Return to Transcripts main page


Trump Personally Donates $1 Million; Trump Touts $5.6 Million Raised For Veterans; Trump Lays Out Vets Donations And Blasts Press; Trump Says He Shouldn't Be Lambasted Over Donations; Trump Campaign To Talk Live; Bernie's Wife To Talk Live; Trump Touts Donations. Aired 1- 1:30p ET

Aired May 31, 2016 - 13:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. We want to welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world.

We start with breaking news. Donald Trump has released the details of the $5.6 million he's raised for veterans here in the United States, including the $1 million out-of-pocket contribution from himself. And he went on the warpath against the news media. Listen to this.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is my check for a million dollars. Now, 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 groups. Unlike Hillary who asked people to stand outside and say, oh, Donald Trump didn't give the money. Nobody gave this kind of money. So, I gave $5,600,000. More is coming in, probably tops the $6 million number.

But 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. And, all of a sudden, everybody is going, where did it go? Who did it go to?

ALFRED BALDASARO (R), NEW HAMPSHIRE, HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: 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 veterans that are on wait lists. Look at his plan on his Trump Web site. He talks about medical costs. He talks about fixing the V.A. He talks about competition.

TRUMP: I would have given -- I would have given this now just so you understand. Until I was criticized. So, I took -- I'm the only one in the world that could raise almost $6 million for the veterans, have uniform applause by the veterans' groups and end up being criticized by the press. Yes, I made the 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.


BLITZER: All this started back in January. That's when Donald Trump held the event in Iowa instead of attending a Republican presidential debate. At the time, he said they cracked $6 million. Today, he put the number at $5.6 million. He says he's still hoping to raise more.

Earlier this month, Trump faced new questions about the donations, that included questions of where his $1 million pledge was going. Today, he said his full million dollars went to the U.S. Marine Corps Law Enforcement Foundation.

Let's bring in CNN's Jim Acosta, our Senior White House Correspondent who had a front-row seat and today's news conference. Also, Drew Griffin is joining us. He's our CNN Senior Investigative Correspondent.

Jim, quite a performance by Donald Trump today going after his critics, stipulating, announcing where all the money was going. He certainly went after the news media, Hillary Clinton. Give us a sense of what it was like inside.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it was vintage Donald Trump. It was contentious at times. He was nasty. He went right after his critics in the news media. He called them all sorts of names.

He called a colleague of mine, over at ABC, sleazy and a sleaze. And so, this was Donald Trump really -- not really wanting to answer some of these questions.

He wanted to take the credit for raising all of this money for these veterans' groups. But then, when he asked some of the questions, sort of bristled at the scrutiny that comes with running for president of the United States.

Yes -- and we should point out, for our viewers, as you mentioned, Wolf, this all started back in January. He skipped that debate. He announced he had raised somewhere around $6 million.

But then, the questions began. And the reason why the questions began is because there wasn't a lot of information forthcoming from the Trump campaign as to where this money was going, how much had been actually raised? Where did the totals stand at the time?

And then, just the last few weeks, Corey Lewandowski, the campaign manager, said, well, it's around 4 1/2 million. It's and not quite 6 million. And then, Donald Trump, himself, contradicted the campaign manager and said it was -- it was between $5 million and $6 million. Of course, Donald Trump, said, during the news conference, it was $5.6 million. But as the questions came in, mainly about why Donald Trump was attacking the news media simply for asking these questions, the Republican presumptive nominee got very nasty. Here's what he had to say.


TRUMP: When I raise money, for the veterans, and it's a massive amount of money. Find out how much Hillary Clinton's given to the veterans, nothing. And then, I see a few guys standing out there. They don't know what they're there for. They never -- 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 -- I don't want the credit for it. But I shouldn't be lambasted.


ACOSTA: Now, Donald Trump was saying, during the news conference, that he doesn't want to get the credit for raising all of this money for these veterans' group. But as you know and as our Jeremy Diamond was asking the question, Trump held an event where he skipped a Republican presidential debate and held an event to highlight the fact that he was raising this money.

