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Calling the White House home: two contrasting ‘first families’

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Oct 30, 2020 - 12:19 PM

WASHINGTON — As men in their 70s, both Donald Trump and Joe Biden have large extended families — some members of which are the subject of scalding controversy, while others live less in the spotlight.

Examining the two competing “first families” of the US election reveals the presidential candidates’ differing life stories, and how their wives and children are involved in the battle for the White House.

The House of Trump 

All three of Trump’s children with his first wife Ivana play an integral role in his political and business life.

The oldest, Donald Trump Junior, is a stalwart of the campaign trail, hugely popular with Trump loyalists and big-money donors.

A fluent stump speaker with a sharp line in verbal attacks, he rages against his father’s perceived enemies: the media, left-wingers and “deep state” officials trying to thwart the president.

Don Jr., 42, is a keen hunter who often sports a beard, jeans and plaid shirt as he seeks to project an everyman image despite being the president’s eldest son.

He is even more combative than his father on Twitter, where he has 5.8 million followers, and speculation is rife that he has presidential ambitions himself.

He has five children with his ex-wife Vanessa Haydon Trump, and his partner is now Kimberley Guilfoyle, a former Fox News host who is also a vocal defender of President Trump.

Don Jr.’s sister Ivanka, 38, holds the official title of “Advisor to the President” and is a key member of the White House inner circle.

Accusations of nepotism increased after she sat in on Trump’s meetings with fellow presidents and joined him for official G20 photos with other world leaders.

Trump said in 2018 he was tempted to appoint her as US ambassador to the United Nations. He also asked her if she wanted to head the World Bank, but she declined.

Ivanka’s husband Jared Kushner is another of Trump’s closest aides, with responsibilities including large parts of the government’s flawed Covid-19 response and US policy in the Middle East.

The couple have three children together.

Don Jr. and his younger brother Eric, 36, have in theory taken over all Trump family business activities while the patriarch and Ivanka work in Washington.

Eric, who is executive vice-president of the Trump Organization, joins in with the family’s social media offensives.

President Trump has one child, Tiffany, from his six-year marriage to Marla Maples.

Tiffany, 27, has largely kept a low political profile but she spoke at the Republican National Convention and recently garnered mixed reviews for a speech she gave a Trump Pride event.

Trump’s youngest child is Barron, a tall 14-year-old who lives in the White House with his father and mother, Melania Trump, the First Lady.

Biden’s brood 

Joe Biden’s life has been scarred by two tragedies — when his first wife and daughter were killed in a car crash in 1972, and when his son Beau died of cancer aged 46 in 2015.

Biden married Neilia Hunter in 1966 while he was at law school and she was a teacher.

All three of their children were with Neilia on their way to buy a Christmas tree when the family car was hit by a tractor-trailer.

Neilia and their daughter Naomi, aged one, were killed, while Beau and Hunter were seriously injured.

Joe Biden, who was about to become a senator, raised his surviving children with the help of his sister Valerie. For years, he commuted by train two hours each way from the family home in Delaware to Washington.

He has often spoken about how his relationship with his sons helped him to cope with grieving as he built his career and, in 1977, married his second and current wife, Jill.

Beau was seen as inheriting his father’s public service ethos and political skills. He served in the military in Iraq and became Delaware’s attorney general.

But Beau, who had two children, died of brain cancer in 2015, less than two years after he was diagnosed. Biden soon after ended thoughts of making a presidential bid in 2016.

Biden’s other son, Hunter, has struggled with alcohol and drug addiction, and was discharged from the Navy Reserve in 2014 after a positive test for cocaine.

He has become a focus of Trump’s attacks ahead of the November 3 vote.

From 2014 to 2019, while his father was Barack Obama’s vice president, Hunter served on the board of Burisma, a Ukrainian gas company.

Trump has accused Biden of seeking the removal of Ukraine’s top prosecutor to protect Hunter from a corruption investigation.

Hunter, 50, has admitted displaying “poor judgment” in his business dealings but denied any wrongdoing.

Hunter is now a painter in Los Angeles, and has three children with his ex-wife Kathleen.

He has two other young children, one with his second wife Melissa Cohen, whom he married last year just six days after they met.

Biden’s wife Jill, 69, is a teacher who is a major part of his election team, appearing regularly at campaign events. The couple have one daughter Ashley, 39.

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