But the brothers say they are convinced that they and their father have taken sufficient steps to create a management structure that will allow them to avoid creating the kind of appearance of conflict of interest that plagued Hillary Clinton as secretary of state while her husband continued to operate the Clinton Foundation. The measures they have taken, they say, have included explicit instructions to their domestic and international business partners not to reach out to anyone in the United States government for help.
The brothers’ expressions tightened and their voices rose when they were asked, in separate interviews, about suggestions that their father was using the presidency as a way to enhance the family’s profits.
“Who in their right mind would try to enrich themselves by spending a fortune to run against 17 seasoned politicians on the Republican side, to then go up against the Clinton machine, Wall Street, Hollywood, P.C. culture?” Don Jr. asked. “To use that as the way to enrich yourself is laughable.”
The family, he added, would face heat whatever it did. If the Trump Organization sold its assets, there would be allegations of impropriety, as foreign investors would most likely be involved. If it liquidated and put the cash into the bank, he said, his father would be accused of artificially inflating interest rates for personal gain.
For critics, though, particularly Democrats in Congress, the continuation of the global operations of the Trump Organization — even if President Trump is not directly involved — is fraught with problems, with even some Republican observers questioning whether the brothers can steer clear of trouble, regardless of their intentions.
Even with no new foreign deals, the company is in a position to get tax breaks and other business inducements from state and local officials. While such incentives are hardly unusual for growing businesses, with this family business they will unavoidably raise questions of whether different players involved might be seeking special White House favors.
“People are going to offer them sweetheart deals,” said Peter Schweizer, the conservative author whose book “Clinton Cash” argued, among other things, that Mrs. Clinton had used her position as secretary of state to favor donors to the foundation.
“It is just the way it works, as it comes down to the fact that people want access to national leaders in the country, and unfortunately in the past, be it Billy Carter, Neil Bush or Roger Clinton, relatives become vehicles to accomplishing that,” Mr. Schweizer added, referring to relatives in past administrations who drew scrutiny because of their business activities.
The two oldest brothers have worked in various roles at the Trump Organization for much of their adult lives, but without their father’s daily presence — and with the departure of Ivanka from the company offices — their responsibilities have grown. Eric Trump, 33, oversees construction and says he, not his father, is now the named officer on hundreds of Trump companies. Don Jr., 39, is in charge of commercial leasing, as well as many of the remaining companies.
And while they share a certain younger-version-of-their-father look, their personalities are distinct. Don Jr., the Trump child with the clearest memory of the divorce that split up his family, is the most publicly confident, and the most politically conservative.
Eric appears more cautious, more worried about how what he says will be perceived. Yet neither is particularly shy.
“There has never been a Trump that is introverted,” Eric said, laughing.
What is it like — after a lifetime as the sons of Donald Trump, and now business executives in their own right, and even co-stars in a reality television show — to be the sons of the president of the United States?
“It’s bigger, it’s bigger,” Eric said, struggling for the right word, then turning to a superlative, a habit inherited from his father. “This is really the biggest thing in the world.”
For all the talk of its global reach, the Trump Organization still has a family feel to it.
The small offices assigned to Eric, Ivanka and Don Jr. are lined up in a row, with Ivanka’s, like her father’s, sitting unused since she left the company and moved to Washington with her husband, Jared Kushner, who is serving as a senior White House adviser.
During the recent snowstorm in New York — with schools closed for the day — Don Jr., who has five children, had his 9-year-old daughter in the office, sharing breakfast sent up from a restaurant downstairs. Trump Tower, by and large, seems back to normal since the building’s most famous resident moved to Washington, though Secret Service agents are still stationed in the Trump Organization lobby and elsewhere.
Just days before his inauguration in January, Mr. Trump announced plans to resign from hundreds of entities he controls and place his assets in a trust. The move drew sharp criticism from ethics lawyers, who said the move was window dressing because Mr. Trump, as sole beneficiary of the trust, still owns the assets, benefits financially from any money they might make and will quite likely get updates, Eric said, roughly every quarter on the financial health of the company.
Still, President Trump assigned control of the trust to Don Jr. and Mr. Weisselberg, with Eric as the sole member of what he described as an advisory council. The three men have to vote unanimously, Eric said, to make decisions regarding new deals and other major business decisions.
To Don Jr., everything the company does these days seems to breed controversy. Much of it he says is unwarranted. For instance, people have questioned why corporate records in Delaware do not show that the president has resigned from his companies registered there. Eric says that he has, but that it can take more than a year for records there to be updated.
And the brothers expressed irritation that their presence at their father’s announcement of Judge Neil M. Gorsuch to fill the Supreme Court vacancy provoked media reports that they were not honoring the agreement to stay clear of White House matters. In fact, they said, they were in Washington to visit the new Trump hotel in the Old Post Office Building on Pennsylvania Avenue and stopped by to say hello to their father and share in the historic moment.
Don Jr. said he knew his father was busy, and had called him only once since his inauguration. Eric said he talked to his father “a few” times a week. But he insisted he knew which lines not to cross.
“In the next four years, do I ever expect him to say: ‘Hey, how’s Turnberry? How’s the new green? How’s the new 10th tee?’” Eric said. In a case like this, he said, he would probably say, “Dad, it’s great” and “The property looks awesome.”
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