The truth about Ivanka Trump’s relationship with her brothers

The truth about Ivanka Trump’s relationship with her brothers

The three oldest children in Donald Trump’s powerful brood – Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump, and Eric Trump — all hold unique places in the dynasty built by their dad. Don Jr., Ivanka, and Eric all publicly advocate for their father’s administration, with all three children delivering speeches at the Republican National Convention in August 2020. Beyond that, Ivanka is the only Trump child who decamped to Washington, D.C., to serve as a White House advisor to her father. Meanwhile, Don Jr. and Eric remained in New York City to run the Trump Organization, with Don Jr. moving closer to politics and emerging as a vocal advocate on behalf of his father’s political views, while Eric has assumed a less high-profile role than his brother and is best known as a businessman.

With each of the Trump children cultivating fascinating public profiles since their father’s ascent to the presidency, has Ivanka’s relationship with her brothers changed in the years since Donald took the White House? Considering Donald Trump’s penchant for stirring up drama, it’s no surprise that his three older kids have seen their own fair share of controversy — sometimes involving each other. Read on to see how Ivanka, largely seen as Donald’s “Daddy’s girl,” has navigated the sometimes-rocky road to fame alongside her two high-powered brothers. 

Ivanka Trump's brothers help stoke her competitive spirit

Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump, and Eric Trump were all born within seven years of each other — Don Jr. in 1977, Ivanka in 1981, and Eric in 1984 — which almost ensured that their relationships would be close from an early age. Plus, the three children grew up in the wealthy environs of Manhattan and Atlantic City’s respective Trump properties, raised by their parents, Donald Trump and his first wife, Ivana Trump. 

Perhaps because she was so close to her brothers, Ivanka didn’t exactly have the same interests as most uber-rich heiresses growing up. According to Marie Claire, she would spend her time in Donald’s office. “I’d sit on the floor and hear him bid out contracts. I just liked it,” Ivanka told the outlet. “I mean, I was always a feminine tomboy, like I always dressed like a girl and acted like a boy, haha!”

Decades later, when all three siblings were adults working at the Trump Organization together, the three children operated as a unit. “Don, Eric and I are always sizing up our ‘competition’ on the other side of the table to determine which one of us might be best suited to a particular negotiation,” Ivanka wrote in her 2009 book The Trump Card. “My brother Don is always reminding me that you don’t get what you don’t ask for.”

Ivanka Trump threw Don Trump Jr. under the bus as a child

Like all siblings, Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump shared some mischievous moments when they were young. As Don Jr. recalled to The New York Times in 2017, “In our family, if you weren’t competitive you didn’t eat,” adding, “You had to fight for what you wanted.”

So, what exactly did that entail? As it turns out, Don Jr. and Ivanka’s mother, Ivana Trump, was the disciplinarian in the household, with her daughter even telling Marie Claire that Ivana would spank them on occasion — sometimes even in public. “I guess it was for the typical stuff: I once broke a chandelier with a beach ball. That didn’t go over well,” Ivanka mused. “And then I blamed it on my brother.”

Sure enough, Ivanka’s mom stands by the tale. Speaking to The New York Times, she remembered, “Ivanka said it was Don Jr. So I put him over my knee and spanked him. He said, ‘Mom, it wasn’t me!'” 

The competed as kids on the ski slopes

An often-told story in Trump family folklore involves Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump, and Eric Trump racing on the ski slopes of Aspen. Of course, Ivanka competed against her dad. “It’s in our blood — we’re [all] highly competitive,” The Donald’s daughter told Marie Claire in 2007, adding that the premise behind their competitiveness was a ploy by their parents to get the kids to “to harness that competition and use it to propel [them] forward together, collectively, as a team.”

As the story goes, during one particular ski trip, the seven-year-old Ivanka raced down the hill, “when all of a sudden she felt something on her back.” As she recalled to Marie Claire, “I was thinking, What the heck? Then I realized [Donald] had taken his ski pole, hooked the back of my jumpsuit, and was pulling me backward so he could basically slingshot himself over the finish line. It was all in good fun, but we’re very much like that.

