Donald Trump Jr. is frustrated, and like his father, he’s airing out his anger on Twitter — a lot.
About 250 times in just the last two weeks.
That’s already twice as much as he tweeted in all of January, all of February, and all of May. After staying relatively quiet through the first few months of his father’s presidency and during the transition, Trump Jr. is ready to fight with you on the internet whether you’re a Democrat, an official carrying out the Russia investigation, or the media — all forces he believes are determined to unfairly take down the Trump administration and family.
At a time when the White House is struggling to find a cohesive messaging strategy, Trump Jr. — the oldest of Trump’s five children and the one whose general demeanor and talking style are most similar to those of his father — is stepping in. He has started live-tweeting major congressional hearings. And wedged between occasional pictures of his dinner (soft-shell crab he cooked for his wife) or of his kids (his son chopping wood "under strict supervision" for a cookout), as well as promotions for Trump properties (“Get Dad the #FathersDay gift he deserves - a #Gift Card to #TrumpFerryPoint!”), Trump Jr.’s feed offers a steady stream of the president’s most ardent supporters, delivered directly to his 1.7 million followers.
It’s a role that makes sense even if it seems unusual for a presidential relative: Out of the president’s children and most of his top aides, Trump Jr. is closest to the base that elected his father. And he sees an opportunity to help the president — by speaking out. One source close to the administration said that Trump Jr. is so attuned to his father’s brand of politics that he occasionally checks in with the staff of Breitbart — the far-right conservative website.
Trump Jr. essentially ran his own rapid-response operation this month as he countered former FBI director James Comey during his hearing before the Senate intelligence committee, and backed Attorney General Jeff Sessions during his turn before the same committee a week later. And the operation hasn’t stopped with the hearings.
Before the White House or the Republican National Committee could respond to the Washington Post’s report that Trump is under investigation for obstructing justice, Trump Jr. had already retweeted a tweet calling out the special counsel for “leaking prejudicial information.”
And earlier that day, not long after a shooting that targeted Republican members of Congress at a baseball practice on Wednesday, Trump Jr. tied the tragic incident that injured five to a controversial production of Julius Caesar that depicts the assassination of a ruler dressed like the president.
He’s “definitely more aggressive,” said a source close to the administration. “Wouldn’t you be? This Russia thing is over the top.”
Those close to Trump Jr. say he is protective of the Trump family. “Look, he’s defending his dad and his family — everybody understands that!” said a source who has spent time with Trump Jr. in the last two weeks.
Asked about his more vocal turn in recent days, Trump Jr., who now runs the president's sprawling business empire along with his brother Eric Trump, told Fox News’ Jeanine Pirro — a longtime friend of the Trump family — that the attacks on his father had forced him to become louder.
"When I see what's going on now, when I see what went on for 10 months with the Russia nonsense and the smear and then we see what happens [during the Comey hearing], it's like give me a break," Trump Jr. said. "They literally spent 10 months chasing a rabbit down the hole with essentially the sole purpose of taking down my father."
"They've taken it so far. I see it, and I've taken it personally — perhaps that's why I've been more vocal about it lately."
In the same segment, negative news reports about Ivanka Trump’s clothing business, which has come under fire for outsourcing manufacturing to Indonesia and paying workers low wages, and Eric Trump’s charity were also treated as media smears. A recent Forbes story alleged that the Trump Organization has profited from Eric Trump’s foundation.
Neither the White House nor Trump Jr. responded to requests for comment.
As Trump Jr. settles into his role as his father’s messenger to the base, Republican party committees are trying to make the most of his popularity with Trump fans. Trump Jr. — along with Eric Trump and Eric's wife Lara Trump — recently met with RNC Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel and members of a pro-Trump outside group to discuss political strategy for the 2018 midterm elections. Earlier this year, Trump Jr. helped raise money for the Dallas County GOP by headlining its annual Reagan Day Dinner. Some have speculated that Trump Jr. has political ambitions of his own — his speech to the Republican National Convention last year was well-received by Republicans.
Trump Jr., who likes to hunt and fish, also helped now-representative Greg Gianforte in last month's Montana special election, fundraising for the Republican candidate and hunting prairie dogs.
The RNC declined to give specifics on what officials have discussed with Trump Jr. in terms of political strategy, but Lindsay Jancek, a spokesperson for the committee, said that “efforts between Donald Trump Jr. and the RNC have been incredibly successful in pushing back against the media.”
Top Republicans say Trump Jr. has been willing to travel to fundraise and help campaign for Republicans around the country, especially in areas where Trump’s brand of populism brought former Obama voters to the Republican Party.
"Don has a big voice and one thing I was always impressed about with Don was that he understood the Trump movement and he had a good feel on it early early on," said Sam Nunberg, who previously served as a political adviser to Trump.
Trump Jr.'s recent tweets and activism seem like an extension of his involvement in last year's campaign: a mix of aggressive politics, occasional controversy, and an elevated role. During the campaign, Trump Jr. compared Syrian refugees to Skittles, for instance. More broadly, his continued involvement in his father’s life has drawn accusations of a conflict of interest, as the line between the Trump administration and the president's businesses keeps blurring.
“His son being more vocal advertises the conflict,” said Robert Weissman, president of watchdog group Public Citizen. “President Trump has done nothing meaningful to reduce his personal conflicts of interest. And I think for those who want to curry favor with the presidents, it’s completely obvious how to do it: by staying in his hotels, buying his condos and becoming members of his clubs. Trump Jr. highlights those institutional and structural problems with the administration.”
Trump Jr. clarified in the same Fox News interview that although he's not involved in the administration and chose to run the family business instead, he's always going to be political.
"I'm a politically minded guy. I always have been," Trump Jr. said. "I was before we even got involved in politics, or my father ever got involved in politics."
But asked about a own potential run for office of his own, the usually assertive — or “very animated,” as he was described on Fox News — Trump Jr. became more coy. “No, no plans anytime soon,” he said with a smile.
Tarini Parti is a politics reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC.
Contact Tarini Parti at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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