It was Thanksgiving, but instead of being seated at an elaborate table dressed with gold silverware, expensive china and a buffet of chilled seafood, turkey and beef tenderloin, waited on by household staff, Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner were in the wilderness of Maryland.
Tiffany Trump was there, too.
Camp David, the rural presidential retreat, isn’t exactly roughing it, but it wasn’t Mar-a-Lago, the private club in Palm Beach where the Trump family typically spends Thanksgiving, nor was it the White House, where their father, President Donald Trump, was dining on all of those delicacies with Melania Trump, his in-laws and the couple’s son, Barron. Yet there they were, the most identifiable and, as of four weeks ago, influential offspring of the American political landscape, in the woods, contemplating a future without the trimmings.
“They should get used to being sequestered,” says a source who has worked with two of the Trump children, sensing a comeuppance that may be on the horizon. All three of the eldest Trump kids have for decades hitched their professional identities and personal brands to their father’s wagon, and now it is off the rails.
The taint of Trump could linger, and what that might mean for each child is different, but the profits and power they flaunted during Trump’s presidency ends with his tenure on January 20. They will be personae non gratae in New York City, the city where they grew up, started their careers in the family business, learned how vastly they could exploit their father’s celebrity, scored co-starring roles on “The Apprentice,” and lived with their own burgeoning families.
This week, signs started appearing around Manhattan: “NOT WANTED: Ivanka Trump. Not wanted in New York City,” they read, with a large color photo of her in the center. The signs were posted by a two comedians who have made Trump-bashing the center of their bits. There isn’t a scenario where the Big Apple they left welcomes them back with open arms, not necessarily through their own doing, but rather their dad’s, who has called the city “a ghost town” that has “gone to hell.”
“They have options, sure,” adds the source, who requested anonymity to discuss Trump family dynamics. “However, most will require taking a step back from what the last four years have been.”
The Camp David summit of Trump kids and their significant others was already an uncharacteristic locale for the group, who are used to the finer things, not necessarily the rustic cabins and campfire aesthetic of the retreat, a place not often visited by the President during his tenure (though he did arrive on Friday, following a round of golf, to meet up with his brood).
The choice for Don Jr., Ivanka, Eric and Tiffany Trump of Camp David for Thanksgiving – rather than one of their homes – also meant an extra lift for Secret Service, Camp David staff, and yes, taxpayers. Sure, families are entitled to get together for holidays, even in times of Covid, but taxing others with a trip such as this one, using the resources of being presidential children to the full extent, smacks of the privileges they have each enjoyed, the ones that disappear in less than 50 days.
The White House years have meant different things to each of the children. For Trump Jr., the ascension of his father to the status of powerful world leader unleashed a rabid partisan persona, and a penchant for demeaning memes, name-calling and lowering the bar of what political sparring has been until now. Ivanka Trump and Kushner adapted to a different kind of maneuvering, circumventing the record firings of West Wing officials by the President by using their family ties to always stay a step ahead, or completely out of the building, when they occur.
Seven Springs headache
Eric Trump has had perhaps the most challenging job of all, from a practical standpoint, stabilizing a family hospitality and real estate company while the name attached is unquestionably the most polarizing the country has known in decades.
Not only has Trump’s second oldest son been hawking Trump-branded ice – which he did in a since-deleted post on his Instagram account earlier this month, noting a frozen cube with the family name on it would be “the perfect way to get in the holiday spirit!” – but he is currently tasked with unloading Seven Springs, the Bedford, New York, Trump-owned estate that neither father nor son could successfully re-sell into parceled developments.
According to someone familiar with the pending sale, the 230-acre property is idle, the main house devoid of furniture, painted, cleaned and ready for the market. Trump bought it in 1996 for $7.5 million, according to reports at the time, and the source said it could be listed for close to $50 million. But the same person cautions: “who knows, though. No one might want it now.”
