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“A Public-Relations Effort For Himself”: Donald Trump’s ‘Shady’ Support For Veterans

When Democrats make the case that Donald Trump has a controversial background when it comes to veterans’ issues, it’s not just wishful thinking. The presumptive Republican nominee, for example, has drawn criticism for supporting a privatization plan for veterans’ care. His associations with the sketchy Veterans for a Strong America exacerbated the problem.

And it certainly didn’t help matters when Trump, who avoided military service during the Vietnam War, said he “felt” like he’d served in the military because his parents sent him to a military-themed boarding school as a teenager. The Republican went so far as to boast that his expensive prep school gave him “more training militarily than a lot of the guys that go into the military.”

Making matters much worse are new questions about Trump and veterans-related fundraising.

In January, the New York Republican skipped a debate in Iowa to instead hold a fundraiser for veterans. Trump repeatedly boasted at the time that, thanks to his bold leadership, he’s raised $6 million for vets. Trump added that he’d contributed $1 million out of his own pocket.

Whatever happened to all of that money? The Washington Post took a closer look.

Campaign manager Corey Lewandowski said the fundraiser actually netted about $4.5 million, or 75 percent of the total that Trump announced.

Lewandowski blamed the shortfall on Trump’s own wealthy acquaintances. He said some of them had promised big donations that Trump was counting on when he said he had raised $6 million. But Lewandowski said those donors backed out and gave nothing. […]

Lewandowski also said he did not know whether a $1 million pledge from Trump himself was counted as part of the $4.5 million total. He said Trump has given that amount, but he declined to identify any recipients.

The number of questions, which the campaign does not want to answer, represents a real problem. Exactly how much did Trump raise for veterans? His campaign doesn’t know. How much of it has been allocated? His campaign doesn’t know that, either. Who were the beneficiaries of Trump’s $1 million contribution? The campaign doesn’t want to talk about it.

I’m trying to imagine how the political world would react if Hillary Clinton and her team tried this.

The Post’s report added:

In recent weeks, Trump and his campaign repeatedly declined to give new details about how much they have given away. “Why should I give you records?” Trump said in an interview with The Post this month. “I don’t have to give you records.”

Paul Rieckhoff, founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, said Trump’s refusal to divulge how much of the money he had distributed raised questions about whether the candidate intended the fundraiser primarily as a public-relations effort for himself.

“That’s just shady. Right? No matter how you cut it, that’s just shady,” Rieckhoff said. “If he was going to make it right, a couple of weeks before Memorial Day would be a good time to do it. It behooves him, not just politically but ethically, to come forward and account for this money.”

Just so we’re clear, there’s ample evidence that Trump did raise millions for veterans and some organizations benefited from the donations.

There is, however, additional evidence that Trump’s specific claims about the amount of money raised weren’t true, and for whatever reason, the Republican candidate and his team have been reluctant to account for the money in detail. Indeed, when asked for details about how Trump’s $1 million was allocated, the GOP candidate’s campaign manager responded, “He’s not going to share that information.”

Postscript: To put this in a slightly larger context, in April, the Washington Post reported on Trump’s frequent boasts that he’s given “more than $102 million to charity in the past five years.” The newspaper found, however, “Not a single one of those donations was actually a personal gift of Trump’s own money.”

Update: Several readers reminded me that Trump’s troubles with veterans also extend to his condemnation of John McCain and servicemembers who “get captured.” It’s an important point.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, May 22, 2016

May 25, 2016 Posted by | Charitable Donations, Donald Trump, Veterans, Veterans Administration | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Lobbyist-Of-Choice”: How Trump’s Paul Manafort Became Expert On “Crooked” Washington

Will veteran GOP lobbyist Paul Manafort bring a measure of respectability to Donald Trump and his disreputable campaign apparatus? The Republican lobbyist isn’t likely to engage in the thuggish antics made infamous by campaign manager Corey Lewandowski.

But when I saw Manafort yapping about “Crooked Hillary” — while assuring other insiders that Trump is merely “playing a part” on the stump — I recalled certain aspects of his resume that deserve fresh scrutiny now.

Manafort first drew public attention during the Reagan era, when he and his lobbying partners represented Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos, a world-class kleptocrat whose theft of enormous amounts from his country’s treasury I helped to expose in The Village Voice more than 30 years ago (with my esteemed colleague William Bastone, who later created The Smoking Gun website). Few official criminals in the 20th century were as audacious and greedy as Marcos and his shoe-fetishist wife Imelda, but when their image cratered after our investigation, Manafort gladly took nearly a million dollars to apply lipstick to those pigs.

