Donald Trump Jr.'s sometimes-strained relationship with President Trump faces new scrutiny

PHOTO: Donald Trump Jr. gives a thumbs up beside his father, Donald Trump, in Hempstead, New York, Sept. 26, 2016.PlayMike Segar/Reuters File
WATCH Donald Trump Jr.'s relationship with president under the spotlight

Donald Trump Jr., one of the staunchest defenders of his father, President Donald Trump, is now at the center of a political firestorm involving his father's presidency.

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The revelation that Trump Jr. met with a Russian lawyer during the 2016 campaign who promised information that would "incriminate" his father's Democratic rival Hillary Clinton has put Trump Jr. in the sometimes uncomfortable glare of the spotlight.

Trump Jr., 39, the eldest of Trump's five children, told ABC News’ Barbara Walters in 2004 that he sometimes tried to hide his last name, which is synonymous with his father’s New York City-based real estate empire.

“I'd be lying if I said I didn't, especially when I was younger,” Trump Jr. said in an interview alongside his sister Ivanka Trump. “There were times when you just, you didn't want to have to deal with everyone making those assumptions, however ignorant they may be.”

He continued, “I'd go, say, introduce myself as just Don, or sometimes I'd avoid the last name at all.”

Trump Jr. did not join the Trump family’s real estate business immediately after graduating from his father’s alma mater, The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.

He instead became a bartender in Aspen, Colorado, and has acknowledged that he went through a wild period. Trump Jr. was arrested for public drunkenness in New Orleans in 2001, a break from his father's lifestyle choices; President Trump is known to abstain from alcohol.

"I think, like anyone else, I made my mistakes,” Trump Jr. told The New York Times this year about his arrest, for which he reportedly spent 11 hours in jail. “We have to be honest with ourselves. I’m not good at it, moderation. You have to have the conversation, be a realist, and say, ‘I guess I’m not doing myself any favors.’”

Trump Jr. also reportedly did not speak to his father for a year after now-President Trump separated from his mother, Ivana Trump, who is also the mother of Ivanka Trump and Eric Trump. Their parents’ divorce, which made the front pages of tabloids, came when Trump Jr. was just 12.

Years after that divide, Trump Jr. began working at the family business, joining his father’s real estate company with his siblings and appearing by his father's side on “The Apprentice.”

Trump Jr., now executive vice president of The Trump Organization, gave an insight into working with his dad while discussing now-President Trump’s signature "Apprentice" tagline of “You’re fired," in an interview with ABC News’ Tom Llamas last month.

“Before ‘The Apprentice’ and the ‘You're fired’ thing ever was a thing, he used to say that. Which was, you know, ‘If you don't do a good job, I'll fire you like a dog,’” Trump Jr. said. “And, you know what? He meant it.”

Trump Jr. met his wife, Vanessa Haydon Trump, a former model, through his father and married her in 2005. The couple, who live in New York City, have five young children.

When it comes to interests outside of work, Trump Jr. appears to prefer a hunting rifle to his father’s favored golf clubs. Trump Jr.'s Instagram feed is populated by photos of himself in hunting gear or outdoors with his family, often fishing.

Trump Jr. has sparked outrage with his hunting exploits, most notably when photos surfaced in 2012 from a hunting trip with his brother Eric Trump in Zimbabwe that showed Trump Jr. wearing an ammunition belt and posing with a dead buffalo in one photo, and holding the tail of an elephant in another photo.

Hunting though helped Trump Jr. connect with conservative voters across the country as he became one of his father’s biggest surrogates during the 2016 campaign.

It was Trump Jr. who stood on the floor of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, to cast the votes for the New York delegation that clinched the GOP nomination for his father.

PHOTO: Donald Trump Jr., along with siblings Ivanka, Eric, and Tiffany, take part in the roll call in support of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump on the second day of the Republican National Convention, July 19, 2016, in Cleveland.Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Donald Trump Jr., along with siblings Ivanka, Eric, and Tiffany, take part in the roll call in support of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump on the second day of the Republican National Convention, July 19, 2016, in Cleveland.

Now that Trump Jr. is embroiled in the investigation into Russian collusion -- which he called a “witch hunt” as recently as last month -- it is his father who is speaking out in defense of the son.

In a statement Tuesday, the president said, “My son is a high-quality person, and I applaud his transparency.”

Trump also took to Twitter today to praise his son for being “open” and “transparent” after Trump Jr. tweeted four pages from what he said is an email chain documenting the planning of the 2016 Trump Tower meeting with lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya.

Trump Jr. told ABC News' Tom Llamas in June that he and President Trump barely speak now that he is in the White House because he knows how busy his father is.

He also added that President Trump called three times a day recently when one of Trump Jr.'s children was recovering from an injury.