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Ivanka has abandoned him and Melania has White House PTSD: What Trump’s family really think of a second term

The thoughts of Melania, Don Jr, Eric, Lara, Ivanka, Jared Kushner and Mary Trump on the prospect of the former president launching another tilt at the White House in two years’ time, Joe Sommerlad writes

Wednesday 16 November 2022 19:27 GMT

Donald Trump announced a new run for the White House in 2024 on Tuesday evening, unmoved by some disastrous midterm elections results in which many of his most high-profile candidates lost their races.

While the Republican Party had been loudly predicting a “red wave” on Election Day, flooding the House of Representatives and Senate with conservatives in order to effectively disable Joe Biden’s legislative agenda, what actually happened was less a wave, more a light splash.

The Democrats instead retained control of the upper chamber of Congress while the GOP appears likely to obtain only a tiny majority in the House, sparking an outbreak of acrimonious finger-pointing, excuses and scapegoating among right-leaning lawmakers. Marjorie Taylor Greene has talked of a “civil war” erupting between traditional Republicans and the Maga movement, with much of the blame laid squarely at Mr Trump’s Palm Beach door.

Strategists were quick to turn on the 45th president after his stranglehold over their party failed to yield the results he promised, with a number of the election-denying novelty candidates he had endorsed like Dr Mehmet Oz, Kari Lake and Herschel Walker unable to storm to victory.

One man who still believes in Donald Trump is Mr Trump himself, who, despite facing multiple investigations into his business empire, private life and hoarding of government documents, is determined to secure a belated second term in the Oval Office.

He has clearly learned nothing whatsoever from a first term that saw him fail to build his signature US-Mexico border wall, invite ridicule on the world stage and get impeached twice, first for trying to extort the Ukrainian government and then for inciting a deadly assault on the heart of American democracy based on a lie.

Assuming Mr Trump himself is indeed all in, what do the rest of his family think about a prospective return to Washington?

Melania Trump

The former first lady never appeared to particularly enjoy her time at the White House, famously complaining in leaked audio that she loathed having to organise its (much mocked) Christmas decorations, batting away her husband’s hand on the steps of Air Force One and wearing a jacket bearing the slogan “I really don’t care, do u?” on a visit to a migrant detention centre in Texas, seemingly a dig at the media.

You might think she would be much happier pursuing a life of leisure at Mar-a-Lago and hawking NFTs rather than returning to the political fray but, asked about Mr Trump’s possible second run by Pete Hegseth of Fox News in an interview in May, she answered enigmatically: “Never say never.”

Trump admits Melania's rough time in White House: 'It hasn't been a joy ride'

“If he runs, she will be right there,” a family adviser confidently told Politico in September last year. “She’s not going to have her own rallies. But did she ever?”

Sure enough, Melania played a central role at Mr Trump’s campaign launch at Mar-a-Lago on 15 November, meeting and greeting guests beforehand and standing up to accept cheers and applause during his speech.

Donald Trump admitted during his 2024 announcement that Ms Trump’s time in the White House “hasn’t been a joy ride”.

Donald Trump Jr

One of the former president’s most outspoken and crassest cheerleaders is his eldest son and namesake, a favourite presence on right-wing media and with Maga crowds, last heard from tweeting the word “Bloodbath!” early on Election Night last week, only to be proven conclusively wrong.

Don Jr is clearly all in on his father running again but has often hedged his bets about whether it will actually happen.

“That’s gotta be sort of up to him,” he said when asked by Fox about it in July.

“He’s gonna see what he wants to do, how he’s feeling. I think he’s pretty honest with himself about it. You know, if he wakes up one morning and he sort of feels like Joe Biden looks on a daily basis, he’ll probably say, ‘my time is no longer’.

“That said, I think he’s got more energy than any human being I know, so I’m probably not too worried about that ever happening.”

Don Jr was absent from his father’s campaign launch, telling reporters that he was away hunting in the western US and was unable to fly back to Florida in time due to adverse weather.

He nevertheless showed his support by tweeting vigorously throughout the speech, sharing videos and key lines.

Eric Trump

Mr Trump’s second son, often cruelly characterised as the lesser of the pair, not least by Saturday Night Live, has been less prominent of late but did angrily address the question of 2024 when he appeared on Fox to defend his father after the FBI raid on Mar-a-Lago in August.

