Ivanka Trump and her older brother, Donald Trump Jr., have represented a “good cop/bad cop” contrast in the Trump world. Ivanka has been trying to position herself as more of a right-wing intellectual and sort of a Millennial Peggy Noonan — her father has had a hard time understanding why she reads as much as she does — while Don Jr. is known for being a nasty street fighter who panders to the worst instincts of the Trumpian base. And a report by McKay Coppins for The Atlantic describes a “cold war” rivalry in which the siblings are fighting for their father’s favor.
Coppins describes the different ways in which Ivanka and Don Jr. have evolved. The journalist describes Ivanka as someone who went from “party-girl socialite to lean-in lifestyle guru” with “her own fashion line and a flagship boutique in SoHo”— while her brother, “with his slicked-back hair and pin-striped suits,” has “carried a certain fratty energy into adulthood that periodically got him into trouble.”
“Don had long ago come to understand that Ivanka was his father’s favorite,” Coppins explains. “’Daddy’s little girl,’ he liked to joke. But making peace with her husband’s status in the family was harder. Ever since Ivanka had married Jared (Kushner), Don had been made to watch as this effete, soft-spoken interloper cozied up to his dad.”
But in 2016, Coppins reports, Don Jr. “discovered that he had a knack for campaigning. Bounding into county fairs and hunting expos in boots and blue jeans, he dazzled crowds with his knowledge of duck blinds and fly-fishing — sounding more like a Trump voter than a Trump.” And Don Jr., Coppins notes, has emerged as “a kind of Breitbartian folk hero…. Don may have lost the inside game to Jared and Ivanka, but he was building a grassroots base of his own.”
As Don Jr. became increasingly visible in the GOP, Coppins explains, “the cold war between him and Ivanka intensified. Now that each had their own teams of allies and advisers, they had grown paranoid that the other’s henchmen were planting damaging stories about them in the press.”
In 2018, McClatchy published an article with the headline, “Trump Kids on the Campaign Trail: Don Jr. Wows, Ivanka Disappoints.” Ivanka, according to Coppins, suspected that Don Jr. was behind that article. And one of The Atlantic’s sources alleges that subsequently, Don Jr. “confronted Ivanka over rumors that her team was undermining him in off-the-record conversations with reporters.”
“Tell your people to stop trashing me to the media,” the source alleges that Don Jr. told Ivanka.
Coppins concludes his article by indicating that the rivalry between the two is unlikely to calm down in the months to come.
“While no one knew when Donald Trump would exit the White House,” Coppins writes, “it was clear what he would leave behind when he did: an angry, paranoid scrap of the country eager to buy what he was hawking — and an heir who knew how to keep the con alive.”