Donald Trump Jr., the eldest son of President Donald Trump, has admitted to meeting with a Russian lawyer just days after his father clinched the Republican presidential nomination in June 2016 and released a series of emails about the set up. Trump Jr. and his father have not always had a great relationship, but today he’s running the family business with younger brother Eric.
“My son is a high-quality person and I applaud his transparency,” Trump said in a statement read during spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ briefing with the press.
Trump later praised his son’s performance on Hannity. “My son Donald did a good job last night. He was open, transparent and innocent. This is the greatest Witch Hunt in political history. Sad,” the president wrote.
Here’s a look at a timeline of Trump Jr.’s relationship with his father.
December 31, 1977: Trump Jr.’s Birthday
In an interview with The Atlantic in 2016, Trump Jr. said his father wasn’t the kind of dad who would take his kids outside to toss a ball around. “He made time for us, but it was always on his terms,” Trump Jr. told the magazine.
1991: Donald & Ivana Get Divorced
Trump Jr., Ivanka and Eric were enrolled in boarding schools while Trump and Ivana’s divorce dominated headlines. At the time, Trump Jr. was just 12 years old.
“Listen, it’s tough to be a 12-year-old,” Trump Jr. told New York Magazine. “You’re not quite a man, but you think you are. You think you know everything. Being driven into school every day and you see the front page and it’s divorce! THE BEST SEX I EVER HAD! And you don’t even know what that means. At that age, kids are naturally cruel. Your private life becomes very public, and I didn’t have anything to do with it: My parents did.”
Before the divorce, Trump Jr. was growing closer to Ivana’s family than Trump’s. Ivana’s parents, Milos and Maria Zelnicek, lived at Trump Tower half of the year and “Donny” grew very close to his grandfather. When he was a kid, he would go to the Czech Republic and even learned Czech.
“My father is a very hardworking guy, and that’s his focus in life, so I got a lot of the paternal attention that a boy wants and needs from my grandfather,” Trump Jr. told New York.
Trump Jr. told New York Magazine that he blamed his father for the divorce and said he didn’t talk to Trump for a year.
1996-2000: Trump Jr. Attended the Same College as His Father – the University of Pennsylvania
In 1996, Trump Jr. enrolled at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, where he earned a B.S. in Economics, Finance Real Estate and Marketing. He graduated in 2000, notes his LinkedIn page. President Trump also graduated from Wharton.
As Complex pointed out just before the election, Scott Melker, who went to college with Trump Jr., claimed on Facebook that he saw Trump slap his son across the face because and ordered him to put in a suit before meeting him later.
“Donald Jr. was a drunk in college. Every memory I have of him is of him stumbling around campus falling over or passing out in public, with his arm in a sling from injuring himself while drinking,” Melker, who wrote that he was voting for Hillary Clinton, claimed. “He absolutely despised his father, and hated the attention that his last name afforded him. His nickname was ‘Diaper Don,’ because of his tendency to fall asleep drunk in other people’s beds and urinate. I always felt terrible for him.”
Trump Jr. admitted to New York Magazine in 2004 that he used to drink a lot.
“To be fairly candid, I used to drink a lot and party pretty hard, and it wasn’t something that I was particularly good at,” Trump Jr. told New York Magazine. “I mean, I was good at it, but I couldn’t do it in moderation. About two years ago, I quit drinking entirely. I have too much of an opportunity to make something of myself, be successful in my own right. Why blow it?”
After college, Trump Jr. went against his parents’ wishes and moved to Aspen, Colorado. As Vanity Fair notes, he spent time hunting, fishing and camping.
2001: Returning to the Family’s Good-Graces
After his year in Colorado, Trump moved back to New York and joined the Trump Organization, where he’s worked ever since. Vanity Fair notes that there isn’t one particular event that made Trump welcome his son back. Vector Group CEO Howard Lorber told Vanity Fair that it’s possible Trump Jr. naturally fit in the company.
“It would be pretty hard not to want to join a business that had a great name and was moving forward and expanding in many different areas,” Lorber told the magazine. “And so I think it was sort of a natural for Donny.”
2003: Trump Introduces His Son to His Future Wife, Vanessa Haydon
Trump introduced Trump Jr. to his future wife, Vanessa Haydon, at a fashion show in 2003.
“I’m at this fashion show,” Vanessa told the New York Times in 2006. “Donald Trump comes up to me with his son: ‘Hi, I’m Donald Trump. I wanted to introduce you to my son Donald Trump Jr.'”
Trump introduced the two twice during the same fashion show. Six weeks later, they were introduced to each other a third time at a birthday party. An hour layer, Vanessa remembered that they met before. You’re “the one with the retarded dad!” she told Trump Jr.
In November 2005, they were married at Mar-a-Lago. They have two daughters and three sons.
During an appearance on Larry King Live before the wedding, Trump complained about his son taking a free engagement ring from a New Jersey mall jewelry shop in exchange for the publicity. “You have a name that is hot as a pistol, you have to be very careful with things like this,” Trump told King, notes the Times.