The property is also part of an ongoing investigation by the New York state Attorney General’s office. The New York Times reported last month as part of its ongoing investigation into Trump’s taxes, that the attorney general is looking into whether the Trump Organization inflated property appraisals to receive large tax breaks. The tax incentives, per the report, came from the promise to conserve the land upon which the historic 1919 property sits.
The Times reported Trump in 2012 listed Seven Springs’ appraisal at $291 million. Yet after development plans for the property – which were to include a golf course, club and private residences – fell through, Trump agreed to a deal with a nonprofit to preserve more than 150-acres of woodlands. In doing so, Eric Trump oversaw an appraisal that came back at around $50 million, far below the assessment just four years prior, flagging for investigators perhaps something wasn’t quite right.
In 2009, Seven Springs had a small moment of it-could-only-be-Donald-Trump fame when it became site of a Bedouin-style tent erected by Moammar Gadhafi. Trump brokered a deal with the former dictator to allow him to set up his tent on the property while he was in New York for a United Nations General Assembly meeting. Locals in Bedford were vocally upset with the arrangement, considering Gadhafi’s ties to terrorism, so Trump lied about being aware the deal was specifically with the dictator.
“The property was leased on a short-term basis to Middle Eastern partners who may or may not have a relationship to Mr. Gadhafi. We are looking into the matter now,” Trump Organization spokeswoman Rhona Graff said in a statement at the time.
Despite the denial, Trump bragged multiple times that he knew exactly what he was doing, and who he was doing it with.
“(Gadhafi) paid me more than I get in a whole year. And then, eh, he wasn’t able to use the piece of land. … So I got in one night more money than I would have gotten all year for this piece of land up in Westchester,” Trump told CBS’s “Face the Nation” in 2016.
Eric Trump’s biggest priority now is not whether to rent the property to controversial guests or continue pursuits to develop it, rather it is to “right the ship,” as the former co-worker told CNN, and pivot the Trump Organization’s brand as a whole in the wake of his father’s presidency.
While there may very well be business fueled by MAGA supporters at Trump properties, there may not be enough of it in the cities where his most expensive hotels exist, including New York.
“The question is whether there will be an audience willing to pay hundreds of dollars a night to stay at a place just because it has the name ‘Trump’ on the outside,” says the source, who notes, however, the tendencies of the Trump base are bound by loyalty, and fueled by “the spirit of the underdog,” and the answer to the question could very well be yes.
Still, the burden of what to do if and when that does or does not happen in the months and years that follow Trump’s exit from the White House, a polarized nation in his wake, will ultimately fall to Eric Trump.
The future of the organization may also shift away from its iconic New York Fifth Avenue headquarters to another state, according to at least two people Trump has discussed opportunities with. Florida is possibly one of those options, since this is where the President intends to spend the majority of his time after the White House. A spokesperson for the Trump Organization did not return a request for comment.
In 2016, Eric Trump, who remains executive vice president of development and acquisitions for the Trump Organization, led the charge for a new offshoot of properties aimed at millennials, appropriately named “Scion.” Though plans and renderings were drawn up – indicating a hipper, less-gold décor than the flagship Trump properties – and inquiries were made to build several properties in different states, the entire Scion project was quietly scrapped last year. Eric Trump took a cue from his dad when citing the reason why, eagerly blaming the media and Democrats for the failure.
“We live in a climate where everything will be used against us, whether by the fake news or by Democrats who are only interested in presidential harassment and wasting everyone’s time, barraging us with nonsense letters. We already have the greatest properties in the world and if we have to slow down our growth for the time being, we are happy to do it,” said Trump in a statement at the time.
The Trump Organization at the same time also ditched plans for a chain of more budget-friendly properties called “American Idea.”
How deep is the support
Trump supporters, which per election results proved 74 million Americans strong, are going to be the crux of the Trump children’s success or failure. And though their father is headed out of office, the tease of a 2024 run could keep them in conservative power circles – and a desired ally for global entities.
Because Eric, Don Jr. and Ivanka went all-in with their father, publicly backing 100% of his philosophies and ideals, they likely can’t reverse the nepotism curse of having boxed themselves in, whether they meant to or not. Which means, especially for Trump Jr., leaning in is the only way to go.
