First lady Melania Trump was secretly recorded in the summer of 2018 expressing her frustration at being criticized for her husband's policy of separating families who illegally crossed the southern border while at the same time needing to perform traditional first lady duties, such as preparing for Christmas.
"They say I'm complicit. I'm the same like him, I support him. I don't say enough I don't do enough where I am," she said in a tape secretly recorded by Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, a former friend and senior adviser to the first lady who wrote a book about their relationship, "Melania and Me."
The tapes were played exclusively on CNN's "Anderson Cooper 360" on Thursday night and were recorded by Wolkoff after she left the White House. Listen in the video above.
"I'm working ... my a** off on the Christmas stuff, that you know, who gives a f*** about the Christmas stuff and decorations? But I need to do it, right?"
She continued, "OK, and then I do it and I say that I'm working on Christmas and planning for the Christmas and they said, 'Oh, what about the children that they were separated?' Give me a f****** break. Where they were saying anything when Obama did that? I can not go, I was trying get the kid reunited with the mom. I didn't have a chance -- needs to go through the process and through the law."
The policy Melania Trump was referring to was different from that of her husband, President Donald Trump. Under former President Barack Obama, children were separated from parents only when authorities had concerns for their well-being or could not confirm that the adult was in fact their legal guardian, but not as a blanket policy as was done under Trump — until a judge forced the administration to stop.
In a statement, Melania Trump's chief of staff Stephanie Grisham blasted Wolkoff for releasing the recording.
"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," she said in a statement.
In another recording, Melania Trump emphasizes the reaction of migrant children brought "by coyotes" as evidence of the detention centers' quality and "the way they take care of them."
"The kids, they say, 'Wow I will have my own bed? I will sleep on the bed? I will have a cabinet for my clothes?' It's so sad to hear it but they didn't have that in their own countries, they sleep on the floor," Melania Trump says on the tape. "They are taken care of nicely there. But you know, yeah, they are not with parents, it's sad. But when they come here alone or with coyotes or illegally, you know, you need to do something."
The first lady also cast doubt on the authenticity of some immigrants' accounts of fleeing danger in their home countries.
"A lot of like moms and kids they are teached how to do it. They go over and they say like, 'Oh, we will be killed by a gang member, we will be, you know, it's so dangerous,' " she said, mimicking a dramatic voice. "So they are allowed to stay here."
"It's not true that they would, you know what I mean," Melania Trump said, adding that "they're not professional but they are teached by other people what to say to come over and to you know let them go to stay here. Because they could easily stay in Mexico but they don't want to stay in Mexico because Mexico doesn't take care of them the same as America does."
Photos: A look at Donald Trump's busy week
President Donald Trump tweeted shortly before 1 a.m. Eastern that he and the first lady tested positive for the coronavirus. Trump had a busy schedule during the week the virus hit home with him. Here's a look at the president's events this week.
Saturday: Trump announces Supreme Court pick
Saturday: Supreme Court announcement and gathering
Saturday: Trump holds rally in Middletown, Pa.
Sunday: Trump holds news conference
Monday: Lordstown Motors event at White House
Monday: Rose Garden event on coronavirus
Tuesday: Trump debates Biden in Cleveland
Tuesday: Trump's adult children attend debate without masks
Wednesday: Trump travels to Minnesota
Wednesday: Hope Hicks feels unwell on Minnesota trip
Wednesday: Trump holds rally in Duluth, Minnesota
Thursday: Hope Hicks tests positive for coronavirus
Thursday: Trump travels to Bedminster, N.J., for fundraiser
Friday: Trump, first lady test positive for coronavirus
Friday: Trump's physician releases statement
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