BE­HIND THE FA­CADE

The US First Fam­ily was groomed by Don­ald Trump in his fast-and-loose ways. Now the eager-to-please scions—and the whole coun­try— are liv­ing with the con­se­quences

WHO - - News -

The US First Fam­ily was groomed by Don­ald Trump in his fast-and-loose ways. Now the scions are liv­ing with the con­se­quences.

Just months af­ter Don­ald Trump pro­posed to Me­la­nia with a $US1.5 mil­lion Graff di­a­mond that he got half­price in ex­change for pub­lic­ity, Don Jr stole his dad’s idea—and took it a step fur­ther. On Nov. 11, 2004, Trump’s old­est child, then 26, pro­posed on bended knee to Vanessa Hay­don, a model he’d met through his fa­ther. He did it in front of cam­eras at a jew­ellery store in The Mall at Short Hills in New Jersey. Don Jr got his $US100,000 ring free, but he paid a steep price. “Trump Jr is the cheap­est gazil­lion­aire heir­head,” mocked the New York Post, and Don’s role model pub­licly ex­pressed his dis­ap­point­ment. “I guess he’s try­ing to learn from me . . . but I didn’t like it,” Trump Sr said on Larry King Live not long af­ter­wards. “He’s a good kid . . . And I said, ‘ You have a name that’s hot as a pis­tol— you have to be very care­ful with things like this.’ ”

To­day the head­lines dog­ging Don Jr talk not of pub­lic­ity but of pos­si­bly break­ing cam­paign-fi­nance laws by co­or­di­nat­ing with a for­eign gov­ern­ment. And yet the un­der­ly­ing fa­ther-son nar­ra­tive feels so fa­mil­iar: on July 11, with the The New York Times set to pub­lish de­tails of a June 2016 meet­ing that Don Jr con­vened with Rus­sian na­tion­als promis­ing dirt on Hil­lary Clin­ton, he spoiled their scoop by tweet­ing his own four-page email chain on the meet­ing. It was the kind of im­pul­sive­ness his fa­ther is known for. And it looked to many like in­crim­i­na­tion. “I love it,” Don Jr re­sponded in one email to a prom­ise that the meet­ing would de­liver “high level and

sen­si­tive in­for­ma­tion . . . part of Rus­sia and its gov­ern­ment’s sup­port for Mr Trump.” Those words con­tra­dicted his July 2016 de­nial on CNN of any Rus­sian ef­fort to boost his fa­ther’s pres­i­den­tial cam­paign: “It’s dis­gust­ing. It’s so phony,” he said. And while Don Jr’s tweets handed spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller a smok­ing gun in his in­ves­ti­ga­tion of the Trump team’s Rus­sia con­nec­tions, there was, this time, no scold­ing from Dad. “He’s a good boy,” Pres­i­dent Trump told re­porters. “Don lis­tened out of po­lite­ness . . . Noth­ing hap­pened with the meet­ing. It was a short meet­ing.”

Stephen Col­bert made a late-night joke of Trump Sr’s line of de­fence, call­ing it “like a five-se­cond rule for your soul,” but it’s one that re­ver­ber­ates with a Trump fam­ily ethos dat­ing back at least three gen­er­a­tions. Those who know and have stud­ied Trump and the grown chil­dren run­ning his em­pire—don Jr, 39, Ivanka, 35, and Eric, 33—say they are guided by their fa­ther’s creed of win­ning at all costs and never ad­mit­ting mis­takes. Their grand­fa­ther Fred Trump, a Queens realestate de­vel­oper, was that way—“very tough,” Don­ald has said. For his part, the Pres­i­dent has ex­pected his chil­dren to prove them­selves to him from a young age. “He doesn’t like fail­ure and mis­takes, and he doesn’t ac­cept them,” says a source who has had busi­ness deal­ings with Trump. “You have to jus­tify your ex­is­tence to be in his realm.” So when Don Jr chased his dam­ag­ing July 11 tweets with an ad­mis­sion on Fox News that “in ret­ro­spect I prob­a­bly would have done things a lit­tle dif­fer­ently,” friends took no­tice. “Those,” says a source who knows the fam­ily well, “are not words nor­mally heard from a Trump.”

