It’s the Republicans’ party. But it’s been Donald, Melania, Ivanka, Tiffany, Eric and Donald Trump Jr.’s show for a while now.
Families are a feature at many political conventions, often softening the candidates’ rougher edges. Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s domestic life has been the central feature of his professional identity, with the deaths of a wife and two children lending the once-brash senator a pathos forged from the crucible of grief.
The Trump family at the 2020 Republican National Convention is something different. They’re not dramatis personae who advance the narrative of the hero. They’re key players in the ongoing merging of the Trump business empire with the Republican Party and the government, making America itself a family business.
“My father’s entire worldview revolves around the idea that we can always do even better. Imagine the life you want to have, one with a great job, a beautiful home, a perfect family,” Trump Jr. told the Republican National Convention on opening night Monday. “You can have it.”
Everything President Trump has now — his business, his party, his government — his family is helping him have it.
Trump Jr., who along with his girlfriend, Kimberly Guilfoyle, is a top party fundraiser and surrogate, called Biden “basically the Loch Ness monster of the swamp” at Monday’s session, a metaphor for the overly cozy relationships between (other) powerful people in politics.
Ivanka and her husband, Jared Kushner, have served as key advisors to the president, not just in name but in official function, while maintaining their expansive private business interests.
“Dad, people attack you for being unconventional, but I love you for being real, and I respect you for being effective,” Ivanka Trump said in her Thursday speech at the convention.
The Trump family business now rests in the hands of Eric, who, rather than keeping his distance, as one CNN reporter tweeted Thursday, “for some reason … is in the room for the president’s hurricane briefing at FEMA.”
“I miss working alongside you every single day, but I’m damn proud to be on the front lines of this fight,” Eric said in remarks directed at his father at the convention Tuesday.
There are conflicts of interest and the appearance of conflicts of interest, and there is the Trump Organization. On Thursday, the Washington Post reported that the Trump administration has funneled more than $900,000 of taxpayers’ money to the Trump Organization for services since the president took office, through the president’s visits to his resorts. GOP groups have reportedly paid the company at least $3.8 million in fees.
As if to illustrate the point, the White House rushed to the family business’ defense. “The Washington Post is blatantly interfering with the business relationships of the Trump Organization, and it must stop,” a White House spokesman told the newspaper, also claiming the administration was building a “dossier” on the reporter for his “false” stories.
Then there’s the campaign’s merging with Trump’s official duties, which has alarmed anti-corruption experts as Trump converted the White House lawn into a staging ground for the Republican Party.
“This abomination may be the most visible misuse of official position for private gain in America’s history,” tweeted Walter Shaub, Trump’s first director of the Office of Government Ethics. “It is an abuse of the power entrusted to this man, the breach of a sacred trust. It is the civic equivalent of a mortal sin — maybe a religious one too. And it is a harbinger.”
The first Trump family member to walk out of the White House, onto a platform erected on the grounds for purely for partisan purposes, was Ivanka, a federal employee electioneering on federal property.