Trump kids want a say in politics -- but on their terms

Eric Trump: Dems aren't even people
Eric Trump: Dems aren't even people

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Eric Trump: Dems aren't even people 01:19

Story highlights

  • Two Trump sons on the outside, one Trump daughter on the inside
  • All three are very much involved in the new family business

(CNN)Early Thursday morning, Eric Trump sat down with the hosts of "Fox and Friends" to discuss his father's European trip and whether the new administration's "America First" policies would undermine American's standing overseas.

His take on the question channeled a familiar voice.
"I think we're being bigger leaders today and more powerful leaders than we've ever been before," the President's second-born son declared. "You see my father's trip to Saudi Arabia and you see how he was embraced. I mean, President Obama would come off Air Force One, they wouldn't even bring a staircase out to the plane."
    Eric and Donald Trump Jr., who both stayed in New York to run the Trump Organization when their father moved south to Washington, D.C., occupy a hazily defined, but highly visible niche in the broader Trump-o-sphere. While they maintain that, in accordance with ethics rules, there is no discussion of private business or the administration's day-to-day work with the President, both have maintained unofficial roles, established in practice during the campaign, as high profile media surrogates.
    Meanwhile, their sister Ivanka, who works in the West Wing (she does not take a salary) as an official adviser to the President, has repeatedly argued that she is, in some way, personally apart from the White House's daily business. As she told Fox News recently, "I try to stay out of politics."
    "I leave the politics to other people," she said, "and really lean into the issues that I care deeply about."
    Like paid family leave. Ivanka recently published an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal defending the White House proposal (which has been attacked from the left for not going far enough) after the paper scorched it from the right in a May editorial headlined "The Ivanka Entitlement."
    She wraps the piece by arguing that the plan is not, in fact, "an entitlement," but "an investment in America's working families." The phrasing is purposeful, a bit of triangulation meant to soothe an audience averse to the specter of new public spending, and so, political by its very nature.
    When she expressed her surprise last month at the "level of viciousness" faced by the White House, as it applied to coverage of the Russia investigation, the suggestion was clear: Trump and his family were victims of an establishment set on rejecting their ambitions to "do big, bold things" and "change the status quo."
    Ivanka: I'm surprised by viciousness of media
    Ivanka: I'm surprised by viciousness of media

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    Ivanka: I'm surprised by viciousness of media 00:48
    Again, an argument that, in broad strokes, you tend to hear from all kinds of politicians and their envoys.
    Ivanka's initial remark, about wanting to "stay out of politics," came in response to a question about her father's twitchy Twitter finger. Her reply is instructive, if illogical. More forthrightly put, Trump appears to want to "stay out" of any conversation that might be unflattering, controversial or critical of the President.
    Back home in New York, the fallacy plays out in reverse. Trump's sons have no policy portfolios, just opinions -- mostly on the press and political opponents.
    When James Comey visited Capitol Hill in early June, Donald Trump Jr. live-tweeted his testimony, alternately defending his father and attacking the fired former FBI director. When it was suggested, here, that he had overshadowed the GOP's rapid-response team, both parties lashed out.
    "I thought today's efforts between myself and the RNC were incredibly successful in pushing back against the fake media," he said in a statement to CNN relayed by the RNC. "To suggest anything else is another example of the media distorting the facts."
    The Comey episode was hardly an outlier. Trump Jr.'s Twitter feed is a rolling repository of right-wing talking points interspersed with viral agitprop and acid, often protracted indictments of the news media.
    Eric Trump has a more tempered persona, and, probably not by chance, a less active social media presence. But his television venue of choice, like his siblings and father, is Fox News. During a conversation with Sean Hannity last month, his frustrations spilled out.
    "I've never seen hatred like this," he said, "and to me (Democrats in Washington) are not even people."
    The last three words got a lot of attention. A few sentences later on in the monologue received less.
    Democrats, he continued, "have no message, so what do they try and do? They try and obstruct a great man, they try and obstruct his family, they come after us viciously, and it's truly, truly horrible."
    You can argue the points there, and many have, but not the context. Eric Trump, Ivanka and Don Jr., are all very much involved in the family business -- the new one: Politics.