By all accounts, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump just went through the most momentous few weeks of his presidential run, culminating in a major adjustment of his campaign leadership on Wednesday and more revelations on Thursday that he and campaign chairman Paul Manafort have ties to Russia.
Amid the shakeup, Trump’s children, who have been deeply involved in the campaign both publicly and privately, were largely absent. Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, both among the GOP nominee’s closest advisers, were on vacation in Croatia.
Joining her on the vacation was her friend, Wendi Deng Murdoch, the ex-wife of media mogul Rupert Murdoch and rumored girlfriend of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Even more strange was the fact that they were seen on the yacht of Hollywood producer David Geffen, a prominent donor to Democratic politicians — including to Trump’s opponent, Hillary Clinton.
Earlier this month, Trump’s sons, Donald Jr. and Eric, went on a hunting trip, amid similar unrest within the campaign.
All three have been deeply involved in their father’s campaign, so their absence during these critical weeks is telling. Trump’s children have often been the ones to persuade him to make major decisions. For example, campaign sources told NBC that Ivanka Trump was integral in convincing her father to fire then-Campaign Manager Corey Lewandowski in June, and all three siblings were present at Lewandowski’s final meeting.
Meanwhile, Trump and his campaign this week accused Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton of “taking too much time off.”
“She has taken a lot of time off the campaign trail,” campaign spokeswoman Katrina Pierson told NBC’s Kristin Welker on Thursday.
Welker, who covers the Clinton campaign, immediately questioned her claim.
“I’ve been on the campaign trail with her, one of the reporters covering her,” she said. “She hasn’t taken a lot of time off the campaign trail, Katrina.”
It’s odd for presidential campaign advisers to go on vacation during critical weeks, particularly for a campaign facing sinking poll numbers and significant shifts in leadership and strategy. But Trump has never been about running a traditional campaign, as evidenced by his scant ground game and the fact that only this week did his campaign begin airing television ads in crucial battleground states.
In June, former Obama Campaign Manager David Plouffe argued that Trump’s refusal to buckle down and run his campaign by “doing the basic things” suggests that he’s “lazy.”
Some GOP operatives have posited that perhaps Trump and his campaign are engaged in self-sabotage and simply giving up. In that case, it may not be so strange that the Trump children are distancing themselves as the campaign tumbles into even more chaos.