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AT THIS HOUR WITH BERMAN AND MICHAELA
Trump Gives Account of Veteran Fundraiser. Aired 11-11:30a ET
Aired May 31, 2016 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[11:00:02] DONALD TRUMP, (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I raised almost $6 million for the veterans, including putting up $1 million of my own money.
Millions and millions of dollars. I didn't have to raise 10 cents.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where is the money?
COREY LEWANDOWSKI, DONALD TRUMP PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN MANGER: Whatever money came in, Donald Trump has distributed to worthy causes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm John Berman.
Donald Trump is about to show us the money, or so he says. We're waiting on a news conference that's set to begin any minute at Trump Tower here in New York City. I think we have a picture of the podium. Do we, the magic of television? There it is. A live picture from inside the room where Donald Trump will speak at any moment. This all has to do with a January fundraiser that he held for veterans groups in Iowa -- that was where the fundraiser was -- instead of attending a debate there.
BOLDUAN: So these $6 million questions facing Donald Trump today, how much did he raise and where did it go? Pretty basic questions. At the time, he said that he had raised $6 million. He said it that night at the event. Since then, reporters have been asking for an accounting of the money. Those answers have been harder to come by.
Let's get to senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta. He is in the room. He's at Trump Tower waiting for this press conference to happen.
Jim, what are you seeing? What are you hearing?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Kate and John, that's right. We have heard from Donald Trump in the last several days give an explanation as to why this full accounting as to where that money has gone has been slow in coming. He's said we had to vet the vets. I expect we'll hear that. That it took all of this time to give this full accounting to the American people as to where this money went because not all of these groups were groups that you could put out there as having received this money right away and so it was necessary for the Trump campaign, the Trump organization, to do some homework, do some lay work in terms of putting those details together.
But, yes, you're right exactly the way you set that up. It was back in January before the Iowa caucuses. Donald Trump says, I'm not going to one of those GOP debates, I'm going to hold a veterans event instead. Donald Trump said he raised at that event $6 million for veterans groups, but as you mentioned, over time, the questions were coming in. Reporters were asking which organizations had received this money. In the last few weeks, Corey Lewandowski said it wasn't $6 million, it was $4.5 million, and then Donald Trump contradicted his own campaign manager and said it's more like $5.5 million, and by he way, I made that contribution myself.
Lots of questions. Hopefully, we'll get some answers in a few moments. Donald Trump said at last week's news conference that he was going to give a full accounting. We should hear that in a few moments. And we are starting to see what appear to be some representatives of veterans groups on hand.
Now, as you know, there are other questions that are going to be asked at this news conference, if Donald Trump takes questions. One is about the Trump University case that was just a few days ago where Donald Trump went after the judge who was handling his case, talked about the ethnicity, the fact that the judge in that case is Mexican. That raised a lot of eyebrows. Why is Donald Trump talking about the Mexican ethnicity of the judge handling that fraud case in southern California?
And then you also have this prospect of a third-party challenge, John and Kate, which might be the biggest development of all, if we see that development in the coming days. Bill Kristol, the neoconservative, in Washington, over the weekend, was tweeting here comes a third-party candidate. Who is that person and what does Donald Trump make of all this? So we may hear some of those answers in a few moments.
BERMAN: Jim Acosta for us inside Trump Tower.
We'll keep one eye on Jim and that event. We will get there the minute Donald Trump walks onto that stage.
Want to talk more though about what we're going to see, what we're going to hear, and what we don't know yet. Joined by an army of some of the best reporters and analysts in the world.
We'll start with Drew Griffin, CNN senior investigative correspondent.
Drew, you have been looking into this veterans issue since January, since this fundraiser happened. You have been trying to get answers to these very basic questions, how much did he raise and where did it go.
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: And really, I think this was a controversy of his own making. It was a spur-of-the- moment thing. He did it. Many people thought it was a campaign stunt, but then we did start asking the hard questions. OK, $6 million in, where's it going, $6 million out. We've been waiting and waiting. Where is it going? Been a lot of conflicting information. Is it $4.5 million? Is it less than that? Is it more than that?
