News & Opinion | June 21, 2018 12:48 pm

Donald Trump Jr. Finding It Hard to be the Son of the President

All he wants is to make his dad proud, but the eldest son's life is now increasingly in shambles.

donald trump jr.
Donald Trump Jr. arrives for a ribbon cutting event for a new clubhouse at Trump Golf Links at Ferry Point, June 11, 2018 in The Bronx borough of New York City. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
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GQ’s Julia Ioffe spoke to old friends and Trump World insiders about Donald Trump Jr., the namesake son who has only ever wanted to please his father. But even though he has found his purpose as a star of the far-right, Trump Jr.’s personal life is in shambles after an alleged, longtime affair with a Celebrity Apprentice contestant tore his marriage apart. And then there’s Robert Mueller, whose investigation into the Russian influence on the 2016 Trump campaign looms large over the eldest son’s future.

Trump Jr. has always loved hunting and the outdoors. The hunter’s camo he has worn for much of his life has helped him to differentiate himself from his father, who has never understood his son’s interest in being outside. It wasn’t until Donald Trump started campaigning for the White House did he see the benefits of his son’s pasttime. According to Sam Nunberg, a Trump adviser at the time, when the governor of Iowa invited Trump to go hunting ahead of the state’s crucial caucuses, Trump joked, “Don, you can finally do something for me—you can go hunting.”

Ioffe writes that it’s hard being Don. He is constantly trying to make his mark, always seeking his dad’s approval.

“I think Don gets it a lot. Everyone talks about Ivanka, but Don also has a lot of pressure on him,” says a former Trump adviser, according to GQ. “Everyone wants approval from the father, especially if the father is Trump. He has a special place in his heart for Ivanka. But Don is the eldest son, he’s named after him, he’s doing the nitty-gritty on the real estate, he’s got a lot of responsibility, and Trump is tough on everybody. He’s the alpha male. He sees his son as somebody he has to groom.”

Don has found a purpose in being a savage defender of his father. And he has earned respect among the pro-Trump Republicans but also the populist fringe that propelled Trump to power. He has grown more sure-footed as a political creature, even if his personal life seems to be crumbling.