By Keith Griffith October 24, 2016
On October 8, David Fahrenthold may have changed the course of the presidential election with a few short hours of reporting. But before he got the tip that led to his recent bombshell scoop on the Access Hollywood tape that revealed Republican candidate Donald J. Trump bragging about groping women, the veteran Washington Post reporter Fahrenthold spent the better part of a year poring over tax filings, legal records, and conducting hundreds of interviews in an effort to shed light on Trump’s charitable foundation.
Fahrenthold and his colleagues at the Post have reported a steady stream of scoops on the Donald J. Trump Foundation: its expenditures on a football helmet autographed by Tim Tebow, an illegal donation it made to a political campaign, and a registration violation that spurred New York’s attorney general to order the foundation to stop fundraising in the state. Trump has attempted to fight the bad press by claiming that journalists are “rigging” the election against him in coordination with Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.
Fahrenthold spoke with Covering Business’s Keith Griffith about the genesis of his reporting on the Trump Foundation. The interview that follows has been edited for clarity and brevity, and is followed by an annotated version of Fahrenthold’s September 10 feature story dissecting the peculiarities of the Trump Foundation, reprinted with permission from the Washington Post.
Keith Griffith: So, have you been coordinating your reporting with the Clinton campaign in an effort to rig the election against Trump?
David Fahrenthold: Hah — No.
KG: How did the Trump Foundation first come onto your radar?
DF: So, I’d gotten interested in this subject generally because I was in Iowa and New Hampshire covering the lead-up to the primaries and the caucuses. Trump had done that big fundraiser for veterans in Iowa on the 28th of January, and he said he raised $6 million, including $1 million from himself. Most of the money other people gave went to the Donald J. Trump Foundation.
What was interesting was, as the days passed, it seemed like donors who said ‘Look Donald I’ll just give straight to the charity you want,’ that money got distributed very quickly. But the money where the Donald J. Trump Foundation was the middleman, a lot of it just sat there. Money went into the Trump Foundation and didn’t come out, for weeks and weeks and weeks. And it was only after late May — when Trump gave away the million dollars he had pledged to veterans under a lot of media pressure — that he donated the remainder of the money that had been given to the Trump Foundation. He also had this very angry press conference, where he seemed unhappy to be forced to part with his money in a way where he had to account for it.
After seeing that, I was in the elevator lobby with Marty Baron, our executive editor, and he said ‘You know, we’ve got to look at the Trump Foundation more generally.’ The idea being that if this is how Trump acted with his charity when everybody was watching, under the spotlight of the presidential campaign, what’s he been doing with his charity when nobody was watching?
KG: After that conversation with Marty, what were the questions you set out to answer and how did you come at them?
DF: Because I didn’t understand how the Trump Foundation worked, I was focused in the beginning on using it as a way of measuring Trump’s own giving. But we looked at it straight on back to the 80s, and realized he hadn’t given any of his own money since 2008. So we wrote a story, Roz Helderman and I back in April, explaining what the Trump Foundation was, what it had given money to, and the oddities that we found at the time. It had given to this guy who’d sued Trump’s golf course, and to this person who’d won a contest on “Extra” for Donald Trump to pay your bills.
But I was mostly interested at that time in what Trump himself had been giving. So I thought the foundation was kind of a sideline to the story, and not the main story itself. It was only later on we realized: Wow…the Trump Foundation was doing things that were seemingly against the law.
KG: Do you recall when you first realized that?
DF: We had this story back in March, about the Pam Bondi donation. It was this convoluted story where Trump had given $25,000 from the foundation to this campaign committee supporting Pam Bondi, the attorney general of Florida. And it’s against the law to give a political gift out of a non-profit. We also found out that when Trump’s foundation reported tax filings for that year to the IRS, they had actually left off the donation to Bondi and told the IRS they had given the money to an entirely different charity with a similar-sounding name in Kansas. So when we figured that out, and the Trump people said, ‘Oh it was this huge clerical error, it was a big mistake, all of these errors cascaded that caused this to happen and for it to be covered up to the IRS. None of it was intentional.’ That’s when we realized there might be some real mistakes and some real unusual things in the filings of the Trump Foundation. It took me a little while longer to figure out just what was there.
