On Tuesday, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump held a press conference, where he was meant to explain what happened to the roughly $6 million he allegedly raised for veterans earlier this year. But in classic Trump fashion, he quickly derailed his own trail of thought to call an ABC News reporter named Tom Llamas “a sleaze”—and to voice some complaints about the press in general.
Back on January 28, days before the Iowa caucuses, Trump skipped a Republican debate in the Hawkeye State, and instead, held his own event, which he claimed would raise money for veterans. Since then, it has never been entirely clear how much money the event raised, or whether most of that actually went to any groups supporting veterans. Consequently, at many points over the past four months, quite a few reporters (including Llamas) have asked questions like, “What ever happened to all that money Trump raised for the veterans?“
Tuesday’s press conference—during which Trump stood at his usual Trump podium, with a handful of veterans standing behind him—appeared to be an attempt by his campaign to put these questions to bed once and for all. Kicking things off, Trump claimed that he and his supporters had donated “almost $6 million” (At the fundraiser in January, which I attended, Trump placed the total at over $6 million, but hey, close enough).
“I’m not not looking for credit,” Trump continued, “but what I don’t want is, when I raise millions of dollars, [to] have people say—like this sleazy guy right over here from ABC; he’s a sleaze in my book.” At this point, he gestured directly to Llamas.
After the conference, Llamas took to Twitter to offer a possible reason why Trump might single him out, pointing to an exchange in which the reporter suggested that the $6 million figure was an exaggeration.
The exchange that led Trump to call me a
— Tom Llamas (@TomLlamasABC) May 31, 2016
Trump and Llamas have publicly traded barbs in the past. On Tuesday, when Llamas asked why Trump had called him names on TV, Trump replied, “You’re a sleaze because you know the facts, and you know the facts well.”
According to Trump, the media’s sleaziness doesn’t stop with Llamas. “The press is so dishonest and so unfair,” he told the room full of reporters. “What I got was worse than credit, because they were questioning me.” Trump added that he had “never received such bad publicity for doing such a good job.”
From there, the conference meandered around to such news events as the death of Harambe the gorilla. Trump also sarcastically called Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol a “real beauty,” and said he was a “loser.” Then he called Mitt Romney a “fool.”
Regarding the actual substance of the press conference—as in, where all that money went—Trump described a sort of vetting process for the veterans organizations that received funds, and proffered a list of groups he claims received funds, along with the amounts allotted. The list doesn’t mention when the checks were written.
The document also notes that while $100,000 has been earmarked for one group called “Project for Patriots, Inc.,” no check will actually be cut until tax documents are released. Trump has repeatedly declined to release his tax documents, but his campaign, unlike Project for Patriots, Inc., is receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations in the meantime.
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