Eric Trump, the son of presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, said in an interview Wednesday that his father gives "millions and millions and millions" of his own money to charity — including hundreds of thousands to Eric Trump's own charitable foundation.
Eric Trump said he would check.
Several hours later, he wrote back. He would not.
"We are going to maintain anonymity," Eric Trump wrote in an email message about 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday. "Hope you understand."
In recent weeks, The Washington Post has written a series of stories examining Donald Trump's giving to charity — seeking evidence that the mogul has lived up to promises of donating millions of dollars of his own money to charitable causes. As part of that reporting, The Post has reached out to more than 200 charities with ties to Donald Trump, asking whether they had received any personal donations from him. Over a period of more than seven years, between 2008 and this May, The Post found just one personal donation from Donald Trump, worth less than $10,000.
The Post had made efforts to reach the Eric Trump Foundation, and Eric Trump himself, via email and Twitter. At 11:45 a.m. on Wednesday, he called The Post. He denounced its reporting — often in forceful, profane terms. "I’m just saying, Jesus Christ, why is this guy trying to f---ing kill us?" Eric Trump said at one point.
Eric Trump said that his father had made generous personal gifts to his own charity, a 10-year-old foundation that says it has donated and pledged almost $28 million to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.
"My father has given me and my foundation hundreds of thousands of dollars. And he’s given other charities millions and millions and millions of dollars," Eric Trump said.
In that first call, Eric Trump did not provide any details about those donations from his father. Could he?
"I mean, I’m happy to ask the guys upstairs," Eric Trump said, meaning he would check whether that information could be released. "We typically don’t like to do that."
That evening, then, he said he would not.
Eric Trump also did not provide any details about any of the other donations he said his father had given, to charities run by people outside the Trump family.
"My father likes to keep some anonymity. It’s who he is. It’s who he is as a person," Eric Trump said.
Eric Trump also criticized The Post for a recent blog post — and recent Twitter messages by this reporter — about a payment made by the Eric Trump Foundation to one of Donald Trump's golf courses.
"It’s disgusting. It is so disgusting what’s happening," Eric Trump said. "I’m saving dying children. We do tremendous good for people. And you’re sitting there tearing us apart."
That payment is detailed in a 2014 tax filing by the Eric Trump Foundation. The foundation notified the Internal Revenue Service that it had paid $87,665 to one of Donald Trump's golf courses. The tax filing called that payment a "charge for the use of the golf club" during the Eric Trump Foundation's fundraiser golf tournament.
But Eric Trump said the payment was not actually for the use of the club. In fact, he said, the Trump golf course had made no money at all from hosting his foundation's tournament: "Zero. Zero."
Instead, Eric Trump said, the payment was actually to cover the cost of outside vendors: to rent a stage, to rent extra golf carts and to hire extra golf caddies. In the past, Eric Trump said, his foundation had cut separate checks to all these outside parties. In 2014, he said, they decided to have the golf course handle the administrative burden of paying all the outside vendors. Then his foundation wrote one check to reimburse the golf course.
"Its just much easier for me to say, 'Guys, give me an invoice for everything that the property had to pay out of pocket for third-party vendors,'" he said. Eric Trump said he prides himself on the low administrative costs of his foundation. "I never thought that somebody would sit there on other end and just tear me apart."
Eric Trump also defended his father's decision to use money meant for charity to buy a football helmet signed by former Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow in 2012. As The Post reported last week, Donald Trump won that helmet — and a Tebow jersey — at a charity auction, with a winning bid of $12,000. He later paid with money from the Donald J. Trump Foundation, a charity largely stocked with other people's money. Tax records show no gifts from Donald Trump to his own foundation since 2008.
Tax experts have said that, if Trump kept the signed helmet for himself, he may have violated IRS rules against "self-dealing" — designed to keep a charity's officers from using a nonprofit group's money to help themselves.
Eric Trump said he wasn't sure what had become of the helmet, but he doubted his father kept it.
"Knowing him, he probably gave that helmet to a child," Eric Trump said. "Sometimes the only way to support [a cause] is by buying an item at this event. You don’t want that item! … I wouldn’t even be surprised if he never collected the helmet. It’s not about the helmet."