Not content with the tainted Marcos lucre, Manafort and company also advocated on behalf of international gangsters such as Mobutu Sese Seko, the kleptocratic dictator known as the “King of Zaire”; Jonas Savimbi, the reputed cannibal and blood-diamond purveyor who tried to seize power in Angola; Said Barre, the authoritarian crook who left the failed state of Somalia to pirates and jihadis; and Ukrainian overlord Victor Yanukovych, the corrupt, Kremlin-backed autocrat thrown out by massive street protests two years ago for fixing a national election.

How did Manafort become the lobbyist-of-choice for these odoriferous characters? His reputation as a powerful Washington insider was elevated by one of the Reagan administration’s worst scandals – the looting of Housing and Urban Development funds by well-connected Republicans like Manafort, who quietly stuffed their pockets with federal funds while bemoaning “big government.” In Congressional testimony, Manafort admitted to successfully peddling influence for big money – which impressed Mobutu so much that he hired the firm. The result was that taxpayers got fleeced for hundreds of millions of dollars, over and over again, ripped off in perfectly legal fashion by Manafort and his clients. Unlike several Republicans implicated in the scandal, Manafort not only escaped indictment but actually prospered as a result of his notoriety.

But don’t worry: Trump is going to clean up Washington corruption and waste. You can tell by the company he keeps.

 

By: Joe Conason, Editor in Chief, Editor’s Blog, Featured Post, The National Memo,  April 25, 2016

April 27, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Lobbyists, Paul Manafort | , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Trump’s Fabricated New Image”: The New Trump Took Less Than Two Weeks To Fabricate

If authenticity is your calling card, how do you become authentically inauthentic?

Welcome to the New Donald Trump, a marvel of the Twitter-Cable-Facebook Non-Industrial Complex and the age of minuscule attention spans.

It took Richard Nixon prodigious feats of hard work between 1962 and 1968 to create the New Nixon who got himself into the White House. But in an era when “brand” is both a noun and a verb and when “curating” is the thing to do, why should it surprise us that the New Trump took less than two weeks to fabricate?

After the wild, undisciplined and offensive period leading up to his April 5 loss in the Wisconsin primary to Ted Cruz, Trump decided he needed to curate his brand big time.

Shoved aside were key staffers, including his campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, who had reveled in the, shall we say, forceful approach to politics that was supposed to be part of Trump’s authenticity. Trump is trying to banish offensive talk about women, the gratuitous fights with television anchors, the uninformed comments about abortion.

Trump is going as establishment as he can. He’s even forgoing opportunities to hawk his product line, including Trump-blessed slabs of red meat, on primary nights. He bizarrely indulged in this in early March after his victories in Michigan and Mississippi.

Trump’s restrained victory speech Tuesday night after his New York primary blowout led Bloomberg News’s John Heilemann to offer an eloquent three-word obituary on “Morning Joe” for the Old Trump: “No Steaks Sold.”

But any doubts about The Donald deciding that being himself is overrated are erased by a visit to what has been sacred Trumpian space, his Twitter account. Consider this message that crossed my screen at 8:42 a.m. Wednesday: “Ted Cruz is mathematically out of winning the race. Now all he can do is be a spoiler, never a nice thing to do. I will beat Hillary!”

What’s shockingly extraordinary about this was how thoroughly ordinary it was. “Mathematically” is not an adverb we are accustomed to seeing from @realDonaldTrump. The Trump Show’s recurring villain, Lyin’ Ted, was gone, replaced by a boring guy named Ted Cruz.

So jarring was this cast change to many of the 7.7 million of us who faithfully follow Trump’s Twitter drama that Sarah Huckabee Sanders, senior campaign adviser, appeared on CNN’s “New Day” to offer comforting words. “I wouldn’t be too sure to erase that,” she said of “Lyin’ Ted,” using language suggesting that Trump is trying to “erase” a lot of other things. She added: “My guess is it’ll still pop up from time to time.” Happy day.

Her efforts to reassure the fans may have been the most significant post-New York pronouncement from Team Trump, which has simultaneously created a long-running, highly rated TV show — it might be called “Celebrity Candidate” — and manufactured a durable niche product.

The campaign must know that altering a story line abruptly in the middle of a television season unsettles viewers who hate to see their favorite themes ditched. Changing a well-known brand is risky business because customers start thinking that their preferences are being ignored.

Many devotees of “The Good Wife” never recovered from the murder of Will Gardner, the tough lawyer/love interest played by Josh Charles, who disappeared from the show. The New Trump may prove to be as problematic a commercial gambit as New Coke was three decades ago.

