President Trump gave $1 million of his own money to charities helping the Houston area recover from Hurricane Harvey, splitting the gift among 12 nonprofits, the White House announced Wednesday.
The gift had been promised late last week. In a statement, the White House said that Trump and first lady Melania Trump had witnessed some of these charities at work firsthand during their two visits to areas of Texas hit by the hurricane, which was the biggest rainstorm recorded in the history of the continental United States.
The White House said other recipients were “recommended, at the invitation of the President, by members of the White House Press Corps,” the White House statement said.
The next-largest gifts went to charities associated with Christian ministries.
The White House said Trump would give $100,000 to Samaritan's Purse, an evangelical Christian aid agency run by Franklin Graham, the son of famed evangelist Billy Graham. Franklin Graham has been a key political supporter of Trump's: Last month, while Trump was under fire for his comments about the violence in Charlottesville, Graham publicly defended Trump and said the blame lay instead with Satan, for “evil in men's hearts.” Vice President Pence also met with Samaritan's Purse volunteers during his separate trip to hurricane-ravaged areas.
The remaining gifts were all for $25,000 each. The White House said they would go to:
—Operation Blessing International, a faith-based disaster-relief charity based in Virginia Beach
— The Houston Humane Society
—Team Rubicon, a charity that sends teams of military veterans to help in disaster zones.
—Portlight Inclusive Disaster Strategies, a nonprofit group that focuses on helping those with disabilities.
—Direct Relief, a medical-aid group which has shipped doses of medicines and vaccines — all of which must be kept cold — to flood-ravaged areas in Texas.
It was not immediately clear, from the White House's statement whether the charities had received the donations or whether the checks would arrive in the coming days.
Before last summer, Trump had a long record of making pledges to give his personal money to charity but an uneven record of fulfilling them.
In years past, The Washington Post found, Trump had often promised to give the proceeds of various business ventures — a book, a TV show, and Trump University — to charity. But, often, he paid off those pledges with money from the Donald J. Trump Foundation, a charity filled with other people's money. Or, in some cases, Trump did not fulfill the pledges at all: none of the $5 million he earned from Trump University was actually given to charity.
Then, last year, Trump made a bold promise to give $1 million of his own money to veterans' causes, along with $5 million he'd raised from other donors during a telethon-style fundraiser in late January, just before the Iowa caucuses. Months later, Trump's then-campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, told The Washington Post that Trump had given the money away — but that the details of his gift were secret.
That was false. At the time Lewandowski said that, the money was still in Trump's pocket.
Trump only gave away the $1 million later, under heavy media scrutiny. When a reporter asked Trump whether Lewandowski's false statement had been part of an attempt to avoid actually making the donation, Trump called the reporter a “nasty guy.”
Since that episode, however, Trump has made good on several new promises to give his own money away.
Last summer, after devastating floods in Baton Rouge, Trump gave a $100,000 donation to Greenwell Springs Baptist Church, which was helping residents in the affected area. That church's interim pastor at the time was Anthony Perkins, who is also president of the Family Research Council — a powerful and politically active Christian conservative group that condemns abortion, homosexuality and what it calls “transgenderism.” Perkins has been a strong political supporter of Trump's.
Since taking office, Trump has also made good on promises to donate his presidential salary. The first quarter's salary, $78,333, was given to the National Park Service for the maintenance of historic battlefields. His second quarter's salary was given to the Education Department to help fund a science camp.