Tomorrow, Trump will give more details about his donations to vets. Here’s what we still don’t know.
© Bonnie Jo Mount/The Washington Post undefined
Last week — after intense pressure from the news media — Donald Trump made good on a promise he had made in January. He gave $1 million of his own money to a charity for veterans. (Trump called this reporter "a nasty guy" after I asked him whether my questions had prompted him to finally give the money.)
On Tuesday morning, the day after Memorial Day, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee has scheduled a news conference at Trump Tower in New York. He is expected to announce that he had made good on a separate promise to veterans, made at the same time as the $1 million pledge.
Now, he is giving away other people's money.
In January, donors big and small had entrusted funds to the Donald J. Trump Foundation, a charity he controls. Trump had promised to act as a middleman and give their money away to veterans charities. All the gifts relate to a Jan. 28 fundraiser that Trump held in Iowa, on a night when he skipped a GOP debate as part of a feud with Fox News, the debate's host.
At Tuesday's news conference, Trump has a chance to clear up several lingering questions about his handling of this money meant for veterans.
This episode began as a demonstration of Trump's patriotism, wealth and organizing savvy.
Now — after weeks of delays, stonewalling, and repeated false statements from Trump and his campaign — it has become a test of the candidate's ability to deliver on a promise.
Which groups are receiving the new gifts?
Trump's aides have said that he could announce new gifts to up to two dozen charities. But the recipients will not all be new. Some of them have already received donations out of the money Trump raised in January.
Even before Trump's announcement, The Washington Post has identified five groups that appear to be on Tuesday's list.
— 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 and provides benefits to the families of fallen U.S. and British 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.
So how much money, in total, did Trump actually raise in Iowa?
On Tuesday, we may finally know for sure.
In January, on the night of the fundraiser, Trump was (seemingly) clear about the night's total haul. "We just cracked $6 million, right? Six million."
But that figure appears to be false.
Earlier this month, Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski said the fundraiser had actually netted $4.5 million, because some big donors had not paid up. Then, a few days later, Trump said Lewandowski's figures were wrong. In fact, Trump said, the total fundraising haul was $5.5 million, after he had made good on his own pledge to give $1 million from his pocket.
The figures released by Trump on Tuesday should make clear what the actual number was. The Post has found evidence that at least $4.1 million in donations have been distributed. Whatever gifts are announced Tuesday could be added to that $4.1 million. That would be the true grand total.
Why did Trump say he had raised $6 million if he had not?
Even if the figure is $5.5 million — or less — Trump still raised millions for veterans groups. The groups that have received donations say that the gifts had a huge impact and that they were enormously grateful.
But the fact remains that Trump said he had raised $6 million and now says it was less than that.
Trump has not provided an explanation for this. In fact, in recent days, both Trump and his campaign manager have flatly — and falsely — denied that Trump had ever claimed he raised $6 million.
Lewandowski said Trump had cited the $6 million figure only as a goal he wanted to reach. "What he said was, 'We hope to get $6 million,'" Lewandowski said,
Trump said he didn't remember ever using the number. "I didn’t say six,” he said in an interview, meaning $6 million.
But both claims are incorrect. Trump did say the number. Multiple times. On video.
In a video from the fundraiser, Trump is seen telling 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 Feb. 3, on "Morning Joe," Trump repeated the figure four times in six sentences. For more than three months afterward, his campaign gave no hint that the $6 million figure was wrong.
Why did it take four months to distribute the last of this money?
In an interview last week, Trump said the delay was caused by the need to scrutinize the veterans' charities he intended to help. "It’s actually turned out to be lot of work," he said.
On Tuesday, that explanation could be proven — or disproven — by the full list of groups to which Trump gave the final round of gifts.
Are they small, startup charities whose legitimacy actually needed to be researched and confirmed?
Or are they groups to which Trump already had a connection — charities run by his friends or acquaintances, or groups he had already cleared for donations months ago?
If the list is mostly groups that had preexisting connections to Trump, then his explanation for the delay may not hold water.