Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump warned reporters May 31, “I’m going to continue to attack the press.” He slammed members of the media as “dishonest” at a news conference about donations he raised for veterans’ groups at Trump Tower in New York. (Reuters)
This post has been updated.
On Tuesday, Donald Trump announced that he’d given away the last of the $5.6 million that he raised four months ago, at a benefit for veterans’ causes in Iowa. In a bitter, combative press conference, Trump made clear that he’d been pressured into giving up these details by the news media, including The Washington Post.
And he was not at all happy about it.
“Are you ready? Do you have your pen?” he said to the media he’d called to the lobby of Trump Tower in New York. Then, before he actually gave out the names of the groups he’d donated to, Trump reversed course to bash the media another time. “My opinion of the media, it’s very low. I think the media is, frankly, made up of people in many cases, not in all cases, are not good people.”
When the press conference was over, Trump had answered several of the big questions that had lingered after his Jan. 28 benefit, which he staged as counter-programming to a GOP debate he had decided to skip.
Here’s what we know now:
How much, in total, did Trump raise at that fundraiser?
Trump gave that figure on Tuesday, and backed it up by listing gifts to 41 different veterans’ charities that totalled $5.6 million.
On the night of the fundraiser, Trump had told the crowd “We just cracked $6 million! Right? $6 million.” He repeated the figure for several days afterward, both at rallies and on TV morning shows. On Tuesday, Trump did not explain why the final total had fallen short of $6 million, but said that he believed more donations would come in later, and that the total might eventually top $6 million after all.
How many new donations were announced on Tuesday?
By The Post’s count, 18 new gifts, totaling about $1.5 million.
In each case, Trump was giving away other people’s money. Other donors, both large and small, had entrusted this money to the Donald J. Trump Foundation, on the understanding that Trump would then distribute it to veterans. The list included:
— Achilles International received $100,000 last week. It also received a $100,000 check, also derived from the Iowa fundraiser, a few weeks ago. This group helps wounded veterans train to compete in athletic events. One of its leaders, Mary Bryant McCourt, knows Trump because she is a member of his Mar-a-Lago club in Florida. A few years ago, she persuaded Trump to help the group by stopping him once on the exclusive resort’s grounds. “When I saw Donald, I said, ‘Donald, they’re coming, they’re going to be here this weekend, I wanna give ’em hamburgers at the pool,'” McCourt recalled. Trump’s foundation has since given several donations to the group. “He’s been just generous and wonderful and caring,” she said.
— Racing for Heroes uses auto racing to help veterans with brain injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder. It received a $100,000 donation in the first weeks after the Iowa fundraiser. Last week, the group reported that it received another “large” check from the Trump Foundation, but it declined to specify the amount.
— The Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund received a $75,000 check last week. It had previously received a $100,000 check in the first weeks after the Iowa event, sent directly by a donor who supported Trump’s effort. This fund has paid for new centers for rehabilitation and treatment of injured military personnel.
— The Boston Wounded Vet Run received $75,000 from Trump’s foundation. This group holds an annual motorcycle ride and raises money to help disabled veterans. Its founder served in Iraq with the son of one of Trump’s bodyguards. It had not previously received a donation from the money raised in Iowa.
— The Bob Woodruff Foundation received a $75,000 check last week. This foundation, founded by the ABC News anchor who suffered a traumatic brain injury while on assignment in Iraq, funds better care for wounded veterans. This group has no obvious connection to Trump and had received no funds from his Iowa fundraiser. “We were a bit surprised,” the foundation said in a message to The Post.
Did Trump give any of his own personal money?
Yes. He gave $1 million, last week. But only after The Post and other media organizations pressured Trump to explain where his money had gone.
On the night of the fundraiser, Trump had said he “gave” $1 million of his own. Earlier this month, Trump’s own campaign manager had said this money had already been distributed (though he would not say to whom). But this was false. Trump had not given the money. Then, on May 23, The Post had made inquiries on Twitter — Trump’s preferred social-media platform — seeking anyone who’d received a piece of this (nonexistent, as it turned out) $1 million.
That night, Trump moved to give the money away, in one single large donation, to a charity he knew well. The money went to the Marine Corps – Law Enforcement Foundation, a group that provides educational grants to the children of fallen Marines and federal officers. The same group had given Trump a leadership award at a gala last year. When The Post asked if Trump had made the gift only because the media was asking about it, Trump said, “You know, you’re a nasty guy. You’re really a nasty guy.”
When did Trump give away the rest of the other donors’ money, which was under his control?
In many cases, on May 24.
The Associated Press surveyed the recipients of Trump’s donations on Tuesday, and found that many of them had received checks dated May 24, the same day that Trump told The Post he’d given his $1 million.
Hope Hicks, a spokeswoman for Trump, told the AP that questions from The Post and other outlets did not push Trump to make the donations when he did. “Mr. Trump’s team worked very hard to complete this lengthy process prior to Memorial Day Weekend,” Hicks told the AP.
Why did it take four months to distribute the last of this money?
Vetting, Trump says.
On Tuesday, Trump said these weeks were needed to scrutinize the potential recipients, so Trump could be certain that they were worthy.
“I had people, teams of people reviewing statistics, reviewing numbers and also talking to people in the military to find out whether or not the group was deserving of the money,” he said Tuesday. Several of the groups reported receiving no requests for financial documents from Trump’s team. In some cases, there was only a phone call, and a simple request: Trump’s people asked for their official nonprofit number, issued by the IRS.
How well did Trump’s vetting process work?
Well, it wasn’t perfect.
Many of the charities Trump selected seem to be legitimate and deserving. But one of the charities that Trump chose — after it had been vetted by Trump’s “teams of people” — was the Foundation for American Veterans. It received $75,000.
But the Foundation for American Veterans has an “F” rating from Charity Watch, a nonprofit watchdog, because it spends so little of its donations on work that actually helps veterans. Indeed, an examination of the group’s tax filings shows that the foundation spent just $2.4 million of its total $8 million budget on helping veterans directly in 2014. The group spent the rest of the money in 2014 on fundraising, on salaries, and on other overhead costs.
The same foundation was the subject of an “alert” from the Better Business Bureau in January, which cited “a pattern and high volume of complaints and customer reviews” about the Foundation for American Veterans. The BBB said customers received “a high volume of what they consider to be harassing phone calls” from the group’s solicitors. The BBB said the group had blamed the problem on its telemarketer. The BBB’s St. Louis branch also warned residents to “be cautious when dealing with representatives of Foundation for American Veterans,” warning that its telemarketers might “pressure and mislead them into making donations.”
Hicks, the Trump spokeswoman, did not respond to questions about why Trump’s vetting process had not detected these problems.
These problems shouldn’t have been hard to find. On a recent Google search for the foundation’s name, three of the first four search results were websites raising questions about the foundation’s practices.
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