[13:05:07] So, over the course of the last several months, as this issue has come up, he has been saying, look at what I've done. And it has been something that he's been trying to cast as a positive for his campaign.

And, of course, Wolf, who could argue with raising money for all of these veterans' groups. If you look through the list, they're among the finest veterans' organizations in the country.

But at the same time, when you're a presidential candidate and you're doing something sort of unconventional, and that is raising money for outside groups during the course of a campaign, questions are going to be asked -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Let me bring Drew Griffin in, who's been doing a lot of reporting about all of this. Drew, what do we know about these veterans' organizations that Donald Trump listed today?

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, generally, as Jim said, they're well thought of, especially the group that Donald Trump, himself, signed a $1 million check to. That is the Marine Corps and Law Enforcement Officers' Foundation. That's a group that actually gives money to the children of fallen Marines and fallen federal law enforcement officers. They're very, very good on the books.

But one of them did catch our eye, and this was the Foundation for American Veterans. Wolf, we pulled the 90 records. These are the tax records that Donald Trump, today, said he didn't look at. And they show a charity that's very much upside down. A charity that's given almost all of its money to professional fundraisers over the last years.

In fact, in the last six years, since 2010, Foundation for American Veterans gave $27 million to a professional fundraiser and that fundraiser is now under investigation by the Michigan attorney general. And, according to the Michigan attorney general, this foundation, which got $75,000 from Donald Trump today, gives less than 10 percent or 10 percent of its proceeds to actual charity work.

So, in one case, we find a very, very, very good charity. And, in another one, we find a not so good and I would say even a bad charity -- Wolf.

BLITZER: The $75,000 going to that one charity, --


BLITZER: -- Foundation for American Veterans. Any other examples that stand out over there, either really, really strong or really, really weak?

GRIFFIN: You know, we're just taking our time going through them. Of course, Fisher House is one that Time Warner and CNN has supported over the years, the Navy SEAL Foundation, Bob Woodruff, our colleague over at ABC. His foundation that helps veterans. They got $75,000. Those are wounded veterans. So, definitely very, very good causes being supported here.

But I dare say, unlike Donald Trump, we're going to go through the list one by one and check their tax records just to make sure that everything's on the up an up.

BLITZER: All right, Drew Griffin reporting for us. Thank you.

Let's discuss all of this and more. Joining us, our Chief Political Analyst Gloria Borger. She's joining us from New York. Here in Washington, our Chief Political Correspondent Dana Bash, Nia-Malika Henderson and Political Director David Chalian.

Gloria, what was different about today's news conference with Donald Trump, because we've all seen a lot of news conferences with the Republican presumptive nominee?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, you know, we -- and we've also heard Donald Trump criticize the press before. But I think what was really different about this, Wolf, was the level of invective and the sense that, even as the presumptive nominee of the Republican Party, this kind of scrutiny about the donations is unwarranted.

And I think if you're a candidate for the president of the United States and you're the nominee of a party, you have to expect this kind of scrutiny. After all, it's the kind of scrutiny the president of the United States gets whether you like it or not. This is what we're paid to do as a free press. And I think that the sort of personal attacks that we saw coming against journalists, and even, you know, he still continued against some fellow Republicans there, was really noteworthy. Because now, Wolf, he's going to be the nominee of the Republican Party and as he says, he's not going to change. And the question is, how will the public respond to this?

BLITZER: Yes, he said he's going to continue doing exactly what he's doing.

Dana, I want to play a little clip where he went after the news media's coverage of this specific issue.


TRUMP: I think the media is, frankly, made up of people, in many cases, not in all cases, are not good people. The bad part about the dishonesty of the media is that people like me will be inclined not to do it anymore. The press should be ashamed of themselves. And on behalf the vets, the press should be ashamed of themselves. They are calling me and they are furious.


BLITZER: So, what's his strategy here? Because a lot of politicians often go after the news medias, we remember that over the years. But what is he trying to achieve, Dana?

