Death in Trump’s family: The US president’s younger brother, Robert Trump dead at 71

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Donald Trump - USA President
Donald Trump - USA President
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A loyal spokesman for the family, he shunned the spotlight and had “zero sense of entitlement.”

Robert S. Trump, the younger brother of President Trump, died on Saturday night in Manhattan. He was 71.

The White House, which announced his death, at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, did not give a cause.

“He was not just my brother, he was my best friend,” the president said in a statement. “He will be greatly missed, but we will meet again.”

Robert Trump, who took blood thinners, had experienced brain bleeds, which began after a recent fall, according to a family friend. President Trump went to Manhattan on Friday to see his brother at the hospital.

On Saturday, when Robert Trump was not expected to live much longer, the president called into the hospital from his Bedminster, N.J., golf club. He shortly held a news conference but did not mention his brother’s health. Friends who spoke to him said he was downcast.

“I have a wonderful brother,” the president said on Friday at a White House news conference before departing to visit him. “We’ve had a great relationship for a long time, from Day 1.” The two had in fact been estranged for years before Mr. Trump’s run for the White House.

Robert Trump had no children, but he helped raise Christopher Hollister Trump-Retchin, the son of his first wife, Blaine Trump, even giving him his last name. Besides the president, he is survived by his second wife, Ann Marie Pallan, and his sisters, Maryanne Trump Barry and Elizabeth Trump Grau. His brother Fred Jr. died in 1981.

Robert Stewart Trump was born on Aug. 26, 1948, in Queens. He attended St. Paul’s School and Boston University.

As the youngest of five children growing up in the strict household of Fred C. Trump, Robert was shielded from some of the pressure exerted by his disciplinarian father over his older brothers.

He was never groomed to take over the family real estate company and was considered by those who knew him to be the inverse of the brash, self-promotional brother who eventually did. After college, he first went to work on Wall Street, instead of joining the family business. But he eventually went to work for his brother as a senior executive at the Trump Organization.

“You could consider him the quietest of Trumps,” Michael D’Antonio, a Trump biographer, said. “He was glad to stay out of the spotlight.”

The Trump siblings from left, Robert, Elizabeth, Fred Jr., Donald and Maryanne.
The Trump siblings from left, Robert, Elizabeth, Fred Jr., Donald and Maryanne.Credit…via Donald Trump campaign

Jack O’Donnell, a former Trump Organization executive who worked closely with the Trump family, recalled the younger Mr. Trump as someone with a natural ease and good humor that his older brother lacked.

“He was dignified, he was quiet, he listened, he was good to work with,” Mr. O’Donnell said. “He had zero sense of entitlement. Robert was very comfortable being Donald Trump’s brother and not being like him.”

That was not always an easy role to play, and simply being a close family member did not shield him from his brother’s rages when Donald Trump needed someone to blame. Family friends said that as Donald’s star grew, Robert struggled with working for his brother and cast himself as his brother’s polar opposite.

Donald faulted Robert, for instance, for the problems with slot machines that plagued the opening of the Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City in 1990, costing him tens of millions of dollars in lost revenue. Donald Trump had put his brother in charge of the property after a helicopter accident in 1989 killed three Trump Organization executives who had been overseeing it.

Gaming regulators did not allow the casino to open because of a lack of financial control of the slot machines. On opening night, only a small section of the casino floor was open, and it was months before the slot machines were fully activated.

In one meeting, Mr. O’Donnell recalled, Donald Trump screamed at his brother, putting the blame for the slot machine debacle entirely on him. “Robert calmly got up, walked out of the room, and that’s the last time I ever saw him,” Mr. O’Donnell said.

After the blowup, Robert Trump stopped reporting directly to his brother and removed himself from the core of the business, working out of its Brooklyn office and dealing with real estate projects in boroughs outside Manhattan. But people who knew him said that he had been devastated by the fight with Donald Trump and that the rift had taken years to heal.

In Brooklyn, Robert would take his father, Fred Trump Sr., who had Alzheimer’s disease, out for lunch every day at an Italian restaurant, a friend recalled.

Robert Trump embraced his brother after the president-elect delivered his victory speech on election night in 2016.
Robert Trump embraced his brother after the president-elect delivered his victory speech on election night in 2016.Credit…Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

He reconciled with his brother when Donald Trump decided to run for president, according to a person close to the family. Robert had in recent years been a loyal family spokesman since his older brother entered politics. “I support Donald 1,000 percent,” he told The New York Post in 2016. “If he were to need me in any way, I’d be there.”

He followed through with that promise. In recent months, he led the family in its unsuccessful bid to block the publication of a memoir by their niece Mary L. Trump — the daughter of their deceased older brother, Fred Trump Jr. — that described decades of family dysfunction and brutality that she claimed turned Donald Trump into a reckless leader. It was the president’s younger brother who requested the restraining order in a filing in Queens County Surrogate’s Court.

Before that, Robert Trump spearheaded the family response in 1999 when Mary Trump and her brother, Fred Trump III, sued for their father’s share of the family estate.

Robert, who for 25 years was married to Blaine Trump, was more accepted in society circles and on the charity circuit than Donald ever was, Mr. D’Antonio said.

But after a painful divorce in 2009, involving tabloid coverage documenting his decision to leave his marriage for an employee of the Trump Organization, Ann Marie Pallan, Robert Trump sought a quiet retired life on Long Island. He and Ms. Pallan married this year.

Robert and Donald Trump with their wives at the time, Blaine and Ivana, in the 1990s.
Robert and Donald Trump with their wives at the time, Blaine and Ivana, in the 1990s.Credit…Sonia Moskowitz/Getty Images

The relationship between the brothers — the older one dominating the younger one — was illustrated by Donald Trump in his book “The Art of the Deal.” In it, he recalled stealing his younger brother’s blocks when they were children and gluing them together so that Robert couldn’t reclaim them.The president’s decision to visit his brother in the hospital was different from how he handled news in 1981 that his older brother, Fred Trump Jr., was in poor health. According to Mary Trump’s account, Donald Trump went to the movies the night Fred Jr. died. Fred Sr. also did not visit him.

But Gwenda Blair, a biographer of the Trump family, said that in light of Mary Trump’s memoir, the president would have had no choice.

“It’s very much part of the Trump family legend that they are a tight-knit, loyal group,” she said. “That is the family modus operandi. Mary Trump has recently suggested otherwise, but I think, as part of the response to that, Donald Trump would have no choice but to go.”

Maggie Haberman contributed reporting from New York.Correction: Aug. 15, 2020

An earlier version of this article misstated the age of Robert S. Trump. He was 71, not 72.

Annie Karni is a White House correspondent. She previously covered the White House and Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign for Politico, and covered local news and politics in New York City for the New York Post and the New York Daily News. @AnnieKarni

Source: New York Times

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