Ask Ivanka about grow­ing up Trump and she’ll say, as she did in a 2014 in­ter­view with WHO’S US sis­ter mag­a­zine Peo­ple, “My par­ents cre­ated great val­ues for us.” Chief among them, she and her brothers say, were hard work and the value of a dol­lar. “In col­lege,” Don Jr told New York mag­a­zine in 2004, “I had 300 bucks a month. Any­thing I wanted be­yond that I had to work for.” In Trump’s eyes, ex­plains Gwenda Blair, au­thor of The Trumps: Three Gen­er­a­tions of Builders and a Pres­i­dent, “ev­ery­thing is a trans­ac­tion. The only con­sid­er­a­tion is how much good it does you and how much you can get away with.”

Trump Sr has al­ways got­ten away with plenty, both in and out of the White House. There are de­nials of the ob­vi­ous (Trump’s In­au­gu­ra­tion crowd did not out­num­ber Pres­i­dent Obama’s); fraud­u­lent prom­ises to make the sale (see: Trump Univer­sity); con­ceal­ment (tax re­turns); trick­ery ( hang­ing a fake cover of Time on his wall); abuse of women (see: “Grab ’em by the pussy” ); and lies: when for­mer Peo­ple writer Natasha Stoynoff re­vealed she had been phys­i­cally at­tacked by Trump in 2005 (sev­eral other women made sim­i­lar claims), he de­nied it. “Look at her!”

he said of Stoynoff. “I don’t think so!” He can count on his chil­dren to de­fend him. “They stick to­gether at all costs,” says fam­ily friend R. Couri Hay. “When they are un­der at­tack, they put up a solid wall to pro­tect each other.” As one fam­ily friend es­pe­cially close to Don Jr and Eric says, “The loy­alty within this fam­ily is in­sane. They would never speak against their dad. The boys are to­tally scared of him be­cause he’s so ma­cho.”

Trump’s three chil­dren with first wife Ivana grew up in the pent­house of Trump Tower. Ivanka, by all ac­counts, has al­ways been his favourite. “He has al­ways liked that she was pretty and looked good on his arm,” says a Trump Ad­min­is­tra­tion source. “Don­nie was so non­de­script, just a kid who didn’t re­ally have a group,” says a child­hood friend who re­calls Don Jr needed a se­cu­rity code to speak on the phone with his fa­ther at work. Each morn­ing be­fore school he and his sib­lings would make a daily trek to their dad’s Trump Or­gan­i­sa­tion of­fice on the 26th floor to say hello and hear his daily ad­mo­ni­tion: “No drugs. No al­co­hol. No cig­a­rettes.” It was of­ten their only con­tact with him for the day.

Don Jr was 12 when his par­ents split—a heated di­vorce that played out in the New York tabloids. One head­line quoted Trump Sr’s mis­tress (and wife No. 2) Marla Maples declar­ing him the “Best Sex I Ever Had!” Don Jr has said he blamed his fa­ther for the di­vorce, and the two didn’t speak for a year. Later, at the Univer­sity of Penn­syl­va­nia’s Whar­ton School, that es­trange­ment saw Don Jr both re­belling against his fa­ther’s edicts (“I used to drink a lot,” Don Jr told New York mag­a­zine in 2004. “I couldn’t do mod­er­a­tion”) and gain­ing a rep­u­ta­tion with women sim­i­lar to his

fa­ther’s. A Penn alum who went to fra­ter­nity par­ties with him says he came on so strong with women that “ev­ery­one was warned to stay away from Don­nie Trump.” Af­ter col­lege he spent more than a year in Aspen tend­ing bar, hunt­ing and fish­ing—hark­ing back to sum­mers in the woods of Cze­choslo­vakia with his ma­ter­nal grand­fa­ther. Don Jr joined the Trump Or­gan­i­sa­tion in 2001, the same year he spent 11 hours in a New Or­leans jail on charges of public drunk­en­ness. (He says he has been sober since 2002.)