We have been able to establish 27 vetted groups did get $3.1 million. Then there were three donations made last week, $1 million from Trump himself to a pretty good group that takes care of the orphans of Marines, and then money that has gone to two other organizations, one of which our colleague, Bob Woodruff, his foundation at ABC got $75,000. So the money is coming out.
Trump complains a lot of this is just too much persnickety reporters like me asking questions. But he had to have known this is coming, had to have known we would look for every dime. And now I think we're going to get an accounting of where that money is.
And, in the end, this is great, $6 million bucks to veterans' causes. You can't sneeze at it. How he got there, a little messy.
[11:05:15] BOLDUAN: We talked late last week, when you had had a phone call with Donald Trump about this, and he was frustrated that you were asking questions or that he thinks the scrutiny has been unfair. You've got a better accounting of where the money has gone so far than most people, Drew. What more does he have to answer today?
GRIFFIN: Well, I think he was frustrated -- this is a guy who is running a campaign. Since January, he's beaten out all these Republican candidates so he's had a lot going on. But he told me last week some of those pledges didn't come through. He had to get on the horn and call these people that made those pledges and remind them of their gift. So he had that hanging over him. The money wasn't coming in. The other thing he said is that a couple of the groups we identified, we took another look at, and they weren't very good.
BOLDUAN: They didn't pass muster.
GRIFFIN: So he had to move the money around to where it was going. In other words, he had to devote his staff time to answering these questions and making sure that the vetting process, both for the money coming in, the money going out, was going to work. He did tell me that some of the groups that originally got money will get even more money. So I think it's been a frustrating side show for him. But like I said, it was ill conceived when he did it and kind of rolled out there very quickly without any management that usual fundraisers have and now they're catching up to that.
BERMAN: I think we're about to see Donald Trump. You can see him walking in right now. There he is. Donald Trump will take the stage at any moment.
BOLDUAN: I wonder what he's waiting for.
BERMAN: I think he's probably waiting for more cameras.
(CROSSTALK) BOLDUAN: They're in his tower.
BERMAN: He complains about the questions when they're asked.
Christine Romans, you're here. We'll walk this the minute Trump starts speaking and we'll take it.
But you say this raises questions about management issues. Donald Trump said he's a big executive, he raised $6 million in January, and it took some time to account for it.
CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: He's running that he can solve problems quickly. Did he solve problems quickly?
BOLDUAN: Let's listen to Donald Trump.
TRUMP: It's been a great period of time. It's been really, as George said, amazing. We've gotten the nomination. We're going to have an incredible period in Cleveland. We look forward to it. We're working already on the convention.
And, Lebron, good luck in the series because we're going to have a series which, of course, the longer it goes, the less time we have but that's OK, and it's going to be very interesting to see what happens. But as you know, they're playing the basketball championships partially in that arena, so I think it will be very exciting. It will add to the excitement in Cleveland and that's good. That's what we want because it's going to be an exciting period of time.
We have -- we've done some awfully good work. I was just informed, it was certified out that we have more votes than anybody in the history of the Republican primaries. We still have, I guess, six or seven locations to go, states to go. And in the history -- think of it, in the history of this great party, we've gotten substantially more votes than anybody else, by many millions more than anybody who has ever run. So that's a great -- you know, when you think Dwight Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan and everybody, we have the most votes by far. So that's something to me that's very exciting.
And overall, it's just been a very exciting process. I think we're going to do very well. We have no idea what's going to happen on the Democrat side, but they're certainly having difficulty. I don't like to see people having difficulty, but if anybody has to have it, let it be them. And I think it's going to be very interesting. But I'm very proud to say that we've gotten the most votes. And also if you look at the overall primary, the amount of votes cast, that's also a record. So we've broken a lot of records in terms of the voters. Our polling has come out and the polls are doing very well. As you know, we're pretty much even, and in some cases ahead of Hillary. And I think we're going to have a very, very successful number of months. And I think it will all culminate in November, and we're going to make America great again, OK? So that's the way it is.