KG: At a certain point in this process you turned to Twitter for help tracking down various leads. A lot of reporters might balk at that for fear of tipping their hand. Can you talk about that decision and how it played out?
DF: Back in late May, we’d been looking for this million dollars that Trump had said he’d given to veterans, and Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s campaign manager, called me. He said, ‘Mr. Trump has given the million dollars away, but we’re not going to tell you who he gave it to or when, or what amounts.’ You know: ‘Don’t pry there.’
So I was like, how can I check that? I can’t call every veterans’ group in America, there’s too many of them. But I don’t need to find all of it, I just need to find the tip of the iceberg. So what I did was, instead of emailing the veterans’ groups myself or calling them up, I started asking the most prominent groups over Twitter. The logic being: A) maybe I find something that way, and B) if I didn’t, maybe I’d attract enough attention that other veterans’ organizations would call and say ‘Hey, you didn’t ask me, but I saw your search on Twitter and actually Trump gave me $100,000.’ Or that Trump himself would see it, realize that we’re looking for it, and it might cause him to give us information that he hadn’t given before.
I tweeted all day long, and it felt like I had wasted my day tweeting at these veterans’ groups who uniformly told me they hadn’t gotten any money. But it turned out that Trump himself had been paying attention. That night he went on a tweetstorm about how terrible it was that the media was demanding that he provide details of these gifts. But what we learned was that Trump had not given any money at all. Lewandowski told me he’d given a million dollars; that was false. He had given nothing. It was only after we had this public search for it on Twitter that Trump actually did give the million dollars away to this one group in the middle of the night.
So doing my search over Twitter had tremendous impact, where it caused all these people to pay attention in a way that obviously they wouldn’t have if I’d done all these calls or emails privately.
KG: I’m just curious, I saw your Twitter following is over 100,000, what was it before you started all of this?
DF: Oh, it was tiny. Which was deserved on my part, I basically retweeted my own stories and tweeted other Post reporters’ stories. There was nothing special about my Twitter feed until this May.
KG: How much in the course of your reporting did you have to educate yourself on accounting procedures and tax law?
DF: My dad’s a CPA, and I should have learned some of this growing up. But I knew nothing about it. Maybe that was a good thing, because I didn’t go in assuming I knew something I didn’t. I’ve reached out to so many tax law professors and lawyers, who are glad to explain it all and like having somebody interested in this subject. I covered the environment for a long time, and it was sort of a similar experience. You’re covering a really obscure, hard to explain thing — how do you explain why the Chesapeake Bay is polluted and how the pollution works? It’s much more complicated than you’d think. That was good experience in finding and interviewing experts, and learning how to get experts to tell you things in a way that you can quote them: approachable, interesting, and entertaining quotes. And also learning to call a number of them until you find somebody who can do that. So it’s been a really interesting education.
KG: You’ve published a whole series of scoops on the Trump Foundation over the course of a few months. How do you decide when something is big enough to run with and when to hold it back for a bigger overview story?
DF: I’ve had really good interaction with my editor, Steven Ginsberg. I’m so deep in the weeds out there that sometimes what seems really interesting and important to me is not that important. As a reporter you tend to grow more attached to the things that are harder to figure out, you know what I mean?
To give you a concrete example, this one story included a bunch of different things that the Trump Foundation had spent money on that it wasn’t supposed to. One of them was this big ticket item, $100,000 that Trump had spent from the foundation to cover his club’s legal expenses. That was really easy to report out, it was all in the documents, and when I called the town of Palm Beach they gave me just what I wanted. And in the same story there was this thing about a picture, this $10,000 portrait of himself that he bought with charity money. It took forever to track down this guy in Panama who painted it and go back and forth with him on email about it, until finally I found the guy and got the story. That took a huge amount of work, and at the end of it I’m so attached to this picture because it was the hardest thing to find.