2005-2015: ‘The Apprentice’ Co-Star
From 2005 to 2015, Trump Jr. appeared on The Apprentice with his father as a boardroom advisor. He was in 73 episodes of the show.
In 2012, Trump Jr. put the show in jeopardy when photos of his hunting trip with brother Eric in Zimbabwe surfaced online. Camping World CEO Marcus Lemonis told TMZ at the time that he was pulling his advertising deal with Celebrity Apprentice because of the photos.
As The Hollywood Reporter noted at the time, Trump Jr. defended his hunting trip. “Not a pr move I didn’t give the pics but I have no shame about them either. I HUNT & EAT game,” Trump Jr. tweeted. He also added that the meat “fed a village for weeks.”
Photos from the trip were leaked to TMZ in March 2012.
“My sons love hunting. They’re hunters and they’ve become good at it. I am not a believer in hunting and I’m surprised they like it,” Trump told TMZ at the time. “I know that anything they did was 100% OK in terms of the hunting community.”
2016-2017: Campaigning for His Father & the Republican Party
Although Trump Jr. doesn’t have an official role in the Trump Administration, he was often seen with his father on the campaign trail. A September 2016 profile in the New York Times described Trump Jr. as a “close political adviser” to his father. However, like Trump and other members of the family, Trump Jr. has never held political office.
Also like his father, Trump Jr. was a magnet for controversy, even before his meeting with a Russian lawyer was disclosed. For example, he once tweeted an image of a bowl of Skittles, with the text, “If I had a bowl of skittles and I told you just three would kill you. Would you take a handful? That’s our Syrian refugee problem.” Anger broke out on social media, and the photographer of the photo complained about the tweet, revealing that he’s a refugee himself.
Also in September, Trump Jr. had to apologize for making an apparent reference to the Holocaust. During a radio show appearance, he complained that Hillary Clinton was getting away with “every indescrepancy, on every lie,” adding, “If Republicans were doing that, they’d be warming up the gas chamber right now.”
At first, Trump Jr. said it wasn’t meant to evoke the Holocaust, but was a reference to capital punishment. He did admit that it was a “poor choice of words,” adding that his sister Ivanka converted to Orthodox Judaism after she married Jared Kushner.
“It was poor choice of words, perhaps, but in no way, shape or form was I ever even remotely talking about the Holocaust,” Trump Jr. later told CNN. “I wouldn’t do it. I think that’s disgusting. It’s not my style.”
After the inauguration, Trump Jr. continued to play a political role, even as he and Eric run the Trump Organization. He campaigned in Montana for Greg Gianforte and Georgia for Karen Handel. On May 27, The Washington Post reported that Trump Jr., Ivanka and Eric met with the Republican National Committee.
July 2017: The Veselnitskaya Meeting Revealed
After a series of New York Times reports revealed that Trump Jr. had a meeting with Kremlin-linked lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, Trump Jr. admitted that he agreed to the meeting because he thought she would provide information damaging to Clinton. Trump Jr. released a series of emails on July 11, revealing that music promoter Rob Goldstone approached him about the meeting.
Goldstone hoped to have Trump Jr. meet with pop singer Emin Agalarov and his father, Aras Agalarov, claiming that they heard information damaging to Clinton from a “crown prosecutor of Russia.” The information “would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father,” Goldstone wrote. “This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump – helped along by Aras and Emin.”
Trump Jr. said he would “love” to have the information. After some back-and-forth emails though, Goldstone revealed that he’d be meeting with a “Russian attorney.”
The meeting took place on June 9, with Veselnitskaya. Kushner, who is now a top advisor for his father-in-law, and then-campaign manager Paul Manafort both attended the meeting.
Trump Jr. has said that Veselnitskaya didn’t have anything useful on Clinton and was really there to talk about the Magnitsky Act and adoption policies. (The Magnitsky Act allows the U.S. government to sanction Russians accused of human rights violations. The Russian government responded to the act by barring adoptions of Russian children by Americans.)
In an interview with Sean Hannity, Trump Jr. admitted that he “probably would have done things a little differently.” He said it took place “pre-Russia fever” and “pre-Russia mania,” so “I don’t think my sirens went [off] or my antenna went up at this time because it wasn’t the issue that it’s been made out to be over the last nine months, ten months.”
Trump Jr. called the meeting “a nothing” and a “wasted 20 minutes.” He said he approached the meeting as “opposition research.” “They had something, you know, maybe concrete evidence to all the stories I’d been hearing about … so I think I wanted to hear it out. But really it went nowhere and it was apparent that wasn’t what the meeting was about,” he told Hannity.
Before the Hannity interview, Trump said of his son, “My son is a high-quality person and I applaud his transparency.”
But on July 12, Trump took to Twitter to praise Trump Jr.’s performance on Fox News.
“My son Donald did a good job last night. He was open, transparent and innocent. This is the greatest Witch Hunt in political history. Sad,” Trump tweeted. “Remember, when you hear the words ‘sources say’ from the Fake Media, often times those sources are made up and do not exist.”