The mogul repeatedly misled the public Tuesday while trying to quiet concerns about whether he had raised the promised millions for veterans charities. Sure, he listed $5.6 million he had allocated to veterans groups during the hour-long, rabbling press conference, but that’s $400,000 short of what he said was raised in January—despite his claim that more is still coming in.
There was an initial surge of donations after Trump’s January fundraiser for veterans charities, accounting for less than half the pledged amount.
In recent weeks, under increasing media scrutiny, Trump has apparently boosted that figure to the $5.6 million he listed on Tuesday. The Daily Beast reached out to each of the 20 new charities Trump listed, of the 15 that responded, all confirmed they had received the amounts announced at the press conference. One additional organization, Project for Patriots, has not yet received non-profit status approval from the IRS.
Many of the charities The Daily Beast reached out to said they had received checks within the last week or two weeks—coinciding with a May 24 Washington Post story questioning whether he had distributed the promised $6 million. An Associated Press survey of the veterans groups yielded more than two-dozen responses—about half of them reported checks dated May 24 or beyond.
There were several problems with Trump’s explanations as to why it took so long to account for the alleged $6 million—but the most dubious claim by far was that he didn’t want to take personal credit for helping the veterans that he claims to love so much.
“I wanted to keep it private, if we could, I wanted to keep it private, because I don’t think it’s anybody’s business if I want to send money to the vets,” Trump said, despite the fact he raised the money at a flashy, broadcasted event as a cover for declining to attend a Fox News debate.
There is no shortage of cases in which Trump flaunted the money he raised for vets. Over and over again, he used veterans as political pawns during the heat of the Republican presidential primary process.
Before the Iowa caucuses, he held a rally in Iowa in which he presented an oversized check to local charity Partners for Patriots. And just prior to the New Hampshire primary, Trump presented another novelty check to Al Baldasaro, one of his veteran co-chairs and a member of the New Hampshire House of Representatives.
This faux-humility is also undercut by Trump’s own Twitter account, which has repeatedly played up the $6 million he supposedly raised in January—never mind that he hasn’t reached this figure, even today.
Trump also claimed that he sent checks to veterans charities without even telling them who it was from—apparently to bolster his claim that he wasn’t interested in credit for the fundraising.
“They received $100,000 in the mail. They didn’t even know what it was for, it was from me,” Trump told reporters Tuesday.
One organization, Boston’s Wounded Vet Run, posted the letter that accompanied his donation. The letter is on Trump Organization letterhead, and is signed personally by the businessman himself.
Other organizations have reported receiving similar letters: Liberty House, a small New Hampshire veterans charity, told The Daily Beast it received money from the Stewart J. Rahr Foundation, along with a letter saying that the donation should be credited to Trump. Rahr, a party-boy billionaire, has been responsible for a substantial portion of the Trump-credit charitable contributions
The message from within the Trump camp for much of the last four months had been: we don’t know where the money is, and frankly we don’t care.
Baldasaro, who stood to the right of Trump during Tuesday’s press conference and is a prominent veterans adviser for the campaign, told The Daily Beast last month that he didn’t know where the pledged $6 million for vets had gone, and he wasn’t all that interested in finding out.
“I could ask, but it’s not high on my priority list,” Baldasaro told The Daily Beast then.
Among the 20 new charities Trump listed at his press conference on Tuesday, many of them received money within the last week or week and a half, after the press began ratcheting up pressure again on whether Trump had raised the $6 million he promised he had, and where it had gone.
Those contacted by The Daily Beast said they were all grateful for the donation, and as a nonpartisan charity were willing to take money from anyone who wanted to help veterans.
“Where we do stand is proudly alongside our men and women in uniform, particularly those who have made deep sacrifices on behalf of this country, that have resulted in catastrophic wounds. Anything we can do to support them, we will do,” said Megan Lombardo, director of development at Achilles International, a group which received two $100,000 checks from the Trump Foundation, one in late February and another one last week.
Her response typified the reaction of veterans charities which received money from Trump: that they were “apolitical.”
Trump, who has flaunted his giving at political rallies, can’t say the same.