When I went to write the story, I went with the picture in the lede and this huge $100,000 legal settlement in the third paragraph, because the picture was harder for me to get. And Ginsberg said ‘No, you’re stupid.’ He didn’t say that, but he said that if it’s more money, it should go first. And there’s been a lot of instances like that where he’s said, ‘Hold this back so it can go in one bigger story.’ He’s been really good at pulling me out of the weeds and seeing the bigger picture.
KG: I’m sure you’ve still got many stories to come, but if you had to step back at this point, what are the biggest takeaways from this work so far?
DF: A couple of things. It taught me the incredible value of getting the public interested in your stories and giving people a way to help, to follow along and search for things. This missing portrait that somebody found on the wall of the Doral golf club, that was not me at all. I found out that the portrait existed, but it was an anchor at Univision who’d read my story and found out where that thing was. So it’s important to try and engage readers online and if they want to help, give them something to look for.
But for me, the biggest lesson is to find a way of organizing what you’ve found. I found stuff on the Trump Foundation back in March or April that I didn’t really understand at the time. It was only later on as I learned about the law that I wanted to go back to, say, the $100,000 in legal settlements and find my notes on that. Organizing notes, using spreadsheets to organize data, makes it so much easier to go back and find things from before. Google Docs has been tremendously helpful.
By David Fahrenthold
September 10, 2016
Donald Trump was in a tuxedo, standing next to his award: a statue of a palm tree, as tall as a toddler. It was 2010, and Trump was being honored by a charity — the Palm Beach Police Foundation — for his “selfless support” of its cause.
His support did not include any of his own money. KG: I love this lede. Did the “toddler” simile come to you immediately, or was there wrangling over that choice? DF: I spent an embarrassingly long amount of time on this metaphor, and asked several colleagues to examine photos of Trump standing next to the award. Adding to the complexity: the Palm Tree Award seems to change its height from year to year, judging from the pictures on the website. But Trump got it in a particularly tall year, and my focus group concluded the simile was apt.
Instead, Trump had found a way to give away somebody else’s money and claim the credit for himself.
Trump had earlier gone to a charity in New Jersey — the Charles Evans Foundation, named for a deceased businessman — and asked for a donation. Trump said he was raising money for the Palm Beach Police Foundation.
The Evans Foundation said yes. In 2009 and 2010, it gave a total of $150,000 to the Donald J. Trump Foundation, a small charity that the Republican presidential nominee founded in 1987.
Then, Trump’s foundation turned around and made donations to the police group in South Florida. In those years, the Trump Foundation’s gifts totaled $150,000.
Trump had effectively turned the Evans Foundation’s gifts into his own gifts, without adding any money of his own.
On the night that he won the Palm Tree Award for his philanthropy, Trump may have actually made money. The gala was held at his Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, and the police foundation paid to rent the room. It’s unclear how much was paid in 2010, but the police foundation reported in its tax filings that it rented Mar-a-Lago in 2014 for $276,463.
The Donald J. Trump Foundation is not like other charities. An investigation of the foundation — including examinations of 17 years of tax filings and interviews with more than 200 individuals or groups listed as donors or beneficiaries — found that it collects and spends money in a very unusual manner. KG: That’s a lot of interviews. DF: At this point, I’d spent weeks calling charities that seemed close to Trump, asking if they’d received a *personal* donation from him — a gift from his own pocket, not from the Trump Foundation. At first, I thought that the Trump Foundation was useful mainly as a roadmap for this search. The logic being that, if Trump liked these groups enough to give them other people’s money, he might like them well enough to give his own. But, as I did this, I started learning more about how the foundation operated as well — so I reported this story almost by accident, while looking for something else.