Does anybody have any questions? Yes, yes?
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: You've been dogged for the last four months about questions about the $6 million you say you've raised for veterans groups after that fund-raiser in January. You yourself say you pledged $1 million. Who got that money, when did they get it, and why did it take so long to get it to them?
TRUMP: OK. I'm glad you asked the question because I have to tell you, I have raised a tremendous amount of money for the vets, almost $6 million, and more money is going to come in I believe over the next little while too, but I have raised almost $6 million. All of the money has been paid out, and I'm going to give it to you in a second. In fact, I brought a list just in case that question was asked. But the money's been paid out.
[11:10:05] I have been thanked by so many veterans groups throughout the United States. One gentleman called me up recently crying, that out of the blue he got a check for $100,000. But I have been thanked by so many great veterans groups. And outside, you have a few people, they're picketing, they're sent there by Hillary Clinton and they're picketing that the money wasn't sent. The money has all been sent. I wanted to keep it private. If we could, 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. But I have to say this. I raised close to $6 million. It will probably be over that amount when it's all said and done. But as of this moment, it's $5.6 million.
When it started -- this started with a speech in Iowa when I said let's raise some money for the vets, and it went up from $1 million to $2 million to $3 million, and it now ends up to be almost $6 million. And, again, I think we can even do better than that.
But I will say that the press should be ashamed of themselves. And on behalf of the vets, the press should be ashamed of themselves. They are calling me and they are furious because I sent people checks of a lot of money, and we're going to give you the names right now, which is what you want, and instead of being like, thank you very much, Mr. Trump, or Trump did a good job, everyone is saying, who got it, who got it, who got it. And you make me look very bad. I have never received such bad publicity for doing such a good job.
So I will give you the names if that's what you want, right? OK. Are you ready? I brought them here.
It takes -- because you have to vet each -- you know, much of this money was paid out very early. But you have to vet all of these different groups because these are many different groups. You have to go through a process. When you send checks for hundreds of thousands of dollars to people and to companies and to groups that you've never heard of, charitable organizations, you have to vet it. You send people out. You do a lot of work. Most of the money went out quite a while ago. Some of it went out more recently. But all of this has gone out. And I will give you the names.
Are you ready? Do you have your pad? And again, I really think the press -- look, the media, you know my
opinion of the media, it's very low. I think the media is, frankly, made up of people that in many cases, not in all cases, are not good people. But I think this is an example.
On behalf of all of the folks that have worked hard on this and all of the people that have made contributions, including myself -- I gave $1 million -- but I just want to tell you that there people that are so thankful for what we did.
One other thing that's important to know, it's zero dollars have been taken out for administration. You know, when you go to a lot of these different groups -- in this case, zero dollars have been taken out for administration of the companies they make a lot of money with doing the administration stuff. So no money -- it costs zero dollars to accumulate all of this money, OK?
So you have 22 kill and that's $200,000. You can call these people. That was another thing. A lot of the money when it was sent out, different people would call. I could tell you -- I'm not going to mention anybody specifically, but there were a couple people that were really disgusting. They'd call and these vet groups, they don't get a lot of calls from the press. And maybe some of them would keep quiet or they didn't know or they didn't want to talk to the press or they didn't feel comfortable. So if they didn't say they got the money, which they all did, 100 percent got the money, all certified checks, but rather than saying, why don't you -- I see a certified check, they said, well, they didn't say they got the money. They all got the money but they're not people that always talk to the press. Many of them do talk to the press. I guess you found $2 million or $2.5 million where they'll talk.
Well, the number is $5.6 million and it's going to possibly go above that because I believe some other people are coming in. Ready? 22 kill got $200,000.
