Donald Trump Jr. is planning on campaigning for Republican candidates in the 2018 midterm elections, even though he is supposedly focused on running the family business empire.
Among the candidates who will benefit from Trump Jr.'s stumping are Greg Pence, the brother of Vice President Mike Pence who is seeking a congressional seat in Indiana, according to Axios. That event will take place on April 23 in New York. Trump Jr. will also make an early August appearance for an event benefiting Rep. Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y.
The decision by Trump Jr. to campaign for Zeldin suggests that he may be planning a more expansive tour, since Zeldin would hardly be the logical person for a prominent member of the Trump family to assist. He was one of 12 Republican House members to vote "No" on the president's signature tax reform legislation in December, according to The New York Times. Zeldin later denounced the bill as "a geographic redistribution of wealth… when you are taking extra money from a state like New York or New Jersey to pay for a deeper tax cut elsewhere."
Zeldin added, "If you are going to make a change, you phase it down over two-, three-, four-plus years to a number that fully protects middle-income itemizers. That's better policy."
Trump Jr. has aroused controversy in the past over his political activities. During the 2016 presidential campaign, the president's son interacted with Wikileaks in a way that seemingly involved improper coordination between his father's campaign and the interests of a whistleblowing organization openly hostile to the American government, according to The Atlantic. He also met with a lawyer connected to the Kremlin to obtain dirt on Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, according to The New York Times.
On those occasions, however, Trump Jr. had not made any formal pledge to run the Trump businesses while leaving governing to his father. After he became president, Donald Trump left his business empire in the hands of his sons Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump through a revocable trust, according to BBC News. Although the Trump sons promised that they would not discuss business with their father, Eric Trump later revealed that he may share quarterly reports with his father, and a report by ProPublica discovered that Trump could withdraw money from the trust at any time and without disclosure.
Trump Jr. has also at times seemed to trade in on his connection to the president to assist his business empire. In February, while selling Trump-branded luxury condominiums in India, the president's son offered "conversation and dinner" with potential buyers willing to fork over $38,000, according to The Washington Post. He also headlined an event in New Delhi with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi that was promoted through an advertisement which asked readers, "Trump has arrived. Have you?"
Julie McCarthy, a New Delhi correspondent for NPR, broke down exactly what was so problematic about Trump Jr.'s actions in India:
They invite investors to book their apartments, and for the privilege, they join Donald Trump Jr. for a personal conversation and dinner. Now, watchdogs on ethics say, look, this is nothing short of selling access, and therein lies the potential for the conflict of interest.
Trump Jr. has also been a controversial figure due to his association with the far right. He has retweeted or otherwise expressed support for outspoken misogynist Mike Cernovich, far right blogger Stefan Molyneux, Pizzagate conspiracy theorist Jack Posobiec and Infowars' Alex Jones and Paul Joseph Watson. More recently, Trump Jr. got in trouble for expressing support on Twitter for conspiracy theories that attacked David Hogg, one of the students who survived the Parkland school shooting, according to The Washington Post.
While Trump Jr.'s decision to stump for Republican candidates is clearly not the first occasion when he has blurred the lines between the Trump business empire and Trump's political activities, it raises further questions about whether the Trump family may take advantage of their political connections to unfairly aid their business interests, or vice versa. In addition, it raises questions about where the line is drawn between Trump Jr. merely stumping as a supporter of his father and actually using his father's political activities to implicitly or explicitly promote the Trump business empire.