A reluctant political advocate in the earlier days of the Trump campaign and presidency, according to two of Trump’s friends and associates, Trump Jr. has come to embrace his popularity as MAGA muse, and conflate his love of America, guns, hunting and flying in the face of democratic norms with the millions who make up his father’s most fervent followers.
“It’s a role he enjoys,” says one of the sources, who works frequently with Trump Jr. “It wasn’t what he expected, or where he expected to be now, but he knows he is the future of the base.”
Pre-White House, Trump Jr. was able to float between the worlds of monied Manhattan, building relationships with political and business people around the globe, as his main purview at the Trump Organization is looking for growth and expanding the brand internationally, a role one associate says he intends to resume after “stepping back” for the four years his father was in the White House.
Yet now, with his social media feeds spouting both prolific and obscure conspiracy theories, unproven allegations and memes (a recent Instagram post compared the similarities of the faces of Michael Jackson and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi), walking into a bank, an equities firm or a boardroom or approaching land management boards could be more challenging. Also, the President has disparaged many a country’s leadership in the last four years – Canada, France, China and Germany, to name a few – and global expansion would be considerably more challenging.
Trump Jr. will now turn his sights to the one commodity he has: his “I am one of you!” messaging, to sustain a party eager for a leader who also wears denim, flannel shirts, fleece jackets and knows the ins and outs of a duck blind. (Though Trump Jr. and his younger brother are said to be fans of Blue Delta Jeans, a bespoke denim company out of Mississippi whose made-to-measure custom jeans sell for upwards of $500 a pair. According to a source familiar, they each own several.)
“Expect him to stay very engaged in Republican party politics,” an official who works with Trump Jr. tells CNN of the bulk of his future endeavors. “He’s very interested in using his influence moving forward to help elect more Republicans who are supportive of his father’s America first agenda.”
Trump Jr. was one of the campaign’s top draws for events and fundraisers, often sharing double-billing with his girlfriend, former Fox News personality Kimberly Guilfoyle. A radio ad featuring Trump Jr. in support of two GOP senators in Georgia facing election next month began airing this week. A Trump associate also confirms, Trump Jr taped television ads as well, which will begin airing in the near future.
“His voice can be just as impactful in getting the base motivated as the president’s own,” says the official who works with Trump Jr.
Legacy on the ballot?
As for his own run at a political post, Trump Jr. is leaving that out of the picture, for now.
“He has no plans to run himself,” says the official who works with Trump.
That could be good news for his sister, Ivanka, who according to two friends and a small group of White House associates does have designs on holding office. However, Ivanka Trump’s fondness for global impact, and a White House portfolio that includes supporting economic opportunities for women around the world, is basically the exact opposite of what her brother has been spouting back at home.
A spokeswoman for the President’s eldest daughter did not immediately respond to a CNN request for comment.
Ivanka Trump’s visits to more than a dozen countries during her father’s tenure are indicative of the focus of her outreach. Weeks after she toured a strawberry farm in Bogota, Colombia, during a trip to South America last year, touting the need for financial support for women-owned businesses, Trump Jr. was in North Carolina, making a joke about the #MeToo movement while serving as opening act for one of his father’s rallies.
While she’s been participating in diplomatic arts, and serving as a West Wing adviser, her brother has been collecting accolades from the Republicans who elected Trump President, not the moderates whom Ivanka Trump would require to shore political support. The landscape of the party she will now need behind her should she want to pursue a run for something has significantly shifted since she moved to Washington, DC.
Politics may be one of few avenues Trump has left to maintain the status she holds dear, the businesswoman-slash-celebrity persona that has fueled everything Trump has sold the public, from handbags and shoes to the administration’s stance on child-tax credit and helping stop human trafficking.
“She can’t go back to having a brand,” said a former acquaintance. “There is not a customer base now for what she had before. Either she starts really drilling down on a product that can sell to the Trump base, or she has to find something else to market.”