Now, these are checks that have been delivered, that have been cashed, that are now being used to help the vets. Achilles International, great organization, $200,000. Much of this money was paid a long time ago. American Hero Adventures, $100,000. Americans for Equal Living, $100,000. America's vet dogs, the Veteran K-9 Corps, Inc., $75,000. AMVETS, $75,000.
Just so you understand, when I didn't do the FOX debate, the one FOX debate, because I didn't think they treated me right -- but actually they've been extremely fair over the last three or four months. I have to say that about FOX. But when I didn't do that one event, the debate, I gave a speech. I didn't have to do this with the money for the vets but I decided to because I thought it would be a good idea.
[11:15:18] And I had some very generous people. Karl Icahn gave half a million. Phil Ruffin give a million. Stewart Rawl (ph) gave a million. Ike Perlmutter (ph) gave a million. There is a lot of money. It would have been easier just to give the speech.
But the problem with the press, what they do is they convince people like me not to do it, not to give money to different things because it's a lot easier actually that way.
Armed Services, YMCA of the United States, $75,000. Bob Woodruff Family Foundation, Inc., they do a good job, $75,000. Central Iowa Shelter and Services -- these are all vet related -- $100,000. Connected Warriors, Inc., $75,000. Disabled American Veterans Charitable Service Trust, $115,000. Fisher House Foundation, great people, $115,000. Folds of Honor Foundation, $200,000. Foundation for American Veterans, $75,000. Freedom Alliance, $75,000. Green Beret Foundation, $350,000. Higher Heroes USA, $75,000. Homes for our Troops, $50,000.
And just so you understand, we got a long way to go. This money was raised during a little speech that I made rather debate. The one debate I missed. It was the lowest rated debate, by the way, but I won't say that.
Honoring America's Warriors, $100,000. Hope for the Warriors, $65,000. Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, $175,000. K-9s for Warriors, $50,000. Liberty House, $100,000. Marine Corps Law Enforcement Foundation, $1,100,000. I gave $1 million to them. They're a great group. Navy SEAL Foundation, $465,000. Navy Marine Corps Relief Society, $75,000. New England Wounded Veterans, Inc., $75,000. Operation Home Front, $65,000. Partners for Patriots, $100,000. Project for Patriots -- and we're still vetting them, by the way. The check is ready to go but they don't have all of their appropriate -- in fact, we have down here, "Will be released to them upon receipt of the IRS determination letter." It's the only one, which we hear they're fantastic, but they have to give us that final document. This is what I mean by vetting. You have to have all the documents, otherwise you can't give them the money. Project for Patriots, $100,000. Puppy Jake Foundation, $100,000. Racing for Heroes, Inc., $200,000. Support Sulan (ph) Soldiers, $100,000. Task Force Dagger Foundation, $50,000. The Mission Continues, $75,000. The National Military Family Association, Inc., $75,000. Veterans Air Lift Command, $100,000. Veterans Count, $25,000. Veterans in Command, Inc., $150,000. Vietnam Veterans Workshop, Inc., $75,000. Warriors for Freedom Foundation, $50,000.
And I believe we're going to have some more coming in, some friends of mine, some more coming in. And that adds up to $6 million -- well, let's see. That adds up to $5,600,000 total, and we're going to have some more coming in so that's it. Now --
TRUMP: Thank you. Thank you.
Every one of those checks has been passed, other than the one check, which is being held subject to their getting a final approval from the government. But every one of those checks has been passed.
This is my check for $1 million.
[11:20:15] We have many letters from the different groups thanking us very much for the money, and they didn't ask -- and I didn't ask people to be here. I could have asked every one of the group, unlike Hillary who asked people to stand out and say Donald Trump didn't give the money. Nobody gave this kind of money. So I save $5,600,000, more is coming in, probably tops the $6 million number. I never thought we were going to raise $1 million when we started, and we end up doing almost $6 million.
So I have to tell you, the press is so dishonest and so unfair.