It’s true that the Trump product is lucky enough to be in a space where the competition is weak. Cruz may yet bump up his market share when the race moves to Indiana and California, but his negatives rival Trump’s. John Kasich can be appealing, but in a goofy way, and he is selling a moderate spirit to a GOP customer base whose dominant preference is ferociousness.

But there is another major brand to worry about, Hillary Clinton, who immensely strengthened her hand in the Democratic race with a 16-point victory over Bernie Sanders in New York.

It’s practically written into the news scripts that Clinton has an authenticity problem. The paradox, as one Clinton partisan argued to me recently, is that she has been unwilling to go full-bore in competing with Sanders’s visionary big offers because she just doesn’t believe that’s the way the world works. She can’t be anything but a practical pragmatist, this supporter insisted, and that’s how she’ll run.

It would be a lovely irony if the retooled, restrained, professionalized New Trump made the same-as-always Clinton into the true representative of authenticity.

 

By: E. J. Dionne Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, April 20, 2016

April 24, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Establishment Republicans, GOP Primaries | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Trump Bullies The Press — And The Press Yawns”: Same Press Corp That Writes Endlessly About Hillary Clinton’s Relationship

“I’m warning you, tread very fucking lightly.” Trump attorney Michael Cohen threatening a reporter.

It’s sad that Donald Trump is normalizing so many unsavory traits with his presidential push this season. He’s normalizing bigotry and xenophobia in the campaign arena, for instance. He’s also mainstreaming the manhandling of the press.

Just ask Trip Gabriel.

The New York Times reporter was tossed out of a Trump event in Iowa last week. He was thrown out by a Trump staff member and a local police officer who suggested he was following the orders of Trump’s Iowa campaign chief. (Days earlier, Grabriel had written a piece that raised questions about Trump’s ground game in Iowa.)

On the surface, that’s a shocking event: the Republican frontrunner’s campaign singling out a Times reporter and having him physically ousted. But since last summer, this type of bullying behavior has become quite common, and the media’s response has become nearly mute. Indeed, Gabriel’s ejection was noted in the media but didn’t seem to set off any loud alarm.

Covering Trump today means being confined to metal barrier press pens at events. It means rarely being allowed to ask the candidate questions and being the target of vicious insults from the candidate and his fans. (One CBS reporter covering a rally was recently asked by a Trump supporter if he was taking pictures on behalf of ISIS.)

Trump and his campaign push the press around at will and they pay no real price. If anything, Trump gets showered with more press attention despite calling out reporters as “scum”; despite denouncing them as liars and cheats at his campaign rallies.

On and on the bullying goes and the pushback remains minimal. This is a profound embarrassment for the national press corps. It’s a profound embarrassment for editors and producers in positions of influence who have voluntarily acquiesced their power in order to bow down to Trump and his campaign road show.

The gleeful bullying of the press meshes with the bullying that often goes on at Trump rallies, where violence percolates. Like those thug rallies, we’ve certainly never seen this kind of behavior from a major party’s political frontrunner.

But like the Trump rallies, where’s the indignation over the constant press intimidation? Where are the outraged editorials? Where are the endless, handwringing TV panel debates about what Trump’s hatred of the press really means; what it tells us about his possible character flaws, and his would-be presidency.

It’s possible the press doesn’t want to make itself the story, that it wants to maintain its role as observers and not newsmaker and that’s why it has refrained from turning Trump’s bullying into a big story. That theory takes a hit though when you consider the same press corps has written endlessly about Hillary Clinton’s relationship with the press and has stressed over and over what a central role reporters play in her White House push.

It’s true that last November, representatives from several news networks banded together and held a call to discuss “how embeds and reporters from outlets are being treated” by the Trump campaign.

But as Huffington Post‘s Michael Calderone recently reported, the Trump campaign seems uninterested in the press complaints: “In recent weeks, journalists have again been ordered not to leave the press pen by campaign staffers and volunteers and even Secret Service agents, according to reporters who were granted anonymity to speak candidly. Journalists also said they were not allowed to approach the candidate to ask questions after events.”

Journalists: We think you’re treating us badly.

Trump campaign: We don’t care what you think.

Consider:

*At a recent Trump rally, a Huffington Post reporter noted, “that a Secret Service agent stepped up to help when a Trump campaign staffer tried to interfere with his reporting.”

*Trump bashed Fox News host Megyn Kelly as “bitter” and “overrated,” called NBC’s Chuck Todd “pathetic,” and announced most journalists are “absolute scum.”

