As you may recall, back in January, presumptive GOP nominee and smirking meat gargoyle Donald Trump, distressed at Fox News' plans to continue employing anchor Megyn Kelly, bailed from the Fox debate in Des Moines, Iowa. To get a full measure of vindication, he staged a bit of cable television counter-programming, hosting a rally of his own, at which he claimed to have raised several million dollars for veterans.
In the months that followed, campaign reporters have been captivated by an enduring mystery: To whom did that money go? How much money was raised in the first place? On April 22, prompted by a CNN report that raised questions about these contributions, Trump campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks "shared a list" with CNN, "showing 27 veterans organizations that have received a total of $2.9 million to date" from the rally. That still leaves some $3 million in the wind.
Since then, the Trump campaign has walked back the original claim that $6 million had been raised for veterans. As the Washington Post reported, Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski admitted the event had only raised $4.5 million, blaming donors who allegedly reneged on their promises to kick in some booty. (For whatever reason, Lewandowski would not name these donors, perhaps because they are figments of the imagination.)
This week, veterans protested outside Trump Tower in Manhattan, demanding accountability from the mogul and accusing him of dishonestly hyping his charitable gesture.
Tuesday morning, on his Instagram account, Trump deflected the criticism (onto the Clinton Foundation) and called the media "dishonest" for pursuing the story. He then restated his claim that he'd raised $6 million for vets, despite the efforts of his own campaign manager to walk that back.
In response, Washington Post campaign reporter David Fahrenthold took to Twitter and shared an excerpt from the transcript of an interview that Post reporters conducted with Trump "earlier this month," in which the paper's national business reporter, Drew Harwell, repeatedly questions Trump on the veracity of his claims pertaining to these donations.
In response, Trump basically lies himself silly.
Perhaps the best part of this interview is when Trump says he is "honored by" the fact that he allegedly gave away money to veterans. Pro-tip: When you donate money, you are "honoring" the recipients. You are supposed to be humbled at the opportunity to donate.
But for all of Trump's protestations about how the Post will inevitably cover this story with "negative spin," this is a case in which the actual facts -- should they match Trump's own claims -- would be a slam-dunk defense. But Trump refuses repeated entreaties to reveal who ended up with this charity money, insisting that he's not obligated to furnish that information. Which is perhaps true! But it's pretty unnecessary to refuse when he could finally put to bed the contention that this rally was just another Trump-authored scam.
Based upon this interview, it looks like this wasn't even a particularly well-thought-out scam. Speaking of, here's the exciting twist ending, courtesy of Fahrenthold and his Post colleague, national reporter Mark Berman:
That's too bad, as Trump's pretend spokesman may know the truth about this.
Fahrenthold has a piece up today accounting for all the knowns and unknowns with regard to Trump's donations to veterans, so please read the whole thing.
Jason Linkins edits “Eat The Press” for The Huffington Post and co-hosts the HuffPost politics podcast “So, That Happened.” Subscribe here, and listen to the latest episode below.