[13:10:03] DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, we are an easy political hit. There's no question about it. There's no love lost for people out there for the media writ large. That's just a fact. It's true when you're talking about Democrats and Republicans but much more so for Republican candidates.

But in this particular situation, truthfully, I'm not sure that that's -- that there was a political strategy. I think he was just -- he seemed to be just angry and lashing out at reporters who were asking him questions that got him to this place. This place being holding a press conference the day after Memorial Day to explain where the money that he had pledged had come from and where it was going.

But, you know, what -- if we were watching a more conventional politician, they would have come out to this press conference and they would've said, guess what? You know, it might have been a little bit bumpy. I did this whole rally back in Iowa in a very kind of last minute way.

But at the end of the day, the good news is, we made sure that we got $5.6 million. We are making sure that the money is going to the right places. And this is a great news -- a great day for veterans which it is. And instead of that kind of story, he lashed out at us.

BLITZER: And he, himself, announced he was giving $1 million. That million dollars going to the U.S. Marine Corps Law Enforcement Foundation, an organization that honored him, he pointed out, a year ago. He thinks he deserves not only praise for all of this -- he does deserve a lot of praise for raising all this money. But it -- sometimes it gets the sense that maybe he doesn't understand or appreciate the role of the news media and vetting and vetting and checking.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: That's right. You know, that is our role. To vet him. To ask him hard questions. He doesn't seem to like that. He seems to have an emotional response, often. He seems to get his feelings hurt very easily.

I think one of the reporters asked him, you know, whether or not he could, you know, be this thin skinned and also be the leader of the free world. It seems like this has been his strategy so far. I think it was David Axelrod that said that campaigns are x-rays of a candidate's soul. And I think we're seeing that now with Donald Trump.

You know, the phrase, beneath the dignity of the office, in some ways come to mind, when you see this press conference. It was a phrase and sort of an attack that Obama faced when he -- you know, when he would go on talk shows. I think he wore jeans in the Oval Office in 2009 and conservatives had a real problem with that.

And I think conservatives are also losing some sleep over the behavior of Donald Trump. He just seems not to behave rationally, in some instances. Where, as Dana said, it would have been easy to come out and just say, this is what I did. I raised this money. I think some of the questions came about because he didn't give the money when he said he gave the money and that's what the press was asking about.

BLITZER: He also used the opportunity, understandably so, he's in a political contest, to go after Hillary Clinton. I'll play a little clip, David, David. Listen to this.


TRUMP: I have been thanked my so many groups, great veterans' groups. And, by the way, outside, you have a few people that are picketing. They're sent there by Hillary Clinton.


BLITZER: All right, he says that some of the protesters, some of the vets' organizations who were outside protesting were sent by Hillary Clinton.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: That's right. And I just saw my e-mail. American Crossroads, a Republican group, blasting out saying, did you catch that Hillary Clinton press conference on veterans? No, she didn't hold one. So, clearly, Republicans are on board with this notion of drawing this contrast on this issue.

But, listen, I think two things. One, I just have never seen a presidential candidate really suffer from either party in going after the press. I think it works politically for them. And so, I don't think he loses a single vote today because he decided to be mean to the press. I just don't think that will hold much water with voters. I think -- and Gloria touched on this, Wolf. I -- to me, the big takeaway of this news conference today was when he said, I'm not going to change.


CHALIAN: And this, to me, has been the big question about Donald Trump, because here's a guy who looks like he wants praise and credit for winning the Republican nomination race. Instead of going full force to try to win the general election. Obviously, he's building an operation to do that and he's out and about campaigning. But he just told us he's not going to change.

But the electorate does change. And so, you do see candidates, more conventional candidates, adapt from the nomination season to the general election season and he just told us that will not happen. And, to me, that is a big thing to watch because I think it may be difficult for him to continue along this way all the way through to November.

BLITZER: All right, everyone stand by. You're not going away. We're going to continue our analysis of what's going on. A dramatic day.