Ivanka also looked back on the incident in a 2004 New York Magazine interview with the three oldest Trump kids, saying about their family dynamic, “We were sort of bred to be competitive. Dad encourages it.” Eric confirmed the skiing story, joking about his own Aspen days with his dad, “He would try to push me over, just so he could beat his 10-year-old son down the mountain.”

Ivanka Trump helped Eric Trump through their parents' divorce

Ivanka Trump and her younger brother, Eric Trump, cultivated a special relationship that grew out of their parents’ divorce. Donald Jr., Ivanka, and Eric’s family life blew up in 1990, when Donald Trump’s affair with Marla Maples went public, with Donald eventually divorcing the three siblings’ mother, Ivana, to marry Marla. Donald and Marla added another Trump kid to the family’s brood, Tiffany Trump, who was born in 1993, one decade later than Eric, with Donald and Marla eventually splitting in 1997.  

Speaking to New York Magazine in 2004, Eric said he “definitely [became] closer to Ivanka” as a result of their parents’ split, adding, “She took me under her wing and raised me, took me shopping, tried to make me cool.” Meanwhile, Eric characterized his older brother Don Jr. as helping him navigate the breakup in a different way. “Donny, in a way, is like a mentor,” he said. “He kept tabs on everything that my grandfather taught him over the years and that I was too young to appreciate.”

Eric Trump praised his big sister as beautiful and smart

Two decades after their parents’ divorce, Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump, and Eric Trump had a new public challenge to navigate — albeit one far less tragic than Donald and Ivana Trump’s breakup. Donald, who had since married his third wife, Melania Trump, spent the early 2010s building his political profile alongside his status as a businessman and inflammatory media figure. Suddenly, in June 2015, he announced his campaign for president, with Don Jr., Ivanka, and Eric looking on from his audience at Trump Tower in New York. 

As the Trump family navigated Donald’s presidential campaign, both before and after his election win, Eric frequently offered kind words about his big sister to the press. In a 2016 Fox & Friends interview, Eric responded to Republican Sen. Bob Corker’s claims that Ivanka would be a strong vice-presidential pick, saying (via Politico), “She’s got beautiful looks, right? She’s smart … she’s got my vote.” 

Following their father’s inauguration, Eric appeared on Fox Business in April 2017 to heap further praise on his sister. “She’s beautiful in so many ways, she’s smart, she’s intelligent, she’s full of class, and I think that’s why people love Ivanka,” he said.

Don Trump Jr. pitied Ivanka Trump's Washington struggles

Whether because of her position as senior advisor to the President or her status as Donald Trump’s highest-profile daughter, Ivanka Trump received particularly harsh scrutiny following her father’s election win. While Eric Trump appeared on talk shows to defend his sister’s name in the wake of criticism, Ivanka’s older brother, Donald Trump Jr., struck a different tone, suggesting in an interview with The Atlantic in 2019 that, while Ivanka was blessed with the ability to “thrive” in any environment, she perhaps didn’t understand as well as he did how her life would grow more challenging when Donald became president. As a 2017 Vanity Fair report wrote on Ivanka and her husband, Jared Kushner, they were suddenly “exiles on Pennsylvania Avenue.”

“She was loved by all the people in the world she wanted to be loved by,” Don Jr. said about Ivanka’s life before the White House, with Ivanka later seeing many wealthy liberals who occupied her New York social circle turn on her. “I just think I figured it out a little bit earlier than she did that people were going to see us differently after my father won.”

Eric Trump credited Ivanka Trump for changing their dads' mind

Eric Trump, who remained at the Trump Organization when Ivanka left to join Donald Trump’s White House administration, continued to offer public support of Ivanka Trump and her work as an advisor to Donald, crediting his sister with changing their father’s mind about a key policy decision. 

Speaking to The Telegraph in April 2017, Eric brought up his father’s decision to launch airstrikes in Syria, claiming that Ivanka may have used her own experiences as a mother to sway her father into taking action against the Middle Eastern nation, which had recently launched a chemical weapons attack that killed scores of citizens, many of whom were children. “Ivanka is a mother of three kids and she has influence,” Eric said. “I’m sure she said: ‘Listen, this is horrible stuff.'”

