Last week, Eric Trump said that his own charitable foundation had received "hundreds of thousands of dollars" in personal donations from his father.
But on Monday, Eric Trump said he could not name a single instance when Donald Trump had given such a gift.
"I’m sure there have been but without going back through 10 years, I wouldn’t remember check for check off the top of my head," Eric Trump wrote in an email message to The Washington Post.
Eric Trump made those comments in response to follow-up questions from The Post — which has been seeking evidence for Donald Trump's assertion that he has given generously, but privately, to charities in recent years.
As the day went on, Eric Trump was pressed to explain the contrast with his own statements from a few days before.
Why had he asserted that his father had given his charity hundreds of thousands of dollars, if now he didn't remember it ever happening?
"Just to be clear, I never said no," Eric Trump wrote in a late-evening email on Monday, meaning he hadn't said that Donald Trump had not given the Eric Trump Foundation a personal gift.
But Eric Trump said he was too busy to look for evidence that would back up his earlier statements: "I have a lot going on — I just don't have the time. Good luck with the story," he wrote.
Those comments undermine what was — for a few days — the strongest testimonial about Donald Trump's recent giving to charity.
That issue has become a test of character and honesty for the presumptive GOP nominee — who, earlier this year, made good on a promise to give $1 million to a veterans charity only after intense media scrutiny.
Since 2001, Trump has repeatedly made other public promises to give the proceeds of business ventures to charity. In all, those promises add up to more than $8.5 million. But public records show little evidence that Trump made good on those promises. He has given away only $2.8 million through his Donald J. Trump Foundation, and public records show no gifts at all from Trump to his namesake foundation since 2008. [Since then, its coffers have been filled by other donors.]
Trump and his aides have said that the mogul gives much more than that — but privately, out of the limelight. But, before the $1 million for veterans, the last personal gift The Post had unearthed was from 2009.
Then, last week, Eric Trump called.
Here, it seemed, was a charity president (albeit one related to Trump himself) confirming that he'd received just the kind of personal, private gift that Donald Trump had described.
"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 late last week. His foundation, established in 2007, has raised more than $8 million — primarily through charity tournaments at Trump-owned golf courses — and donated it primarily to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. It recently hired its first full-time staffer.
On Monday, The Post reached out to Eric Trump again, seeking more details.
In response, Eric Trump cited several examples of help his charity had received from his father.
But none of them seemed to fit the description that he'd spoken of a few days earlier: gifts of "hundreds of thousands," made from the mogul's own pocket.
For instance, there were two instances in which the Donald J. Trump Foundation — the elder Trump's nonprofit — gave gifts of cash to the son's charity. In 2008, Donald Trump's foundation gave $50,000.
In 2010, it gave $100,000.
In both cases, Eric Trump said, those donations paid for "sponsorships" at the Eric Trump Foundation's invitational golf tournament.
In both cases, Eric Trump spoke as if the money had come directly from his father — not from a foundation funded largely by other people.
"My father made the donation. This would be why he is the 'Title Sponsor,' " Eric Trump wrote of the 2010 gift. According to an archived version of the Eric Trump Foundation website from 2010, "Title Sponsor" was the highest level of sponsorship in that year.
In 2008, Eric Trump said, the Donald J. Trump Foundation's donation had made his father a "presenting sponsor."
"My father made the donation," he wrote. "Anyone who wrote a 50K check was considered a 'Presenting Sponsor.'"
In both cases, Eric Trump said he wasn't sure if his father's name had been displayed prominently during the tournament — in the way that other sponsors' names were.
"He is not the type who cares about a golf sign or being in a program. He donated to support me," Eric Trump wrote. "I don’t even know if we would have signs up listing him — that wasn’t really the point. It was to support his kid that was getting a foundation off the ground and contributing to a great cause."
Eric Trump said his father's businesses had also provided numerous "in-kind gifts," of free services and support, for his charity. In particular, he said, the foundation had the free use of Trump golf courses for its tournaments.
The Eric Trump Foundation also received free rounds of golf, to be used as prizes and as items in charity auctions. In an accounting of Donald Trump's charity, compiled by the Trump campaign last year and provided first to the Associated Press, there were at least 40 free rounds of golf listed as donated to Eric Trump's foundation. There were also other donations to the Eric Trump Foundation on that list, but their details were unclear. Eric Trump said they might have been payments from the Trump Organization to sponsor parts of his tournament, or to buy tickets for the post-tournament evening shows.
In all, between the Donald J. Trump Foundation's gifts and the other gifts that apparently came from Trump's businesses, Eric Trump's foundation received gifts valued at more than $210,000.
"My father has contributed so much to the foundation — without our properties, [the Eric Trump Foundation] for all practical purposes, wouldn’t exist. I’m able to contribute millions of dollars a year to St. Jude, largely expense-free, because of him," Eric Trump wrote. He said his father had given that much "because he believes in me and he believes in my mission of fighting and ending terminal childhood cancer."
But were any of those gifts the kind he had previously described — personal gifts of Donald Trump's own cash?
"Who knows at this point" Eric Trump wrote in one message to The Post.
A spokeswoman for Donald Trump's presidential campaign did not immediately respond to questions late Monday evening asking if the elder Trump could provide details of any personal donations to his son's charity.