“In his short time on the political stage, Donald Trump has commandeered the national conservative movement, remade the Republican Party in his image, and used his office to confer untold value on the Trump brand,” staff writer McKay Coppins reports in a new cover story for The Atlantic. “Between their business holdings and their political influence, the Trumps could remain a fixture of American life for generations. The question now dividing his children is not just which of them will get to take up the mantle when he’s gone—but how the family will attempt to shape the country in the years ahead.”
In the October issue cover story, “Succession,” published today at The Atlantic, Coppins takes readers inside the fight among the Trump children—namely Ivanka and Don Jr.—to succeed their father and rule the next generation of their family’s real-estate empire and political dynasty. Through dozens of interviews with White House officials, campaign aides, and people close to the Trumps, Coppins reports on the family’s multigenerational path to the White House, and the power struggle that’s now pitting the Trump siblings against each other—a battle marked by old grievances and petty rivalries—for control of the family dynasty.
Many in the Trump orbit, Ivanka included, long assumed the first daughter to be the most likely sibling to succeed her father on the national political stage. Yet Coppins reports that her all-but-assured ascendancy is now in jeopardy, a result of Ivanka’s miscalculations on the global stage and the steady decline of her influence with her father. Trump grew exasperated with Ivanka and her husband’s tireless efforts to change his mind about the Paris climate accord, and would mock their arguments when they were not around. “They’re New York liberals,” he would say, according to a former White House aide. “Of course that’s what they think.” Ivanka’s reputation was further diminished when a clip of her awkwardly attempting to mingle with world leaders at the G20 summit went viral in June, making her “an international punchline.” The two and a half years she’s spent trying to burnish her credentials haven’t, in fact, turned her into a geopolitical player.
Ivanka’s stumbles have been magnified by Don Jr.’s rising popularity on the campaign circuit. Although a White House official told Coppins that he overheard the president referring to his namesake as “not the sharpest knife in the drawer,” President Trump can’t ignore his son’s ability to draw MAGA crowds, a skill that’s led some Republicans to speculate that Don Jr. could be the next Trump elected to office. According to Republicans familiar with discussions about his political future, Don Jr. has considered running for office somewhere in the Mountain West; other allies talk him up as a potential chairman of the Republican National Committee.
As he considers which of his children should carry on his legacy, Trump is caught between competing visions for the future of the family, Coppins reports—one defined by a desire for elite approval, the other by an instinct for stoking populist rage. But unlike in business, where a patriarch can install a chosen heir as CEO, politicians often see their best-laid plans upended by voters. Coppins writes: “For Trump—a distant and domineering father who has long pitted his offspring against one another—the unsettling reality is that the choice of who will succeed him may be out of his control.”
Read “Succession” at The Atlantic. The October issue of the magazine appears on newsstands next week, with pieces continuing to publish across this week and next.
Anna Bross and Helen Tobin