NEW YORK — Donald Trump announced Tuesday that he had given away all the money he had raised four months earlier for veterans — and at the same time bitterly attacked the news media for pressing him to explain what he had done with the money.
“Instead of being like, ‘Thank you very much, Mr. Trump’ or ‘Trump did a good job,’ everyone’s saying, ‘Who got it, who got it, who got it?’ ” Trump said in a news conference here at Trump Tower. “And you make me look very bad. I have never received such bad publicity for doing such a good job.”
Trump also labeled the news media “dishonest” and “unfair” and called ABC News reporter Tom Llamas “a sleaze.”
Trump was so bothered, in fact, that he stepped on his own good news — interrupting his recitation of $5.6 million in donations to veterans to complain again about the media. “I didn’t want to have credit,” Trump said at one point. “What I got was worse than credit, because they were questioning me.”
The day was a strange, curdled end for an episode that had begun as a stunning success for Trump.
On the night of the Jan. 28 fundraiser, Trump was at the top of his political game. With his celebrity boldness, he managed to upstage both the rest of the GOP field and a powerful television network by skipping a Fox News Channel debate and doing a televised fundraiser of his own.
By Tuesday, however, the fundraiser had morphed into an uncomfortable test of Trump’s competence and temperament.
Trump faced prosaic tasks, where celebrity and showmanship were of little help. Could he handle the task of moving money from donors to worthy recipients? And could he handle public questioning about how he did it?
If Trump becomes president, “is this what it’s going to be like?” a reporter asked toward the end of the unhappy news conference.
“Yes, it is,” Trump said.
Trump’s presumptive opponent in the general election, former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, attacked Trump on Tuesday afternoon while borrowing one of his trademark tactics, the phone-in TV interview.
“He’s bragged for months about raising $6 million for veterans and donating a million dollars himself. But it took a reporter to shame him into actually making his contribution and getting the money to veterans,” Clinton told CNN. “Look, I’m glad he finally did, but I don’t know that he should get much credit for that.”
In all, Trump on Tuesday listed donations to 41 veterans’ charities, including at least a dozen gifts he had not previously disclosed. On the night of the fundraiser, Trump said the total had “cracked” $6 million. On Tuesday, he said the real total had been $5.6 million — $4.6 million from other donors and $1 million from his own pocket.
The same list also made clear that Trump had cut many of these checks only after he came under intense media scrutiny.
Trump gave his own $1 million gift on May 23, after a Washington Post article questioned his handling of the money. Previously, Trump’s campaign manager said — falsely — that the money had already been spent.
Many of the new gifts disclosed by Trump on Tuesday were originally from other donors, who had entrusted funds to the Donald J. Trump Foundation on the promise that Trump would then give them away. The Associated Press found that many of those checks were dated May 24.
On Tuesday, Trump said he had waited four months to give these last donations because he needed time to scrutinize the recipients.
“It’s called vetting,” he said. “We vet the vets.”
But that vetting missed major questions about at least one charity on Trump’s list. The Foundation for American Veterans got $75,000 from Trump despite its “F” rating from a charity watchdog, which noted that it spent only a fraction of its donations on veterans — and the rest on “overhead” and fundraising.
The group was also the subject of an “alert” from the Better Business Bureau earlier this year. The warning cited “a pattern and high volume of complaints and customer reviews” that alleged customers received “a high volume of what they consider to be harassing phone calls” from the group’s solicitors. The Better Business Bureau said the group had blamed the problem on its telemarketer.
Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks did not respond to questions about what Trump’s team had done to vet the group or whether its vetting had turned up these concerns. The Foundation for American Veterans did not respond to calls and email messages Tuesday.
Several other groups that received Trump’s donations said they weren’t asked for detailed financial statements or other documents as part of Trump’s vetting process.
“I don’t have to go out and scratch for every single dollar for a promise that I make to a wounded veteran,” said Andrew Biggio, whose Boston-based charity helps provide cars to veterans’ families and remodel homes to accommodate those with disabilities.
Biggio served in Iraq with the son of one of Trump’s bodyguards. Trump gave his group $75,000.
“It’s the biggest we’ve ever gotten. The biggest donation we’ve ever gotten [before] was $15,000. And usually our donations are like $20 per person.”
Among the other groups that received new donations from Trump were:
●The Armed Services YMCA, which provides activities for children of military families.
●Connected Warriors, a Boca Raton, Fla.-based group that offers free yoga classes to veterans.
●The Mission Continues, which encourages volunteerism among veterans.
●America’s VetDogs, which provides veterans with trained guide dogs and service dogs.
During the news conference, Trump said the groups’ names but little about their work. What he did say, again and again, was how unhappy he was to be there, answering questions about the gifts.
The presumptive Republican nominee also hurled insults at reporters in the audience, whom he accused of liberal bias and of attempting to diminish his efforts.
“You’re a sleaze because you know the facts, and you know the facts well,” Trump said in one instance, pointing at Llamas.
By law, nonprofit charities such as Trump’s foundation are not supposed to participate in political campaigns.
However, Trump described the nonprofit’s gifts at what was clearly a campaign event. As he bashed his political rivals and talked up his poll numbers, Trump spoke from a lectern decorated with a sign that said “Make America Great Again” — the slogan of his presidential campaign.
Tax-law experts said that, even if the Internal Revenue Service were to find fault with the arrangement, it might be 2018 before the agency took action.
“I’m going to continue to attack the press. Look, I find the press to be extremely dishonest. I find the political press to be unbelievably dishonest. I will say that,” Trump said in ending the news conference, still angry. “Okay. Thank you all very much. Thank you. Thank you very much.”
DelReal reported from Washington. Alice Crites, Michelle Ye Hee Lee and Thomas M. Gibbons-Neff in Washington contributed to this report.