*Asked about allegations from a 1993 book that Trump had sexually assaulted his then-wife Ivana Trump (she later recanted the claim), Donald Trump’s attorney threatened a Daily Beast reporter: “So I’m warning you, tread very fucking lightly, because what I’m going to do to you is going to be fucking disgusting. You understand me?”

*At a South Carolina rally, Trump mocked and mimicked a New York Times reporter who suffers from a chronic condition called arthrogryposis, which limits the movement of his arms.

*His campaign barred a BuzzFeed reporter from attending an event in Newton, Iowa, denied Des Moines Register and Huffington Post reporters press credentials to campaign events, and barred reporters from Fusion from covering a Trump event in Doral, Florida.

*Univision anchor Jorge Ramos was physically removed from a Trump press conference.

*A security guard at an Iowa rally threatened to eject any reporter who interviewed Trump supporters: “You talk to people and you leave.”

*At a South Carolina event, Trump derided NBC’s Katy Tur as “Little Katy, third-rate journalist.” Trump fans then rained boos down on Tur, according to the Daily Beast.

One more, from the Washington Post:

After CNN reporter Noah Gray left “the pen” to document a group of protesters who unveiled a sign reading “Migrant lives matter,” Trump’s campaign manager Corey Lewandowski turned to campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks and said: “Hey: Tell Noah, get back in the pen or he’s f***** blacklisted,” according to a recording of the incident.

This type of behavior is completely unprecedented. If a leading Democrat were guilty of any of the above transgressions, there would be a roiling Beltway media revolt that would denounce the Democratic campaign continuously. Uninterrupted.

But the Trump campaign has committed all of the above offenses. So why is it mostly crickets from the same press corps?

 

By: Eric Boehlert, Senior Fellow, Media Matters for America, January 20, 2016

January 25, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Washington Press Corp | , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“A Candidate In Name Only?”: What if Trump Becomes A Real Presidential Candidate?

When Donald Trump kicked off his Republican presidential campaign, he was officially a candidate, but he wasn’t a real candidate, at least not in every sense of the word. The New York developer had a skeleton staff, little support in the polls, no field offices, no organization in early nominating states, no endorsements, and no national campaign infrastructure.

As of mid-June, Trump was effectively a candidate in name only. He had an escalator, some animosity towards immigrants, and little else. By some accounts, the GOP contender had to pay people to show up at his campaign kick-off.

It didn’t matter. The former reality-show host quickly found a following, which grew at an unexpected rate. Media attention soon followed. Trump didn’t spend much time on the campaign trail – he’s largely forgone the usual candidate-like activities – but he’s nevertheless dominating, at least for now.

All of which raises the question: if Trump can rocket to the front of the Republican pack without the backing of a real national campaign, what happens when the GOP candidate starts trying?

We’re about to find out. Iowa’s Sam Clovis, a prominent Republican activist and media figure in Iowa, had served for months as the state chairman of Rick Perry’s presidential campaign, until this week, when Clovis gave up on the former Texas governor and joined Team Trump.

Rachel noted on the show last night that Clovis isn’t the only one, and the Washington Monthly’s Ed Kilgore took a look this morning at the operation Clovis is going to help lead – featuring activists one might not expect to see backing Trump.

[Trump’s] national campaign chairman, Corey Lewandowski, made his bones with the Koch Brothers’ Americans for Prosperity outfit (and its predecessor group, Citizens for a Sound Economy). Along with Clovis, Trump yesterday announced another eye-catching hire for his South Carolina campaign: Nancy Mace, the first woman to graduate from The Citadel, and an unsuccessful challenger to Lindsey Graham last year.

They join Matt Ciepielowski, Trump’s New Hampshire director, “another AFP alumnus who spent the 2012 cycle with Youth for Ron Paul.”

Kilgore’s point is that these aides weren’t obvious choices for Team Trump, and though they may have been wooed by “Trump’s nose-thumbing at the Republican Establishment,” they should also probably prepare themselves for the possibility that their candidate will “get bored with politics and bow out before things get serious.”

In a year like this, anything’s possible. But I’m also struck by a related thought: those are actual campaign officials, taking on actual campaign responsibilities.

It’s a bizarre dynamic on its face – usually a candidate builds a team, starts campaigning, and climbs in the polls, in that order. With Trump, he climbed in the polls, started campaigning, and then built a team.

What I’ll be eager to see is whether this helps or hurts his aspirations. The moment Trump makes the transition from “outlandish personality” to “legitimate Republican contender,” do his followers lose interest? Does Trump?

If the candidate reached the top in part by being non-traditional, does the magic disappear when a proper campaign organization takes shape?

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, August 26, 2015

August 27, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, Establishment Republicans | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

   

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