Donald Trump: Family Life
Donald Trump has stated throughout his life that family has always been central to him, from his childhood through his presidency. By his own account, he has few close friends outside of his family relations. “I have a lot of good relationships,” he once said. “I have good enemies, too, which is okay. But I think more of my family than others.”
Trump has been married three times and divorced twice, the only US president with that marital history. Republican president Ronald Reagan, first elected in 1980, became the first US president to have been divorced and re-married, while a number of presidents married for a second time (three did so while in the White House!) following the death of a first spouse.
In 1977, Trump married his first spouse, Ivana Zelnickova, who was originally from Czechoslovakia and became a US citizen in 1988. The couple had three children: Donald, Jr. (born in 1977), Ivanka (born in 1981), and Eric (born in 1984). Donald and Ivana Trump divorced in 1992 in the wake of revelations, widely covered in New York City tabloid newspapers, that Trump had been engaging in an extra-marital affair with American actor Marla Maples. Trump and Maples were married in 1993, two months after their daughter Tiffany was born. They were separated in 1997 and divorced in 1999; Maples raised Tiffany in California while Trump maintained his primary residence in New York City. While his divorce to Maples was pending, Trump began dating Slovenian model Melania Knauss. They married in Palm Beach, Florida, in January 2005. Their son Barron was born the following year. Ivana Trump died in July 2022.
Until the final months of his presidency, Donald Trump maintained his primary residency at Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, New York City. As head of the Trump Organization, he “commuted” to work by taking the elevator from his opulent penthouse apartment to his office on the 26th floor of the building. Once Trump took office, he formally moved to the White House, while First Lady Melania Trump remained in New York for the spring of 2017 so Barron could complete the school year. Melania and Barron moved to the Washington, DC, thereafter.
During his presidency, Trump also spent considerable time at his estate known as Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida, which he purchased in 1985. Originally a retreat for heiress and General Foods owner Marjorie Merriweather Post, Mar-a-Lago was Trump’s warm-weather home and private club, which he often referred to as the “Winter White House.” As president, he frequently hosted foreign heads of state and conducted other official business at Mar-a-Lago. In October 2019, he formally changed his legal domicile to Mar-a-Lago, and thus ran for re-election in 2020 as a resident of Florida.
As adults, Trump’s three oldest children became executives in the Trump Organization. When Trump became president, he announced that he was transferring operational control of the company to his sons, Donald Jr. and Eric. Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner, a real estate developer, joined Trump in Washington as White House advisors. A 1967 law, passed in response to President John F. Kennedy’s selection of his brother Robert as Attorney General, raised concerns about their appointments. When Trump became president, however, the legal counsel for the Department of Justice issued an opinion that the 1967 “Robert Kennedy Law” did not apply to White House advisors, only to the heads of agencies and Cabinet secretaries. Both Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner became advisors, with Ivanka also taking the title of “First Daughter.” Trump’s other daughter, Tiffany, campaigned for her father in both 2016 and 2020 but did not play an active role in either the administration or the Trump Organization. When he left office, Trump had ten grandchildren.
Donald Trump was the fourth of five children born to Mary Anne MacLeod Trump and Fred Trump. His oldest sibling, Fred Trump, Jr., died of alcoholism in 1981 at the age of 43. After first entering the family business, Fred Trump, Jr., clashed with his father and left the company to become an airline pilot. Donald Trump has cited his brother’s struggle with addiction and premature death as the reason he avoids alcohol and tobacco use. His younger brother, Robert, also entered the family business and became an executive. He maintained a close relationship with Donald Trump throughout his life and died in the summer of 2020.
Trump’s sisters, Elizabeth Trump Grau and Maryanne Trump Barry, were discouraged from entering the family business by their father. Maryanne Trump Barry, the eldest of the Trump children, became an attorney, Assistant United States Attorney, and a federal judge on the US District Court for New Jersey and later the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. She assumed senior status in 2011, taking a reduced caseload, and took inactive senior status shortly after her brother was inaugurated president in 2017. She retired fully in 2019 in the face of investigations into tax fraud.
In 2020, Fred Trump Jr.’s daughter, Mary L. Trump, emerged as a sharp opponent of Donald Trump. She published a highly critical book about her family, Too Much and Never Enough (2020), relying both on her training as a psychiatrist and on transcripts and reports of personal conversations. She also sued her father’s siblings—her uncle Donald, her aunt Maryanne, and the estate of her late uncle Robert—claiming that they defrauded her of her inheritance from her grandfather, Fred Trump.