-access pass

When asked whether Stephanie Winston Wolkoff (pictured) would be fired, Melania Trump’s spokeswoman said “Wolkoff is a contracted volunteer with the Office of the first lady and has specified duties as outlined in her contract.” | Drew Angerer/Getty Images

First lady Melania Trump’s friend and special adviser Stephanie Winston Wolkoff has enjoyed a unique and eyebrow-raising setup over the past year: In her status as a “contracted volunteer,” the Manhattan socialite has a government-issued phone and computer, as well as a blue badge that grants her total access to the West Wing.

But, unlike other administration officials, the former Vogue event planner continues to live in New York City and pops into the White House only every few weeks, where her on-paper job is to consult with the first lady on her initiatives, according to two White House officials.

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That special arrangement has soured colleagues in the White House, who have long seen Wolkoff as a person capitalizing on her relationship with the first lady while offering little in return. “One thing that grates at people is she is supposed to work at the White House, but she still gets to live in New York City,” said one administration official.

But that unique status is now in question, after The New York Times reported on Thursday that President Donald Trump’s inaugural committee paid close to $ 26 million to an event-planning firm that was founded by Wolkoff, and that she personally pocketed at least $ 1.62 million from the committee that was supposed to donate any remaining funds to charity.

“Mrs. Trump had no involvement with the [Presidential Inaugural Committee], and had no knowledge of how funds were spent,” said her spokeswoman, Stephanie Grisham.

But now the question circulating in the White House is whether the first lady will take any action to sever ties with the special adviser over her self-enriching setup — quick action that would mark a style change from the West Wing, where the president often dawdles in firing his advisers, or has other people do the deed for him.

Grisham did not shoot down rumors that the first lady is considering cutting off the professional relationship for good. When asked whether Wolkoff would be fired, Grisham said: “Stephanie Winston Wolkoff is a contracted volunteer with the Office of the First Lady and has specified duties as outlined in her contract.” Wolkoff is not paid a government salary.

Inside the White House, the arrangement she enjoys with the first lady has long struck other staffers as odd. “The fact that so much was given to her company has really raised eyebrows,” said one administration official. “That’s a whole lot of money, especially when a bunch of that could have been donated to charity.”

Wolkoff did not immediately respond to a request for comment concerning her future status in the White House. Tom Barrack, a longtime friend of the president’s, who served as chairman of the Presidential Inaugural Committee, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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