Mr Trump insisted that his dad had done nothing wrong and was simply being persecuted as part of a bid to stop him running again.

“All they want to do is they want to get Donald Trump,” he fumed.

Donald Trump Jr, Kimberly Guilfoyle, Eric Trump and Lara Trump (Reuters)

“They raise money on it, they send fundraising emails about it, they brag on camera about it. They go after him, they subpoena him. Every single day we get another subpoena, and they do it for one reason: Because they don’t want Donald Trump to run and win again in 2024.”

He continued: “Honestly, I hope – and I’m saying this for the first time – I hope he goes out and beats these guys again because honestly, this country can’t survive this nonsense. It can’t.

“This is not who we are. This is who Venezuela is… This is banana republic antics. Having a home of the 45th president of the United States raided by FBI agents, safes broken open, this is not who we are as a democracy. Imagine if that happened to Barack Obama. The world would be in an uproar.”

Eric Trump was rewarded for his loyalty at Mar-a-Lago on 15 November, when his father asked him to stand up during his 2024 presidential run speech and hailed him for his efforts.

Stand up, Eric!” said Mr Trump .“I think he got more subpoenas than any man in the history of our country. So unfair.

“Al Capone got far less. Billy the kid got almost none. Jesse James, no. Eric Trump... he’s a PhD in subpoenas. I appreciate the job you do, and the abuse you’ve taken, I really do.”

Lara Trump

Another conservative media darling, Eric Trump’s wife can always be relied upon to defend the family’s interests at no little risk to her own credibility, as when she complained that Mr Trump made only “$4” during his time in the White House.

Most recently, she took to Sky News Australia to threaten Mr DeSantis, telling him Mafia-style that it would be “nicer” if he did not seek the Republican nomination in 2024, suggesting she is still eyeing a return for her father-in-law.

“I think he’s a smart enough guy to know that it would be great to have all the support of this party, of the America first, Maga movement, whatever you want to call it, fully behind him in 2028,” she said of the Florida governor.

“I can tell you those primaries get very messy and very raw. We’ve experienced that before. So wouldn’t it be nicer for him, and I think he knows this, to wait until 2028?”

Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner

The former president’s beloved daughter appears to want no part of a Trump 2024 campaign, pointedly skipping his launch event and then telling reporters that she “[did] not plan to be involved in politics”.

”This time around, I am choosing to prioritise my young children and the private life we are creating as a family,” Ms Trump said. “While I will always love and support my father, going forward I will do so outside the political arena.”

She added a subtle but unmistakeable rebuke to her father’s policies, saying: “I am grateful to have had the honour of serving the American people and I will always be proud of many of our administration’s accomplishments.” (Emphasis added.)

John Kelly with Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner (Getty)

Ivanka’s husband Jared Kushner appeared set to follow suit. According to The New York Post, he spent time over the weekend at half-sister Tiffany Trump’s wedding avoiding his appeals for their support.

“Trump thought he could convince Ivanka this weekend to come back and campaign for him as she was the most requested speaker after the president himself last time around… but so far she’s resisting his entreaties and holding firm, as is Jared,” an unnamed insider told the tabloid.

“They both feel they got burned in Washington and don’t want to go back and expose themselves and their children to another bitter campaign.”

Like Melania, the duo did not have a happy time in DC and reportedly fell out behind the scenes with allies including John Kelly, Kellyanne Conway, Steve Bannon and Chris Christie, who accused them of profiting from nepotism rather than being in the corridors of power on merit.

Still, Mr Kushner did attend Mr Trump’s campaign speech at Mar-a-Lago – without his wife.

Mary Trump

The black sheep of the Trump family is the president’s niece Mary, a psychologist who has emerged as one of her uncle’s most incisive critics since releasing her book about him, Too Much and Never Enough.

Hilariously dubbing him “a black hole of need” recently, Ms Trump is never short of an apocalyptic prediction about Mr Trump’s grasping after power and she warned last week that the clock is ticking for the Department of Justice and attorney general Merrick Garland to decide on whether to indict him.

“If he isn’t, then much worse things are going to start happening,” she warned.

As recently as last September, Ms Trump was hopeful that her uncle was “too busy” with lawsuits to mount a political comeback but, just three months later, she was already warning that he would stop at nothing to return to power, a forecast that looks about to be borne out.

This story was updated at 8pm Pacific Time on Tuesday 15 November 2022 to add details of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign launch.

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