A lot of the people behind me and some of the people over here helped in vetting the various requests for money, and I just want to thank all of those people.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Shouldn't --
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: How personally involved were you in deciding which organizations were to be recipients and how much they got and how did you prioritize some? Some of those you mentioned are well known, others are more obscure. How did you work through that and --
TRUMP: I wasn't too involved in picking the organizations, other than I gave $1 million to the Law Enforcement Marines. They are fabulous people. They honored me last year at the Waldorf-Astoria. I knew them. I was going to give it to three companies or three groups and we couldn't vet them quickly, and so I gave it to the Marines. If you look at that number, the Marine Corps Law Enforcement Foundation 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 pro of having to vet all those different groups.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Just the verification process that is --
TRUMP: I wanted to make this out of the goodness of my heart. I didn't want to do this where the press is all involved.
TRUMP: -- where did it go, who did it go to. Then we said who it went to. Then how much was it? We gave -- look, when this started, I think you were there, I said if we could raise $1 million that would be good. And we ended up raising almost $6 million. And I'm going to have more coming in over a period of time.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: But don't you believe you should be accountable to the people --
TRUMP: I'm totally accountable but I didn't want to have credit for it. What I got was worse than credit because they were questioning me, and this is money -- and by the way, most of that money went out very early, just so you understand, but a lot of these groups -- getting vetted by, you know, when you pay the money out, they need government documentation, they need a lot of different things. Plus, we want to find out is it a good group. I had teams of people reviewing statistics, reviewing numbers, and also talking to people in the military to find out whether or not the group was deserving of the money. We have given to groups that are unbelievable groups. And honestly, I wish you could hear the phone calls and see the letters. They are so happy.
TRUMP: And I'm happy to do it. I didn't want the credit for it but it was very unfair that the press treated us so badly.
Yeah, go ahead.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: To follow up on that, you keep calling us the dishonest press --
TRUMP: Generally speaking, that's 100 percent true.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: I disagree with that, sir. If I can ask you the question, it seems like you're resistant to scrutiny, the kind of scrutiny that comes with running for president --
TRUMP: You now what? When I've raised money --
TRUMP: Excuse me. Excuse me. I have watched you on television.
When I raise money for the veterans and it's a massive amount of money, find out how much Hillary Clinton has given to the veterans. Nothing. And then I see a few guys standing out there, they don't even know what they're there for. They have no idea. They're there because Hillary Clinton's campaign sent them. And actually I think it was you or one of you that found out that they actually were with Hillary Clinton's campaign, which was interesting, but I wasn't surprised.
I don't want the credit for it but I shouldn't be lambasted.
And remember this, so out of the almost $6 million that was raised, not one penny did I take for administration costs. That's unheard of, OK.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Why do you continue to attack the press though, Mr. Trump?
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: You talk about not wanting to get credit for this, you did host a very public fundraiser --
TRUMP: How else am I going to raise the money? UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Sorry?
TRUMP: How else am I going to raise the money?
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What I'm asking is when you did this fundraiser, it was televised. Instead of doing the debate, it received wide attention --
TRUMP: I would have given -- just so you understand, until I was criticized -- I'm the only one in the world could raise almost for the veterans, have uniform applause by the veterans groups and end up being criticized by the press. Yes, I made a speech, and during my speech, I said let's raise a little money for the vets. It turned out to be a lot of money, not a little money. I thought if we could get to $1 million it would have been great, which it would have been.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: But you've repeatedly touted the fact you've taken --
TRUMP: That's right. That's right. I do raise millions.
No, I don't think so. I don't think so.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Mr. Trump, writing a $1 million check is incredibly generous, but the night of that Iowa fundraiser, you said you had raised $6 million. Clearly, you had not. You're critics say you tend to exaggerate, you have a problem with the truth. Is this a prime example?
[11:25:18] TRUMP: No, I raised almost $6 million. Some of it didn't come through, but more money is coming through than didn't come through. The number probably is going to be -- when we finish it probably going to be over the $6 million.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Why exaggerate?
