24 turbulent hours for Trump's children

Trump Jr.: Tax release would change dialogue
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Story highlights

  • Trump's children have increased their appearances on the campaign trail in recent weeks
  • Ivanka and Don Jr. both cut off interviews when faced with tough questions

Washington (CNN)The Trump kids aren't alright.

As the campaign enters its final stretch, some of Donald Trump's children are showing signs of impatience and struggling to stay on message.
    In the past 24 hours, Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr. have cut off interviews when pressed for answers on tough questions. Trump Jr. strayed from the campaign's talking point about the Republican nominee's tax returns -- that they'll be released once an IRS audit concludes -- when he said unveiling the documents would "detract" from his father's message.
    And Trump Jr. caused a firestorm when, during a Thursday interview with a Philadelphia radio station, he raised the specter of the Holocaust by saying if Republicans acted like Hillary Clinton, the media would be "warming up the gas chamber." The campaign later said Trump Jr. was referring to capital punishment, though the Clinton campaign quickly seized on the remarks.
    "The particular wording is extremely insensitive, divisive and probably pretty consistent with the type of rhetoric he heard around the house growing up," Clinton campaign chair John Podesta told reporters on a conference call.
    Representatives for the Trump campaign didn't respond to requests for comment on this story.
    The developments are notable because Trump's children are typically his best surrogates. Ivanka, in particular, often softens Trump's image and the children are known for exerting power behind the scenes and bringing discipline to the freewheeling campaign.
    The influence of Trump's children was seen in the firing of former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski. His children personally vetted vice presidential contenders this summer. And at the Republican National Convention, his four adult children -- Ivanka, Don Jr., Eric and Tiffany -- each delivered speeches that sought to show more human sides of their father.
    Ivanka Trump used her convention speech to wade into policy, making a case to women by arguing for paid maternity leave and equal pay. Her primetime Thursday night introduction of her father was well-received -- particularly as she revealed a softer side of the billionaire businessman that no other speaker or surrogate had been able to show before.
    And after a week in which Republicans largely focused on Clinton's deficiencies rather than on Trump's attributes and personal story, Ivanka Trump warmed up the crowd by offering a new window into the Republican nominee. She urged viewers to give her father a second look by saying that "if It's possible to be famous and not really well-known, that describes the father who raised me."
    Ivanka Trump's entire speech introducing Donald Trump
    Ivanka Trump's entire speech introducing Donald Trump

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    Ivanka Trump's entire speech introducing Donald Trump 15:39
    She was by her father's side this week when he unveiled a child care policy crafted with Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Washington, that guarantees six weeks of leave for new mothers.
    When Cosmopolitan magazine's Prachi Gupta grilled Ivanka Trump on what that policy meant for gay couples -- asking if after an adoption, "they would not be receiving special leave for that because they don't need to recover or anything" -- the interview turned contentious.
    "So I think that you have a lot of negativity in these questions, and I think my father has put forth a very comprehensive and really revolutionary plan to deal with a lot of issues. So I don't know how useful it is to spend too much time with you on this if you're going to make a comment like that," she said.
    When pressed on how Trump would pay for his proposals, including increased defense spending an a US-Mexico border wall, Ivanka Trump cut off the interview. "I'm going to jump off, I have to run. I apologize," she said.
    She followed up with a series of tweets Thursday encouraging Cosmopolitan to "keep the focus where it belongs -- advocating change."
    Trump Jr., meanwhile, stepped into several controversies in interviews conducted Wednesday.
    Speaking with WTAE in Pittsburgh, he said that releasing his father's tax returns would "detract" from his message -- a position House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, disagreed with Thursday morning.
    He attacked New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman for failing to investigate the Clinton Foundation, "which has decades of pay-to-play -- of meetings through the State Department."
    But when asked about The Donald J. Trump Foundation -- his father's charitable organization, for which Trump Jr. is a director -- paying for a portrait of Trump, he denied knowledge as a campaign aide ended the interview.
    "No, I don't know anything about that," Trump Jr. said.
    As reporter Bob Mayo asked "how come you didn't know," an off-camera voice interrupted to say: "Alright, that's it. We have to move on to the next one. Thank you."
    Trump Jr.'s "gas chamber" remark was the most provocative.
    It came as he complained about how the treatment his father has received by the political press compares to coverage of Clinton.
    "The media has been her number one surrogate in this. Without the media, this wouldn't even be a contest. But the media has built her up. They've let he slide on every indiscrepancy, on every lie, on every DNC game trying to get Bernie Sanders out of the thing," Trump Jr. told Philadelphia-based conservative talk radio host Chris Stigall on Wednesday.
    Trump Jr. added: "I mean, if Republicans were doing that, they'd be warming up the gas chamber right now.
    Gas chambers were used by Nazis in the Holocaust -- the genocide of 6 million Jews and millions of others during World War II.
    Trump's campaign denied that Trump Jr. was referring to the Holocaust, saying he meant the "gas chamber" used in capital punishment.
    "The liberal, dishonest media is so quick to attack one of the Trumps that they never let the truth get in the way of a good smear," Trump senior communications adviser Jason Miller said in an emailed statement. "Don Jr. was clearly referring to capital punishment to make the case that the media continues to take words out of context in order to serve as the propaganda arm of the Hillary Clinton campaign -- something that's only gotten worse as Trump's poll numbers have improved."