For one thing, nearly all of its money comes from people other than Trump. In tax records, the last gift from Trump was in 2008. Since then, all of the donations have been other people’s money — an arrangement that experts say is almost unheard of for a family foundation.
Trump then takes that money and generally does with it as he pleases. In many cases, he passes it on to other charities, which often are under the impression that it is Trump’s own money.
In two cases, he has used money from his charity to buy himself a gift. In one of those cases — not previously reported — Trump spent $20,000 of money earmarked for charitable purposes to buy a six-foot-tall painting of himself. KG: There’s much here that’s not previously reported — did you call this detail out as unreported to highlight how striking it is? DF: Yes. The painting is the “Hey, Martha” moment of this story, where you hope that readers will stop and blurt it out to whoever’s sitting nearby. I had wanted to break it out as its own story, but editor Steven Ginsberg wisely told me to hold onto it for a couple of days, and use it here.
Money from the Trump Foundation has also been used for political purposes, which is against the law. The Washington Post reported this month that Trump paid a penalty this year to the Internal Revenue Service for a 2013 donation in which the foundation gave $25,000 to a campaign group affiliated with Florida Attorney General Pamela Bondi (R).
Trump’s foundation appears to have repeatedly broken IRS rules, which require nonprofit groups to file accurate paperwork. In five cases, the Trump Foundation told the IRS that it had given a gift to a charity whose leaders told The Post that they had never received it. In two other cases, companies listed as donors to the Trump Foundation told The Post that those listings were incorrect.
Last week, The Post submitted a detailed list of questions about the Trump Foundation to Trump’s campaign. Officials with the campaign declined to comment.
Trump and his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, have both been criticized during their campaigns for activities related to their foundations.
Critics have charged that the giant Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation, which employs more than 2,000 people and spends about a quarter of a billion dollars a year, has served as a way for businesses and powerful figures across the world to curry favor with one of America’s most powerful families. The Clinton Foundation has also been credited by supporters and critics alike for its charitable efforts.
Trump has claimed that he gives generously to charity from his own pocket: “I don’t have to give you records,” he told The Post earlier this year, “but I’ve given millions away.” KG: I noticed this is the only point in the story where Trump’s voice appears directly. DF: True. I wish we’d been able to hear more from him, but at this point in the reporting, Trump’s people had stopped responding to me in any form. Efforts to verify those gifts have not succeeded, and Trump has refused to release his tax returns, which would show his charitable giving.
That leaves the Trump Foundation as the best window into the GOP nominee’s philanthropy.
In the past several days, questions about Trump’s foundation have focused on the gift to Bondi’s group in 2013. At the time the money arrived, Bondi’s office was considering whether to launch an investigation into allegations of fraud by Trump University — accusations that Trump denies.
The investigation never started. Aides to Bondi and Trump say the gift and the case were unrelated. But Democrats have seized on what they see as a clear example of political influence improperly funded by Trump’s charity.
“The foundation was being used basically to promote a moneymaking fraudulent venture of Donald Trump’s. That’s not what charities are supposed to do,” Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, Clinton’s running mate, said Friday. “I hope there’s a significant effort to get to the bottom of it and find out whether this is the end.”
A threadbare operation
Trump started his foundation in 1987 with a narrow purpose: to give away some of the proceeds from his book “The Art of the Deal.”
Nearly three decades later, the Trump Foundation is still a threadbare, skeletal operation.
The most money it has ever reported having was $3.2 million at the end of 2009. At last count, that total had shrunk to $1.3 million. By comparison, Oprah Winfrey — who is worth $1.5 billion less than Trump, according to a Forbes magazine estimate — has a foundation with $242 million in the bank. At the end of 2014, the Clinton Foundation had $440 million in assets.
In a few cases, Trump seemed to solicit donations only to immediately give them away. But his foundation has also received a handful of bigger donations — including $5 million from professional-wrestling executives Vince and Linda McMahon — that Trump handed out a little at a time.
