A recording of Melania Trump captures her complaining in vulgar terms about Christmas decorations and mocking detained migrant children.

By Michael D. Shear

President Trump and Melania Trump, the first lady, on the phone with children tracking Santa Claus on Christmas Eve in 2018.
President Trump and Melania Trump, the first lady, on the phone with children tracking Santa Claus on Christmas Eve in 2018.Credit...Al Drago for The New York Times
Michael D. Shear

Melania Trump, the first lady, delivered a profanity-laced rant about White House Christmas decorations and mocked the plight of migrant children who were separated from their parents at the border, during a 2018 conversation secretly taped by her former aide and close confidante.

“I’m working like a — my ass off at Christmas stuff,” Mrs. Trump laments to Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, who served as a top aide in the East Wing and has just published a tell-all book, “Melania and Me.” Mrs. Trump continues, “You know, who gives a fuck about Christmas stuff and decoration?”

Later in the conversation, which occurred in July 2018, the first lady complains that President Trump and his administration were being criticized that summer for separating families in a crackdown on illegal immigration.

“I say that I’m working on Christmas planning for the Christmas, and they said, ‘Oh, what about the children?’ That they were separated.” She used another profanity to express her frustration, asking Ms. Wolkoff: “Where they were saying anything when Obama did that?”

The audio recording, which was first aired on CNN’s “Anderson 360” program on Thursday night, puts Mrs. Trump’s frustrations on full display just weeks before her husband faces voters in his bid for another four years in office.

In a statement, Stephanie Grisham, the first lady’s chief of staff, accused Ms. Wolkoff of seeking to profit by releasing the recordings as she promotes her book.

“Her only intent was to secretly tape the first lady in order to peddle herself and her salacious book,” Ms. Grisham said. “There is no way to know if these recordings have been edited, and it’s clear the clips were handpicked and presented with no context. The first lady remains focused on her family and serving our country.”