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Donald Trump Details Donations To Veterans Organizations


Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has faced questions for months about his claim that he raised over $6 million for veterans. Well, Trump held a campaign event to benefit vets in January, but it turns out at least $1.9 million was not delivered to veterans groups until last week. Today, Trump called a news conference in New York to clear up how much he raised, where the money has gone and why it took so long to deliver. NPR's Quil Lawrence was there and he sent this report.

QUIL LAWRENCE, BYLINE: Donald Trump read out a list of 41 organizations that got checks totaling $5.6 million after his fundraiser for veterans, but he devoted as much time to criticizing and personally insulting the news media.


DONALD TRUMP: I'm the only one in the world who could raise almost $6 million for the veterans, have uniform applause by the veterans groups and end up being criticized by the press.

LAWRENCE: Journalists had been asking about that $6 million number. Trump repeatedly claimed he'd already raised $6 million, including a million-dollar donation of his own wealth. The specifics released today show it was less, but it includes his own million dollars, which Trump gave to a group he'd donated to before.


TRUMP: The Marine Corps Law Enforcement Foundation has - is a fabulous group. And I didn't have to go through a big vetting process with them because I was going to split the million-dollar check up among three or four different groups. And in the end I just didn't want to go through the process of having to vet all those different groups.

LAWRENCE: NPR reached out to all 41 groups and heard back from more than two dozen. Many got the checks just last week. Trump said the timing had nothing to do with media pressure - it was just taking a long time to verify that each organization was legit. He said he hadn't explained all this earlier because he never wanted the publicity.


TRUMP: I wanted to keep it private. If we could, I wanted to keep it private because I don't think it's anybody business if I want to send money to the vets.

LAWRENCE: Then why do a live TV event if he wanted his donations private?


TRUMP: How else am I going to raise the money?


TRUMP: How else am I going to raise the money?

LAWRENCE: Trump said he didn't want to make a spectacle of veterans, but he did invite a U.S. Marine Corps vet up to the podium - New Hampshire State Representative Al Baldasaro.


AL BALDASARO: I would never, ever in a million years put my name on a candidate that did not, from his heart, look me in the eye and tell me he's concerned about veterans. That's Donald Trump. They are using veterans as political pawns. It must stop.

LAWRENCE: Baldasaro was referring to the veterans protesting outside, which Trump said were sent by the Hillary Clinton campaign as props. That charge goes both ways.

OFFICER JAKE MAIER: He doesn't support veterans at all, and he uses us as tools and props for his hateful, bigoted speech.

LAWRENCE: Marine Jake Maier was outside with a handful of other vets.

MAIER: And as a Marine Corps officer, I'm opposed to everything Donald Trump stands for. His hate speech against Muslims, Latinos and women are making America a more dangerous place.

LAWRENCE: Trump has angered vets groups previously by implying that his past sexual behavior was his own Vietnam and that Senator John McCain was not a war hero after being tortured during five-and-a-half years as a prisoner of war. Trump was asked one question about veterans' policy at the conference.

He said he would solve the VA's delay problems by giving veterans a card they could use for private healthcare. That's an idea already in practice, though rife with problems. It was suggested in the past by John McCain. Quil Lawrence, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Quil Lawrence is a New York-based correspondent for NPR News, covering veterans' issues nationwide. He won a Robert F. Kennedy Award for his coverage of American veterans and a Gracie Award for coverage of female combat veterans. In 2019 Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America honored Quil with its IAVA Salutes Award for Leadership in Journalism.
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