The foundation has no paid staffers. It has an unpaid board consisting of four Trumps — Donald, Ivanka, Eric and Donald Jr. — and one Trump Organization employee.
In 2014, at last report, each said they worked a half-hour a week.
The Trump Foundation still gives out small, scattered gifts — which seem driven by the demands of Trump’s businesses and social life, rather than by a desire to support charitable causes. KG: What’s the oddest gift that didn’t make it in this story? DF: My favorite will wind up in a future story: in 1989, when Trump’s son Donald Jr. was 11, the Trump Foundation gave a $7 grant to the Boy Scouts of America. Which was the fee required to register a new boy in the scouts that year.
The foundation makes a few dozen donations a year, usually in amounts from $1,000 to $50,000. It gives to charities that rent Trump’s ballrooms. It gives to charities whose leaders buttonholed Trump on the golf course (and then try, in vain, to get him to offer a repeat donation the next year).
It even gives in situations in which Trump publicly put himself on the hook for a donation — as when he promised a gift “out of my wallet” on NBC’s “The Celebrity Apprentice.” The Trump Foundation paid off most of those on-air promises. A TV production company paid others. The Post could find no instance in which a celebrity’s charity got a gift from Trump’s own wallet.
Another time, Trump went on TV’s “Extra” for a contest called “Trump pays your bills!”
A professional spray-tanner won. The Trump Foundation paid her bills. KG: A great detail. DF: If you ever have a chance to get the words “a professional spray-tanner” in your story, you do it. That’s my number-one rule of good writing.
A rarity among charities
About 10 years ago, the Trump Foundation underwent a major change — although it was invisible to those who received its gifts.
The checks still had Trump’s name on them.
Behind the scenes, he was transforming the foundation from a standard-issue rich person’s philanthropy into a charity that allowed a rich man to be philanthropic for free.
Experts on charity said they had rarely seen anything like it.
“Our common understanding of charity is you give something of yourself to help somebody else. It’s not something that you raise money from one side to spend it on the other,” said Leslie Lenkowsky, the former head of the Corporation for National and Community Service, and a professor studying philanthropy at Indiana University.
By that definition, was Trump engaging in charity?
No, Lenkowsky said.
“It’s a deal,” he said, an arrangement worked out for maximum benefit at minimum sacrifice.
In the Trump Foundation’s early days, between 1987 and 2006, Trump actually was its primary donor. Over that span, Trump gave his own foundation a total of $5.4 million. But he was giving it away as fast as he put it in, and by the start of 2007, the foundation’s assets had dropped to $4,238.
Then, Trump made a change.
First, he stopped giving his own money.
His contribution shrank to $35,000 in 2007.
Then to $30,000 in 2008.
Then to $0.
KG: This sequence reminds me of shape poetry…looks like the bar chart of Trump’s personal donations tipped sideways. Wonderful. DF: Hah! I hadn’t noticed that. I was going for staccato sentences, obviously, but didn’t realize that I’d managed to make a bar chart with words.
At the same time, Trump’s foundation began to fill with money from other people.
But in many other cases, his biggest donors have not wanted to say why they gave their own money, when Trump was giving none of his.
“I don’t have time for this. Thank you,” said Richard Ebers, a ticket broker in New York City who has given the Trump Foundation $1.9 million since 2011.
“No. No. No. I’m not going to comment on anything. I’m not answering any of your questions,” said John Stark, the chief executive of a carpet company that has donated $64,000 over the years.
Vince and Linda McMahon declined to comment. KG: These donors’ motivations feel like a striking question. Were you tempted to speculate or mention their previously reported business and social ties to Trump? DF: No. I really don’t know enough about these folks and their connection to Trump to even make a confident guess at their motivations.
So did NBCUniversal, which donated $500,000 in 2012. Its gift more than covered the “personal” donations that Trump offered at dramatic moments on “The Celebrity Apprentice” — then paid for out of the Trump Foundation.
