Don Jr and Eric Trump ‘in charge of picking Trump administration officials round two’

Former president’s sons keen ‘to keep the John Boltons of the world’ away from the White House should their father beat Joe Biden in November’s election

Joe Sommerlad
Thursday 25 April 2024 18:35 BST
Related video: Eric Trump asks why ‘every family that goes into politics enriches themselves’

Donald Trump’s adult sons, Donald Trump Jr and Eric Trump, are playing a central role in drawing up a list of potential candidates to join a second Trump administration in anticipation of their father’s victory over Joe Biden in November’s presidential election, Axios reports.

The brothers are not running the transition team, leaving that responsibility to the Trump campaign’s senior adviser, Susie Wiles, but are instead playing a lead role in vetting prospective officials and staffers on ideological grounds, according to the site.

By doing so, they reportedly hope to ensure a greater degree of loyalty than the former president experienced during his chaotic first term in the White House from 2017 to 2021.

Mr Trump Jr in particular has made it his mission “to keep the John Boltons of the world outside a second Trump administration”, one insider cited by Axios states, referring to the Republican’s estranged former national security adviser, a foreign policy hawk who has become a potent critic since being dismissed in September 2019.

The Independent has reached out to the Trump campaign for more information about the precise nature of the Trump brothers’ roles within the transition team.

The former president’s first cabinet included a number of figures like Mr Bolton, his first White House chief of staff, John Kelly, and defence secretary, Jim Mattis, who naively believed they could play a restraining role, helping to steer Mr Trump away from his worst instincts, an assumption that too frequently proved overly optimistic and more often than not resulted in swift departures.

The candidate is keen to avoid repeating such tactical missteps should he win a belated second term in the Oval Office and hopes to return with a government even closer to his own image, shorn of more moderate establishment Republicans who might raise objections to aspects of his agenda.

According to Axios, Mr Trump has become frustrated by other conservative groups like the Heritage Foundation think tank claiming to be “leading the charge on scrutinising the backgrounds of possible appointees”, only for their “Project 2025” policy papers to be used to attack his campaign.

Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr attend a speech by their father at the White House in August 2020
Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr attend a speech by their father at the White House in August 2020 (Evan Vucci/AP)

Ms Wiles and fellow Trump adviser Chris LaCivita issued a statement last November shooting down such attacks, insisting that “any personnel lists, policy agendas, or government plans published anywhere are merely suggestions. Policy recommendations from external allies are just that – recommendations”.

Unlike their sister Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner, Mr Trump’s older sons played little part in his first administration, having been entrusted with the care of his Trump Organization in New York.

They did, however, become celebrities on right-wing media and could be depended upon to stand up for their father against criticism and deride his numerous political enemies, with Eric appearing on Sean Hannity’s show on Fox News only this week to dismiss the New York hush money trial as a “bookkeeping” error of no consequence.

That said, Don Jr was involved eight years ago in crafting his father’s Interior Department because of his interest in outdoor sports and told The New York Post last month that he plans to be “very active” in a second Trump transition team in order to ensure “we stop some of the DC swamp rats and the swamp creatures from getting in there and doing their thing”.

He added: “There are so many great people to choose from now with the first four years of the administration, you have a good understanding of who would be great and loyal and implement the America First policies.”

He also said he had been attempting to influence his father’s pick for running mate, backing “fighters” like Ohio senator JD Vance, biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy and conservative media favourite Tucker Carlson over the likes of Kristi Noem, Tim Scott and Elise Stefanik.

The move to draft Don Jr and Eric Trump into the political wing of their father’s interests mirrors his recent powerplay to remove Ronna McDaniel as chair of the Republican National Committee, rewarding Ms McDaniel for seven years of dogged loyalty by replacing her with Michael Whatley and Lara Trump, Eric’s wife, to ensure that the institution and its resources are more completely at his beck and call.

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