Donald Trump Jr. and his brother, Eric, could have been a pair of Poor Little Richie Riches, sledding through the high life on their last name, trailing bad behavior like spilled Cristal.
In fact, their father President Donald Trump, who was such a hands-off dad he’s said he never changed a diaper of his five kids, once predicted it.
“Statistically, my children have a very bad shot,” he told Playboy in 1990. “Children of successful people are generally very, very troubled, not successful.”
That the two eldest Trump sons, Don Jr., 38, and Eric, 32, appear to be hard-working executive vice presidents in their father’s companies instead of louche trust fund babies may have more to do with the influence of their mother, Ivana, and her Czechoslovakian parents than their father, according to an article in The Washington Post.
And with recent New York Times reports that Don Jr. met with a Russian government-linked attorney in June 2016 after being promised damaging information about Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, the sons have come into the spotlight once more.
The boys and their sister, Ivanka, spent youthful summers near Zlin in the Czech countryside with Ivana’s parents, Milos Zelnicek, an engineer who taught them to fish and shoot, and Maria, a former shoe-factory worker.
Zlin also may have been a refuge from the publicity storm surrounded their parents’ divorce in 1992, as their father left Ivana for Marla Maples.
According to Vanity Fair, Ivana at the time told columnist Liz Smith that her daughter once asked, “Mommy, does it mean I’m not going to be Ivanka Trump anymore?” Donald Jr., then 12, railed against his father. “How can you say you love us? You don’t love us! You don’t even love yourself. You just love your money.”
Their father, the boys said, was always working.
“I would say my father still was very involved, albeit on different terms,” Don Jr. now says. “It wasn’t a ‘Hey, son, let’s go play catch in the backyard’ kind of father-son relationship…It was ‘Hey, you’re back from school? Come down to the office.’ ”
After college, Don Jr. took a gap year, of sorts, living in the back of a truck in Colorado, hunting, camping and bartending in Aspen. He joined the family business in 2001; Eric came on board in 2006.
Unlike his father, Don Jr. unplugs on weekends when he trundles his wife, former model Vanessa Haydon, and five children to a rustic Catskills cabin.
“I still have the ability to turn [work] off, and separate business from life,” he told The Post. “Whereas, for him, I think business was life.”
In 2014, Eric married former personal trainer and “Inside Edition” producer Lara Yunaska at a lavish ceremony at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach. He was only 22 when he launched the Eric Trump Foundation that gives millions each year to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
On the campaign trail, Ivanka became the calm antidote to her father’s bombast until she had her third child in March. Now, her brothers have become their father’s surrogates.
But the Trump boys haven’t completely escaped scandal.
There was the major stumble when Don Jr. did a radio interview with a white nationalist . He later said he hadn’t known the white supremacist would be on the interview roundtable.
After their father’s campaign kick-off, old, undated photos resurfaced on several websites showing the Trump sons posing in Zimbabwe a few years before with their big game kills.
In one, the brothers hold a dead leopard; in another, Don Jr. holds the tail of an elephant in one hand and a big knife in another. The brothers also pose with a Cape buffalo and a 12-foot-8 crocodile hanging from a tree.
Suddenly, they were slapped with the entitled rich kids label they had worked hard to avoid.
Asked before the election about what would happen to the Trump Organization should their father lose the presidential race, Don Jr. says the company comes out ahead because of the enhanced name recognition.
Added Eric, “I think he’s already won.”
Editor’s note: This story originally published in May 2016. It has been updated to reflect President Donald Trump’s presidential election win, and Donald Trump Jr.’s June 2016 meeting with a Russian government-linked attorney.