Trump’s donations to the Palm Beach Police Foundation offered a stark example of Trump turning somebody else’s gift into his own charity.
Tax experts said they had rarely heard of anything like what Trump had done, converting another donor’s gift into his own.
“I question whether it’s ethical. It’s certainly misleading. But I think it’s legal, because you would think that the other foundation that’s . . . being taken advantage of would look out for their own interests,” said Rosemary E. Fei, an attorney in San Francisco who has advised hundreds of small foundations. “That’s their decision to let him do that.”
After three years, the Charles Evans Foundation stopped using Trump as a middleman.
“We realized we don’t need to do it through a pass-through,” said Bonnie Pfeifer Evans, the widow of Charles Evans and a trustee of the now-defunct foundation.
In 2012, the Charles Evans Foundation stopped giving money to the Trump Foundation.
In 2013, according to tax records, the Trump Foundation stopped giving to the Palm Beach Police Foundation.
The police group, which gave Trump the award, did not know that Trump’s money had come from somebody else’s pocket. It could not explain why he gave in some years but not others — or why he gave in the amounts he did.
“He’s the unpredictable guy, right?” said John F. Scarpa, the Palm Beach Police Foundation’s president, before The Post informed him about how Trump got the money. He said Trump’s giving wasn’t the only reason he got the award. He also could be counted on to draw a crowd to the group’s annual event. KG: Isn’t that what they paid him to do? DF: Well, they paid him for the room that the crowd was in. But there are lots of events at Mar-a-Lago, and Trump doesn’t show up for all of them. The amount paid to Trump’s club was first reported by BuzzFeed.
The police group still holds its galas at Mar-a-Lago.
Acts of ‘self-dealing’
At the same time that it began to rely on other people’s money, the Trump Foundation sometimes appeared to flout IRS rules by purchasing things that seemed to benefit only Trump.
In 2007, for instance, Trump and his wife, Melania, attended a benefit for a children’s charity held at Mar-a-Lago. The night’s entertainment was Michael Israel, who bills himself as “the original speed painter.” His frenetic act involved painting giant portraits in five to seven minutes — then auctioning off the art he’d just created.
He painted Trump.
Melania Trump bid $10,000.
Nobody tried to outbid her.
“The auctioneer was just pretty bold, so he said, ‘You know what just happened: When you started bidding, nobody’s going to bid against you, and I think it’s only fair that you double the bid,’ ” Israel said in an interview last week.
Melania Trump increased her bid to $20,000. KG: How tempting was it to make this scene the lede? DF: Very. Especially after the first 5 times that I tried the other lede, and couldn’t make it simple enough to understand. But the dollar amounts were bigger in the Palm Beach Police Foundation anecdote, and the whole thing was so calculated.
“I understand it went to one of his golf courses,” Israel said of the painting.
The Trump Foundation paid the $20,000, according to the charity that held the benefit.
Something similar happened in 2012, when Trump himself won an auction for a football helmet autographed by football player Tim Tebow, then a quarterback with the Denver Broncos.
The winning bid was $12,000. As The Post reported in July, the Trump Foundation paid.
IRS rules generally prohibit acts of “self-dealing,” in which a charity’s leaders use the nonprofit group’s money to buy things for themselves.
In both years, IRS forms asked whether the foundation had broken those rules: Had it “furnish[ed] goods, services or facilities” to Trump or another of its officers?
In both years, the Trump Foundation checked “no.”
Tax experts said Trump could have avoided violating the self-dealing rules if he gave the helmet and the painting to other charities instead of keeping them. Trump’s staffers have not said where the two items are now. KG: This seems like the type of question tailor-made for crowdsourcing! DF: Yes! Although I’ve tried crowd-sourcing, and haven’t found the Tebow helmet yet. I think I have found more detail about the $20,000 painting, but I can’t reveal it yet.
The IRS penalties for acts of “self-dealing” can include penalty taxes, both on charities and on their leaders as individuals.
