Days before his father was inaugurated as president of the United States in 2017, Eric Trump told ABC he would stay out of politics while running the family business.
“Listen, I think it’s important to keep separation of church and state,” he said.
Back in January 2017, this was the talking point the whole Trump family was using. Even though Eric’s father refused to do what other presidents have done and divest from his business interests, he made statements about the importance of avoiding conflicts of interest by keeping his children out of politics, and vice versa.
“What I’m going to be doing is my two sons, who are right here, Don and Eric, are going to be running the company,” Trump said during a January 2017 news conference. “They are not going to discuss it with me.”
But fast-forward 27 months and the Trumps are no longer even pretending that there’s a meaningful separation between business and politics.
In an Atlantic magazine profile of Ivanka Trump that was published on Friday morning, President Trump admits that his eldest sons — Eric and Don Jr., who are supposedly busy running the Trump Organization while he’s president — are “enjoying” and “very much into” politics.
From Elaina Plott’s interview of the president (emphasis mine):
In our conversation, the president wanted to be clear: He was very proud of all his children. “Barron is young, but he’s got wonderful potential,” he said. “And Tiffany’s doing extremely well. Don is, uh, he’s enjoying politics; actually, it’s very good. And Eric is running the business along with Don, and also very much into politics. I mean, the children—the children have been very, very good.”
Indeed, Eric and Don Jr. have emerged as two of their father’s most prominent public surrogates.
Don Jr. opens for his dad at political rallies, where he recently made headlines for attacking “loser teachers,” and is a regular guest on Fox News. He’s even publicly mused about running for president.
Eric keeps a slightly lower profile — though that’s not saying much. He’s also a fixture on Fox News. In fact, on the same morning that the Atlantic’s profile of Ivanka dropped, Eric was on Fox & Friends with his wife, Lara Trump, who now serves as a senior adviser to her father-in-law’s reelection campaign, repeating the president’s favorite talking points about the Russia investigation.
ERIC TRUMP: "The deep state does exist. It does exist and it did exist."— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) April 12, 2019
LARA TRUMP: "Guess who the first person is that called them out? Donald Trump, way back when. He's always right!" pic.twitter.com/383BNbxYpl
Trump’s presidency hasn’t been all good for the Trump Organization — his unpopularity in major population centers has led to his name being pried off buildings, and some of his properties have lost millions of dollars. But he frequently promotes the business he still owns and profits from by visiting his private clubs and hotels and has lined his own pockets through government agencies spending money at them.
The president is supposed to make decisions that are in the best interests of the American people. But by refusing not only to divest from his family business but also to erect any sort of meaningful firewall between it and his administration, President Trump has opened himself up to criticism that major policy decisions — such as the business tax cuts he successfully promoted in late 2017 — are possibly motivated by financial self-interest.
This is an unprecedented arrangement in American history — and one that the founders of our country sought to avoid by preventing presidents from receiving gifts. The Trumps seemed to have some self-awareness about this in early 2017. Now, however, they’re shameless.