Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump on Tuesday defended his fundraising for veterans charities and said he had not inflated reports of how much money he had donated to military organizations.
"As of this moment, it's $5.6 million," Trump told reporters at a press conference at Trump Tower in New York City.
"The money has all been sent," Trump said, holding up a copy of a $1 million check he said had been a donation to a Marine Corps charity. The Donald J. Trump Foundation hasn't used any of the money raised to pay staff or cover operational expenses, he added.
Trump also named several charities -- including the Fisher House Foundation, the Marine Corps-Law Enforcement Foundation and the Navy SEAL Foundation -- he said had received money.
"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 when he was asked why it had taken four months for him to release details about how much money he had raised and to which groups the funds had been sent. That was a somewhat perplexing explanation, considering the press conference had been called specifically so Trump could boast about his giving.
The event quickly devolved into a typical Trumpian rant against the media, and the candidate went on tirades against a plaintiff and judge involved in a fraud case against Trump University.
The controversy over Trump's donations to veterans can be traced to late January, when he skipped a debate hosted by Fox News just days before the Iowa caucuses because he claimed the network was biased against him. While the other Republican primary candidates debated, Trump staged a splashy rally he said was a fundraiser for veterans charities. On stage, he bragged that he and his wealthy friends had already raised $6 million that day, and that the money would be donated to veterans via the Donald J. Trump Foundation.
Trump has been defensive since that night, as people have questioned where the money came from and where it went. Some veterans groups reported that Trump staffers asked members to appear on stage with the candidate before they could receive donations. And Trump only gave his personal donation last week, under pressure from critics and reporters.
Trump's appeals to veterans have become a cornerstone of his campaign speeches, but his record on military issues is not without controversy.
He angered veterans nationwide last year when he claimed Arizona Sen. John McCain (R), who spent five years in a Vietnamese prison camp, was not a real war hero.
“He's a war hero because he was captured," he said. "I like people who weren’t captured.”
Trump was old enough to serve in Vietnam, but received four student deferments from the draft. He never served in the military, but Trump has said, "I always felt that I was in the military” because he spent five years at a military-themed boarding school.