At Trump Tower on Fifth Av­enue, Don Jr was quickly out­shone by Ivanka. Af­ter the US econ­omy sunk Don Jr’s condo project in Fort Laud­erdale in 2008, Ivanka was put in charge of their fa­ther’s prize Florida project at Do­ral. “She meant glam­our, sex and style, and that is what Trump Sr wanted as the face of Do­ral,” says a Florida de­vel­op­ment source. Eric joined the com­pany af­ter grad­u­at­ing from Ge­orge­town Univer­sity. De­spite the com­pe­ti­tion for their fa­ther’s favour, the si­b­ling tri­umvi­rate is, by all ac­counts, very close. (Half-sis­ter Tiffany, 23, who is Maples’s daugh­ter, grad­u­ated from col­lege last year and is plan­ning to go to Ge­orge­town law school. Half-brother Bar­ron, from Trump’s third wife, Me­la­nia, is only 11.) The three­some can laugh over their fa­ther’s ski slope lessons in cut­throat com­pe­ti­tion. “We were sort of bred to be com­pet­i­tive . . . I re­mem­ber ski­ing with him and we were rac­ing. I was ahead and he reached his ski pole out and pulled me back,” Ivanka told New York mag­a­zine in 2004, with Eric chim­ing in, “He would try to push me over, just so he could beat his 10-year-old son down the moun­tain.” The New York busi­ness source says, “Don­ald’s love is tied to per­for­mance. They love him fiercely and they are des­per­ate for ap­proval.”

Now that Ivanka and her hus­band, Jared Kush­ner, who sat in on part of Don Jr’s 2016 Rus­sia meet­ing, have West Wing of­fices and White House ti­tles—while Don Jr and Eric re­main in New York to run the busi­ness—the fam­ily un­der­cur­rents play out with global con­se­quences. It wears on Don Jr, who, for all his cam­paign ral­lies last year and bel­li­cose tweets this year, still rel­ishes the quiet of hunt­ing and fish­ing—a child­hood love he now shares with Vanessa and their five chil­dren by es­cap­ing his Trump Tower of­fice to a rus­tic cabin up­state on week­ends. At the nearby River­side Cafe in Roscoe, New York, he’s a reg­u­lar—“good peo­ple,” says the café man­ager. “And he never has his hair slicked back like he does on TV.” A friend of the Trump brothers says they hate their role as First Sons: “Eric and Don, they never wanted this.” Says a source in their cir­cle: “Don can’t do any deals, be­cause he’ll be so overly scru­ti­nised. He just goes to work every day and is mis­er­able.” But it’s not easy to leave a gilded cage. “You can’t bite the hand that feeds you,” says the source, “but he can’t wait for these four years to be over.”

By San­dra So­bieraj West­fall. With KC Baker, Diane Herbst, Linda Marx, Liz Mc­neil, Rose Min­u­taglio, Sara Nathan and Dan Wake­ford

Trump gath­ered (from left) Bar­ron, Me­la­nia, Tiffany, Eric, Don Jr and Ivanka in his Man­hat­tan pent­house for a De­cem­ber 2014 photo shoot six months be­fore launch­ing his pres­i­den­tial cam­paign.

Ivanka’s hus­band, Jared Kush­ner, 36, is him­self a New York real-es­tate de­vel­oper who, de­spite spotty suc­cess in his own fam­ily com­pany, is Pres­i­dent Trump’s go-to in the West Wing. He is tasked with re­struc­tur­ing the US fed­eral gov­ern­ment and bro­ker­ing Mid­dle East peace, among other things. “Jared is hard to crack at first, seems up­tight,” says a friend close to the Trump sons. “But he’s hi­lar­i­ous.” A fam­ily friend says the Trump chil­dren (on Jan. 20) “just as­sumed that once ev­ery­thing died down, they would be loved as the First Fam­ily who came in as out­siders and shook ev­ery­thing up. It’s im­pos­si­ble for them to process that peo­ple haven’t em­braced them.”

“Don­ald was not around that much,” said Ivana (in 1986).

The late Fred Trump (far right, in 1994) once said he and wife Mary raised Don­ald to be a king.

“We were spoiled the right way,” Don Jr (on Elec­tion Eve 2016) told Peo­ple in 2014. “We learnt to never take what we had for granted.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.