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Good to see you, sir. So to follow up a little bit on what Jim was saying, you do realize that when the Democrats are out there raising questions about this money, the press is also reflecting what your opposition is saying about you. It's not just throwing questions at you because it's coming from some of them.
TRUMP: I don't mind it coming from the opposition. What I mind is when I raise all these millions -- and when we started out nobody thought it was --
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: But what you're doing is you're answering the questions now that we had back then. It was just a question.
TRUMP: Here is the story.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Is the question an attack?
TRUMP: I think -- and I have been dealing with the press a long time. I think the political press is among the most dishonest people that I have ever met. I have to tell you that, OK? Of course, you're excluded, Carl. The political press --
TRUMP: I see the stories and I see the way they're couched. For instance, I went down this weekend to do Rolling Thunder. I was invited. I didn't have anything to do with it. We had a tremendous gathering of people, thousands -- I don't know how many thousands but many thousands of people. And I joked, oh, I thought we were going to go from the Jefferson Memorial to the Lincoln. I was joking. They said Donald Trump was disappointed. Everybody knew I was being sarcastic and joking. They said -- some of them -- said Donald Trump was very disappointed that it didn't go from Jefferson to Lincoln. You know, millions of people. I was joking. I said, oh, I'm used to watching it -- I was joking. So they put it down as serious. They know I was joking.
I'll give you another example. We had a certain -- the same event. It was roped off where you could only get so many people there and there were a lot of people. I don't know. 10,000, 15,000, maybe 25,000. I don't know. There was a lot of people. Plus, that were people breaking the seams all the way along. Gene Washington, a man I like actually, wrote an article like there were 5,000 people there. There were many times that. And you weren't allowed to have any more people. And all of these people were with their motorcycles in parking lots all the way -- they're waving to me as I'm going by. But wait a minute, the point is law enforcement, these people, didn't allow to have any more people. I think the press knew that. I had a tremendous crowd, but it was the biggest crowd you could have had because it was all cordoned off. You weren't allowed to have any more. They weren't allowed to have any more people in there. So instead of saying Trump made a speech in front of a packed crowd, they said Trump was disappointed, because I didn't have millions of people going from Jefferson to Washington. I mean, give me a break. Honestly, it's dishonest reporting.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: How are veterans -- (INAUDIBLE)
TRUMP: Well, the veterans believe me. Let me tell you the veterans, why they believe. And I have -- one group was here -- is Al Baldasaro (ph) here? Maybe you want to say, this is a group I gave money to. Now, I could
have asked all these groups -- he just showed up. I just saw him. But I could have asked all these groups to come here and they could have -- I didn't want to do that. I'm not looking for credit. But what I don't want is when I raise millions of dollars, have people say, like this sleazy guy right over here from ABC -- he's a sleaze in my book -- you're a sleaze because you know the facts and you know the facts well.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, Mr. Trump.
First of all, for the record, I'm a state representative from New Hampshire, 10 years on the Veterans Affairs Committee, 22 years in the Marine Corps, retired first sergeant.
What I want to clarify here, first of all, 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. I met him over a year ago. I have been involved with many fundraisers. There are many scam artists out there. He did the right thing by vetting these groups there. If you look at some of the groups that give 20 cents, 40 cents on the dollar and they're spending the rest for, you know, their nice lavish trips. He gave 100 percent.
The liberal media is the only ones that have been calling me on the foundation, right? I'm the former chairman. I have been dealing with this stuff for years as a veteran activist. Stop using veterans as political pawns. You got a guy outside, McCoy, go do a Google search on his Facebook. It's out there, his pictures with Clinton. They are using veterans as political pawns. It must stop.
Donald Trump is doing this from the heart. You're all focused on the way he's raising money and you're not looking at the 22 veterans that are killing each other every day. You're not concerned about the thousands of vets that are on wait lists. Look at his plan on Trump's website. He talks about medical cards. He talks about fixing the V.A. He talks about competition.