During his speech at a rally in Florida on Tuesday, President Trump had a moment of radical honesty.
“I have great children, and a couple of them — plus — are here tonight,” Trump said. “I have Eric Trump, who has been fantastic. He loves his… political stuff.”
If it seemed like Trump caught himself before he said “political stuff,” that might be because it wasn’t so long ago that Eric Trump — who is supposedly independently running the Trump Organization — promised he’d have nothing to do with his father’s administration whatsoever.
Eric promised to stay out of politics in April 2017, telling The Telegraph, “I stay out of politics and I stay out of the administration,” before offering a strategic observation about his father’s foreign policy motivations. He said in another interview that “I stay out of politics and I stay out of the administration.”
President-elect Trump told the country that his sons would be running the Trump Organization. “They are not going to discuss it with me,” he said in January 2017. Eric Trump repeatedly likened the ethical barrier to the “separation of church and state.”
“We’ve taken extraordinary, extraordinary measures to make sure the two are separate and distinct,” Eric said at the outset of his father’s administration.
Eric said he was “deadly serious” about the “church and state” commitment in a March 2017 interview with Forbes, adding his “steadfast pact” to not talk business or government with his dad is “something that we honor.”
However, in the same interview, Eric admitted that “probably quarterly,” he would update his father about his business’ “bottom line, profitability reports and stuff like that.”
The following month, Eric indicated his father would closely watch how he handles the new Trump golf resort in Scotland, after calling nepotism “a beautiful thing.”
As the first year of his father’s administration unfolded, Eric emerged as one of the White House’s key media surrogates. Eric and Trump’s other adult son, Donald Jr., denounced Democrats on TV and spoke out on behalf of their father’s political priorities while overseeing an aggressive expansion of the Trump brand — an expansion their father personally profits from, since he has refused to divest himself from his business.
According to CNN’s Kaitlan Collins, during the flight from Washington, D.C. to Florida, a reporter asked Deputy Press Secretary Hogan Gidley why Eric was traveling with his father in the first place.
“I don’t know,” Gidley replied.