Last June, Donald Trump Jr. released an episode of his Triggered podcast that was up there with some of the most cringeworthy content to ever make its way to the internet. Interviewing his dad, the then first son started things off by telling the audience, “I figured with Father’s Day coming up we have a great opportunity to sit with the most powerful father in the world.” Then he segued to his big moment, the one he had been clearly practicing in the mirror for weeks. “I have a couple questions that I think are on all of the minds of our viewers,” he told the president, who was sitting across from him. “So the first one, which is the big one also on my mind, is which is your favorite Trump child and why is it Ivanka?” Obviously, the question was meant to be a joke, which was made deeply awkward by the fact that most of the Western world knew it was true. Clearly wanting to respond, “This is why it’s not you, you little shit,” the elder Trump scoffed and told someone off camera, “Wise guy over here. All the same, 100%.”
“100%?” Junior repeated, seemingly in disbelief.
“100%,” the father whose approval he never got, said. “I’ll even say you for the purposes of this interview, but other than that all the same.”
“Well I’m going to remember that,” Junior trailed off, likely making a mental note to watch the exchange over and over and over again and maybe see about getting it in writing.
Obviously, the segment was hugely uncomfortable because of everything we know about the father and son’s relationship, which is that Donald the Elder has long viewed his namesake as a fuckup. (In fact, according to Ivana Trump’s memoir, it was her idea to name their first child after her then husband, who was totally against the idea. “You can’t do that!” she quotes Trump saying in her book, Raising Trump. “What if he’s a loser?”) Growing up, Junior’s dad called him “Donny,” per GQ, which is an interesting choice given that the real estate developer wrote of the nickname, in The Art of the Deal, “[it’s] a name I hate.” Father-son bonding reportedly involved Trump picking up Junior at the University of Pennsylvania to go to a Yankees game and wordlessly slapping his kid across the face for wearing the team’s jersey, and telling him “put on a suit and meet me outside,” a story the family has denied. In February 2019, the real estate developer’s former fixer, Michael Cohen, explained to lawmakers that his boss didn‘t trust his oldest son with anything, saying that the senior Trump “frequently told me and others that his son Don Jr. had the worst judgment of anyone in the world.”
All of which has led, over the years, to Donny doing deeply awkward things in an apparent attempt to win his father’s approval, from setting up a 2016 meeting in Trump Tower with Russians promising dirt on Hillary Clinton to posting videos online in which he all but pleads with his dad to love him. And while it’s not clear where he stands to date re: the ranking of Trump children the 45th president actually likes, he has apparently received something of a an internal promotion! Per CNN:
Former President Donald Trump has elevated his son Donald Trump Jr. to an unofficial new role inside his orbit as he weighs the idea of a comeback presidential bid in 2024 that would require him to maintain a vise grip on the Republican base for any chance of success. Behind the scenes, Trump’s eldest son has emerged as one of the former president’s chief political advisers, according to multiple sources who are close to Trump or involved with his political operation. Like his brother-in-law Jared Kushner, who spent much of the last four years attempting to steer the Trump show from inside the West Wing, Trump Jr. has been working closely with his father’s team to ensure the next iteration of the 45th President’s political career is running smoothly and that his father is endorsing reliably conservative candidates.
But his role extends far beyond operational guidance. In the months since Trump left Washington, Trump Jr.—who never worked in the White House and is undeniably the most conservative member of the Trump family—has been steadily influencing his father’s political instincts…Trump Jr.’s impact was on full display earlier this month, when Trump caught himself fuming at a televised interview with Gov. Asa Hutchinson over the Arkansas Republican’s stance on transgender issues, one that would have previously escaped his attention. Unlike the days when Trump would camp out in an annex off the Oval Office, griping to aides about critical cable coverage he’d seen of himself or his administration, this time he was incensed by Hutchinson’s veto of a Republican-backed bill blocking gender-affirming treatments for transgender youth in his state.
The former President had been watching one of his favorite primetime programs, “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” from the residence at his Mar-a-Lago club when Carlson and Hutchinson got into a sparring match over the matter. A person familiar with the episode said Trump was “cursing at the television,” and became increasingly frustrated by Hutchinson’s rebuttals. Two days later, the ex-President released a statement through his Save America leadership PAC accusing Hutchinson of supporting the “chemical castration of children.”
According to people within the ex-president’s orbit, “it was abundantly clear” that Don Jr., who has made numerous transphobic statements over the years, had influenced his father’s thinking. “Don has the pulse of the base and knows where the energy of the party is, so he’s sort of the go-to person now on a lot of political things,” one Trump aide told CNN re: Trump’s shift from a noted bigot to an even bigger bigot under his son’t tutelage. “He was always fighting for the cause big-picture wise, but now Don is taking more of a leading role in shaping the political direction of Trump’s post-presidency,” said a person close to the younger Trump.
Those close to the former President say Trump Jr. has also become a key conduit for GOP candidates vying for the 45th President’s support. He has been intimately involved in the vetting process for Republican hopefuls seeking Trump’s coveted endorsement, intervening when he suspects a candidate is unworthy of his father’s blessing or urging Trump to avoid prematurely placing his finger on the scale in crowded Senate primaries.
The younger Trump has been advising his father on messaging, too, as Trump navigates bitter divides inside the GOP over issues like voting rights, so-called “cancel culture” and corporate accountability. And as the party grapples with major philosophical questions about its future, people close to Trump Jr. said he has urged his father to remain in the trenches on cultural issues especially, arguing that they are most likely to animate grassroots groups and MAGA voters ahead of and beyond the 2022 midterm election.
Apparently largely blaming Ivanka Trump‘s husband for his 2020 loss, a source told CNN “I don’t think the President is looking to Jared [Kushner] for advice these days.” Instead, when he needs “a gut check,” Junior is “definitely the family member [Trump] talks to most.”
One thing the duo has no doubt been discussing is the 2024 presidential race. On Monday, the ex-president told Fox News that he is “very seriously, beyond seriously,” considering running again. What might a second term for Trump look like? Probably, a lot like the first, meaning fawning praise of dictators:
Trump's comments to Hannity on Kim Jong Un and Vladimir Putin are beyond parody pic.twitter.com/AgsS4FvH4P
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) April 20, 2021
…as well as doing very little to stop the spread of COVID-19:
Trump says that he was "asked to do a commercial saying take the vaccine" because"a lot of our people don’t want to take the vaccine," but he isn't too keen on it because of the Johnson & Johnson pause, which he seemingly attributes to the FDA being in bed with Pfizer. pic.twitter.com/LNAKzM4GOb
— Justin Baragona (@justinbaragona) April 20, 2021
And if he doesn’t run? CNN chillingly reports that “among some Trump aides, the younger Trump has also been floated as a potential successor to the throne should his father decline to run for a non-consecutive second term in 2024.”
— Inside the Messy Breakup of an OnlyFans Model and Her Über-Wealthy Boyfriend— Wyoming Tells Donald Trump Jr. to Sit Down and STFU— A Wave of Displaced New Yorkers Is Upending the Hamptons Social Order— How a Group of Rich Memphians Acted on Trump’s Big Lie During Capitol Attack— Prosecutors Are Lining Up Witnesses in Trump Investigations— Republicans Brave Plan to Stop Mass Shootings: Do Nothing— Next-Level Harassment of Female Journalists Puts News Outlets to the Test— Six Photographers Share Images From Their COVID Year— From the Archive: American Nightmare, the Ballad of Richard Jewell— Serena Williams, Michael B. Jordan, Gal Gadot, and more are coming to your favorite screen April 13–15. Get your tickets to Vanity Fair’s Cocktail Hour, Live! here.