In other cases, the Trump Foundation’s tax filings appeared to include listings that were incorrect.
The most prominent example is the improper political donation to the group affiliated with Bondi, the Florida attorney general, in 2013. In that case, Trump’s staffers said a series of errors resulted in the payment being made — and then hidden from the IRS.
First, Trump officials said, when the request came down to cut a check to the Bondi group, a Trump Organization clerk followed internal protocol and consulted a book with the names of known charities.
The name of the pro-Bondi group is “And Justice for All.” Trump’s staffer saw that name in the book, and — mistakenly — cut the check from the Trump Foundation. The group in the book was an entirely different charity in Utah, unrelated to Bondi’s group in Florida.
Somehow, the money got to Florida anyway.
Then, Trump’s staffers said, the foundation’s accounting firm made another mistake: It told the IRS that the $25,000 had gone to a third charity, based in Kansas, called Justice for All. In reality, the Kansas group got no money.
“That was just a complete mess-up on names. Anything that could go wrong did go wrong,” Jeffrey McConney, the Trump Organization’s controller, told The Post last week. After The Post pointed out these errors in the spring, Trump paid a $2,500 penalty tax.
Donations not received
In four other cases, The Post found charities that said they never received donations that the Trump Foundation said it gave them.
The amounts were small: $10,000 in 2008, $5,000 in 2010, $10,000 in 2012. Most of the charities had no idea that Trump had said he had given them money. KG: Why did you choose not to name these three charities? DF: To save words. Giving their names and descriptions would have slowed the story down, and without much benefit: there was no obvious pattern to them. Instead, I wrote a sidebar that named them and gave details.
This January, the phone rang at a tiny charity in White River Junction, Vt., called Friends of Veterans. This was just after Trump had held a televised fundraiser for veterans in Iowa, raising more than $5 million.
The man on the phone was a Trump staffer who was selecting charities that would receive the newly raised money. He said the Vermont group was already on Trump’s list, because the Trump Foundation had given it $1,000 in 2013.
“I don’t remember a donation from the Trump Foundation,” said Larry Daigle, the group’s president, who was a helicopter gunner with the Army during the Vietnam War. “The guy seemed pretty surprised about this.”
The man went away from the phone. He came back.
Was Daigle sure? He was.
The man thanked him. He hung up. Daigle waited — hopes raised — for the Trump people to call back.
“Oh, my God, do you know how many homeless veterans I could help?” Daigle told The Post this spring, while he was waiting.
Trump gave away the rest of the veterans money in late May.
Daigle’s group got none of it. KG: A great anecdote. How’d you find Daigle? DF: I called him way back in the spring, when I was trying to figure out if Trump had given away the full $6 million he’d raised for veterans’ groups in January in Iowa. I started calling veterans’ groups that had already (according to tax filings) received money from the Trump Foundation in the past. Finally, this fall, CNN helped solve the mystery: Trump had given to a different “Friends of Veterans” group in Palm Beach, unconnected to this one. Somehow, his accountants listed the wrong group in the wrong state.
In two other cases, the Trump Foundation reported to the IRS that it had received donations from two companies that have denied making such gifts. In 2013, for instance, the Trump Foundation said it had received a $100,000 donation from the Clancy Law Firm, whose offices are in a Trump-owned building on Wall Street.
“That’s incorrect,” said Donna Clancy, the firm’s founder, when The Post called. “I’m not answering any questions.”
She hung up and did not respond to requests for comment afterward.
“All of these things show that the [Trump] foundation is run in a less-than-ideal manner. But that’s not at all unusual for small, private foundations, especially those run by a family,” said Brett Kappel, a Washington attorney who advises tax-exempt organizations. “Usually, you have an accounting firm that has access to the bank statements, and they’re the ones who find these errors and correct them.”
The Trump Foundation’s accountants are at WeiserMazars, a New York-based firm. The Post sent them a detailed list of questions, asking them to explain these possible errors.
The firm declined to comment.