For Ivanka’s part, she quibbled with her brother’s characterization of her influencing her father’s decision, calling his words a “flawed interpretation” of her White House role. “It was informed at the highest levels of military and state,” she told reporters, per Politico. “I, of course, shared my perspective and opinion. It aligned with his own … His decision was incredibly well informed and advised.”

Ivanka Trump and Don Trump Jr. allegedly planted negative stories about each other

Throughout the Trump presidency, rumors have circulated Washington about bad blood between the camps of the two oldest Trump kids, Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump. In 2017, a Vanity Fair story claimed that the investigations into the administration’s alleged dealings with Russia had “created rifts among members of the Trump family,” citing White House gossip that Ivanka’s husband Jared Kushner, who served as a White House advisor alongside his wife, possibly leaked incriminating emails from Don Jr. to the New York Times to preserve his and Ivanka’s own reputation.

A 2019 report in The Atlantic painted a similar picture of the sibling rivalry, describing a power struggle between Ivanka and Don Jr. as a “cold war” in which both Trump children wielded their “own teams of allies and advisers” against each other, “[growing] paranoid that the other’s henchmen were planting damaging stories about them in the press.” One such story was published by McClatchy in 2018, with the headline “Trump Kids on the Campaign Trail: Don Jr. Wows, Ivanka Disappoints.” Per The Atlantic, “Ivanka’s camp was enraged, and suspected that Don was behind the story. Later, Don confronted Ivanka over rumors that her team was undermining him in off-the-record conversations with reporters. ‘Tell your people to stop trashing me to the media,’ he said, according to someone familiar with the conversation.”

When Ivanka Trump was criticized, Eric Trump had her back

Eric Trump has continually stood by his big sister’s side on several occasions when negative headlines about Ivanka Trump have emerged. In early 2017, Ivanka was lambasted for being “complicit” in her father’s alleged crimes in a Saturday Night Live sketch, with Ivanka later appearing on CBS News to defend herself. Asked about the interview on Fox Business, Eric defended his sister as an “immense positive force” in the administration. “You see so many critics out there, and I think it’s a sad thing. Here’s somebody who took their kids out of school and moved down to Washington, D.C., is there to support [our father], is taking no salary and is an amazing talent,” he said. “And she can bring so many great things to Washington, D.C.”

 When Ivanka’s appearance at the 2018 Winter Olympics drew jeers from Olympic skier Gus Kenworthy and other Trump family critics, Eric appeared on Fox & Friends to strike back, calling the insults “gross” and adding, “I think it’s disgusting. … That’s not what the Olympics is about. Politics should not enter into the Olympics.” And when Ivanka came to her family’s defense in a Fox News interview in 2017, blasting the media for their attacks on the Trumps, Eric chimed in on Twitter, quoting her tweet and praising the interview as “very well said.”

Are Ivanka Trump and Don Trump Jr. competing for the family throne?

At first glance, Ivanka Trump and her older brother, Donald Trump Jr., may appear to be on the same side of the battle between their father’s administration and its critics. But media coverage of the two oldest Trump siblings’ relationship has portrayed the two as rivals, with headlines circulating over the course of the Trump administration speculating, “So, do Don Jr. and Ivanka hate each other or what?” and “Don Jr. v. Ivanka: is the battle to turn the Trump presidency into a dynasty heating up?” (via The Guardian).

The media’s suspicions of bad blood between Ivanka and Don Jr. underline the fact that the public sees the two siblings as their father’s primary heirs, with The Guardian reporting on a 2020 survey that found that Ivanka and Don Jr. leading the pack of top-of-mind candidates for the 2024 presidential nomination among Republican voters, with Don Jr. pulling 29 percent of prospective voters and Ivanka sitting at sixteen percent.

In public, the two presidential siblings appear to be playing nice, with Don Jr., wishing Ivanka a happy birthday on Twitter in October 2019, and Ivanka sharing a sweet throwback photo of her, Don Jr., and Eric for Don Jr.’s birthday in December 2019, writing, “Happy Birthday to the best big brother! ‬‪I love you very much.”

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