In a normal year, in a normal party, with a normal candidate, it would be the kind of controversy that effectively kills a presidential candidate’s chances of success. In January, Donald Trump skipped a Republican debate in order to host a fundraiser for veterans. He boasted at the time that he’d raised $6 million for vets – which led to a related boast that Trump contributed $1 million out of his own pocket.
The Washington Post reported this week that Trump’s claims simply weren’t true. He did not, for example, raise $6 million. And what about the $1 million check the Republican bragged about? His campaign manager insisted this week that Trump did make the contribution.
Except, that wasn’t true, either. The Post reported last night:
Almost four months after promising $1 million of his own money to veterans’ causes, Donald Trump moved to fulfill that pledge Monday evening – promising the entire sum to a single charity as he came under intense media scrutiny.
The check is apparently going to a group called the Marine Corps-Law Enforcement Foundation, whose chairman received a call from Trump on Monday night, the day the campaign controversy broke.
Let’s put aside, for now, why the Trump campaign said he’d made a donation that did not exist. Let’s instead ask why it took nearly four months for the candidate to do what he claimed to have already done.
“You have a lot of vetting to do,” Trump told the Washington Post yesterday.
That might be a decent response were it not for the fact that the New York Republican doesn’t appear at all interested in vetting veterans’ groups – as the story of the sketchy “Veterans for a Strong America” helps prove.
CNN, meanwhile, reported last night that when it comes to the candidate’s support for veterans’ groups, there have been “discrepancies between the amount of money Trump touts, and the amount actually donated.”
You can find one example right on Trump’s own website, where Trump boasts of saving an annual veterans parade in 1995 with his participation, and a cash donation, “Mr. Trump agreed to lead as grand marshal,” and “made a $1 million matching donation to finance the Nation’s Day Parade.”Trump did save the event, according to the parade’s organizer, but he didn’t give $1 million to it.
He actually donated “somewhere between $325,000 and $375,000” – about a third of what he claimed – and Trump was not the parade’s grand marshal, a honor reserved for actual veterans.
CNN’s report has not been independently verified by NBC News, but if accurate, the revelations will only make the controversy more severe.
I can appreciate why some observers get tired of the “imagine if a Democrat did this” framing, but in this case, it’s worth taking a moment to consider. If Hillary Clinton and her campaign had been caught making blatantly false claims about donations to veterans’ charities, is there any doubt that it would be one of the biggest stories of the election season? How much punditry would we hear about this being proof about Clinton’s dishonesty and willingness to say anything to get elected?
Postscript: Asked about the January fundraiser, and his claim that he’d raised $6 million for veterans, Trump told the Washington Post yesterday, “I didn’t say six.” Reminded that he did, in reality, use the specific $6 million figure – out loud, in public, on video – Trump changed the subject.