We're also going to be hearing directly from a senior Trump campaign advisor who's standing by live. And later, Jane Sanders standing by also live to talk about her husband's campaign, their plans after the California primary which is a week from tomorrow.



[13:18:45] BLITZER: Just a little while ago, we saw sometimes fiery Donald Trump at that news conference talking about donations to veterans groups, $5.6 million. He also took aim at the critics, specifically in the news media, as he praised of the amount of money that was raised in those donations to various veterans groups.

Joining us now is Ed Brookover. He's a senior advisor to the Trump campaign.

Ed, thanks very much for joining us.


BLITZER: Based on what you know, how much is Donald Trump personally involved in deciding which of these 30 plus veterans organizations get the money, how much they get, how much does he leave to his staff?

BROOKOVER: He gets very personally involved in an issue of this importance. He takes the veterans issues very seriously across this county. And from day one of this process, he's been running it.

BLITZER: Because I noticed that the $1 million he personally contributed, that -- the entire amount went to the U.S. Marine Corps Law Enforcement Foundation, a group he's very familiar with because they honored him last year.

BROOKOVER: And they give scholarships to child of those who have fallen, Marines and law enforcement officers.

BLITZER: Why -- you saw the reaction from the Hillary -- I don't know if you saw it, but I'll tell you what the reaction is from the Hillary Clinton campaign.


BLITZER: They point out he gave $1 million, but he's worth $10 billion or whatever he says he is worth. He says, "nobody should be fooled by the stunt," the Hillary Clinton campaign said, "only completed under immense pressure. The truth is, throughout this campaign and his entire career, he's shown veterans an incredible amount of disrespect." Your reaction?

[13:20:08] BROOKOVER: I think that's the reaction of a tired politician doing things the old ways. Donald Trump's been very supportive of veterans throughout this entire campaign. Has a plan to improve care for veterans all across the country.

BLITZER: So you -- anything else you want to say about that?

BROOKOVER: No, I think it -- I -- it's just Mrs. Clinton hasn't stepped forward with something which is new and different than the failed VA policies so far of the past.

BLITZER: Let's talk a little bit about Trump University. They're coming out with documents. A court order, as you well know. He was asked about it at the news conference, the Trump University no longer exists. Let me play for you what he said.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Judge has been very unfair, has not done a good job. He's been a very bad judge. He's been very unfair. And I will win the Trump University case. I already am as far as I'm concerned. But I will win the Trump University case. This is -- because I don't care. Because you know why? Why antagonist? Because I don't care. I have a judge who's very, very unfair. And as -- well, you'll see it in court documents. But I have a judge who's very, very unfair. He knows he's unfair. And I'll win the Trump University case. I could settled that case. I could have settled it. I just choose not to.


BLITZER: Earlier, over the weekend, he also specifically went after the judge in the case. I'll play the clip for you.


TRUMP: But I have a judge who is a hater of Donald Trump. A hater. He's a hater. His name is Gonzalo Curial. The judge who happen to be, we believe, Mexican, which is great. I think that's fine. You know what, I think the Mexicans are going to end up loving Donald Trump when I give all these jobs.


BLITZER: So, why does he need to make it personal about the judge?

BROOKOVER: I think he feels the judge came after him. This judge was one who granted the class action suits, brought these suits together, which we think are very unfounded.

BLITZER: But he hasn't formally -- we've done some checking -- asked the judge to recuse himself.

BROOKOVER: No, he hasn't, but that's up to the lawyers. I'm not familiar with all the legal machinations going on here. But we do feel the judge has not been treating this case fairly from day one.

BLITZER: But the judge is an American. He has to point out that he's a Mexican?

BROOKOVER: Well, both parents were Mexican -- we Mexicans.

BLITZER: But he's an American.

BROOKOVER: Well, I don't know if he has dual citizen or not, but he was -- he was born here.

BLITZER: He was born in the United States. He's a U.S. judge. The notion that he's -- you know, he's saying -- you understand why people are upset about that, that he's specifically accusing him in a bad way of being a Mexican, suggesting, perhaps, he's not an American.

BROOKOVER: Well, I don't know that that's what he was suggesting, but that's -- I do know that from day one, when this case was brought, we felt it was not a good case and should not have been allowed to reach the stage it has.

BLITZER: All right, so getting back to the whole veterans donations, you've worked with the news media for a long time.


BLITZER: You know our responsibility in vetting and checking and making sure that holding politicians, whether they're liberal or conservative, Democrat or Republican, holding them accountable. Why is Donald Trump going after the news media like this?

BROOKOVER: I think this -- I think on this case it started early. The first questions of this were March 1st, less than six weeks after the event. Then --

BLITZER: But he made that announcement that they raised $6 million. Wouldn't you expect normal journalists, good journalists, to go ahead and say, all right, that's very nice, $6 million. Where did the money go? And for months they couldn't say where the money went.

BROOKOVER: I bet -- I bet if you go to the Q (ph) Foundation or the Gates Foundation, four or five months is a very fast vetting process. So I think we've met some standards which other foundations may not meet.

BLITZER: But shouldn't they have explained that more specifically? You know, we're still vetting, we're still checking? Because it looked as if they were holding back, they weren't providing the information, which, as you know, only reinforces the notion among the news media, serious journalists, to dig harder.

BROOKOVER: But we did have some mainstream media outlets calling this shady, using very pejorative terms to refer to this when in fact the information was not out there yet.

BLITZER: But he wants the news media to aggressively pursue Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Foundation or Benghazi and stuff like that, right?

BROOKOVER: He would like that.

BLITZER: That's the role of the news media, to go after politicians, in a very constructive way, to hold them accountable. That's what we do.

BROOKOVER: I think that's right, and I think he gets that. I think he thought, in this instance, it went a little bit beyond the pale.

BLITZER: But did he go too far in the news conference and starting to call journalists sleazy?

BROOKOVER: Oh, I don't -- you know, he -- he was certainly has been very frustrated with this process.

BLITZER: And that -- that came through?

BROOKOVER: That came through. Yes, it did.

BLITZER: But he's now the presumptive Republican nominee.


BLITZER: And you've worked with politicians for a long time. Don't you think he has to hold himself to a higher standard? Let guys like you call journalists sleazy. And he's the one --

BROOKOVER: You want to have me back, yes?

BLITZER: He's the Republican -- he's the Republican nominee. He's got to have a different standard, don't you think?

BROOKOVER: Listen, Donald Trump has gotten where he is by following his instincts, by being who he is. The American public's responding to him on this level and I think he's going to continue to do that.

BLITZER: So what he just said a few minutes ago at that news conference, he's going to continue doing what he's doing, be assertive, being very, very tough on the news media, whatever he's doing, calling out people by name and being derogatory, if you will, you think that's a smart strategy?

BROOKOVER: I believe Donald Trump's going to continue to do what he says he's going to do. And he's going to continue to be aggressive and he's going to continue to try to represent what he thinks the people want.

[13:25:03] BLITZER: Ed Brookover is the senior advisor to the campaign. Thanks, Ed, for coming in.

BROOKOVER: Thanks, Wolf. Good to see you again.

BLITZER: Take a look at this. These are live pictures we're getting in of a Bernie Sanders campaign out in California. Earlier today, Donald Trump took swipes at Bernie Sanders and his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton. Bernie Sanders' wife, Jane Sanders, there you see her, she's standing by live. We'll discuss what's going on in the race for the White House right after this.


BLITZER: Donald Trump unloads on the news media, takes a swipe at democrats in the race for the White House. He held a news conference a little while ago to announce that at a January event he raised $5.6 million for veterans. Besides lashing out at reporters, he also ridiculed the Democrats over their drawn out primary season.

[13:30:09] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have no idea what's going to happen on the Democrat's side, but they're certainly having difficulty.