- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Donald Trump eviscerated political reporters covering his presidential campaign Tuesday in a combative press conference, where he called television journalists “sleaze” and said the media should be ashamed for doubting his claims of raising $6 million for veterans’ groups.

The billionaire businessman, whose firm grasp on the GOP nomination has done little to temper his brash style, opined on the Cincinnati Zoo’s shooting of a gorilla, accused reporters of libel and lashed out at his remaining detractors within the Republican Party, calling them “losers” and saying he doesn’t need their support to win the White House.

His chief goal, however, was to try to dispel reports that he didn’t raise and donate the money he promised after he ditched one of the GOP’s debates in January, instead holding a competing rally for veterans.

“I will say that the press should be ashamed of themselves,” Mr. Trump said. “And on behalf of the vets, the press should be ashamed of themselves.”

His press conference at Trump Tower sent pundits atwitter, complaining that he was demeaning the political process for calling an ABC reporter a “sleaze.” But the affair also highlighted Mr. Trump’s openness with the press, particularly compared to likely general election opponent Hillary Clinton, who hasn’t held a press conference yet in 2016.

Mr. Trump assured reporters the raucous affair would be par for the course if he wins the White House.

He also blasted 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney as a “fool” and conservative magazine chief William Kristol a “loser,” saying they and others trying to recruit an independent candidate risk turning the election over to Mrs. Clinton.

“If I have a person that’s not going to support me, I have no obligation. Now, politically, I may be right, I may be wrong, but that’s who I am,” he said.

Mr. Trump clinched the delegates to be the GOP’s nominee last week, but his victory lap has been dogged by questions over how much money he raised and personally donated to veterans, as well as the ongoing case involving Trump University.

On Tuesday he stood by his criticism of federal Judge Gonzalo P. Curiel, who ordered that documents related to Trump University procedures be unsealed.

“The judge has been very unfair; has not done a good job,” Mr. Trump said. “He’s been a very bad judge. He’s been very unfair. And I will win the Trump University case. I already am, as far as some are concerned.”

As for the veterans issue, The Washington Post and other outlets had questioned Mr. Trump’s claim that his January fundraiser brought in $6 million and that he wrote a $1 million check.

Before the press conference on Tuesday, the campaign had provided conflicting information, creating some confusion and aggravating members of the media that were trying to button down the details of the story.

The Post reported that Mr. Trump cut a check last week to the Marine Corps — Law Enforcement Foundations, months after being hounded by news organizations.

Mr. Trump said Tuesday he has raised $5.6 million and that the final tally could be north of $6 million — the amount promised in January.

He also rattled off the names of the groups that received donations, including the Bob Woodruff Foundation, Americans for Equal Living, America’s VetDogs and Americans for Equal Living.

Mr. Trump said he needed time to vet the veterans groups before distributing the money raised.

At one point he also turned the microphone over to New Hampshire state Rep. Al Baldasaro, a Marine Corps veteran who co-chaired the Trump campaign in New Hampshire, and who also blamed the press for ignoring veteran suicides and other mistreatment of those who served in the military.

“You are all focused on the way he is raising money, and you are not looking at the 22 veterans that are killing each other every day,” he said. “You are not concerned about the thousands of veterans that are on wait lists.

“I think the liberal media, and I have been dealing with you for a long time, needs to get your head out of your butt and focus on the real issues,” Mr. Baldasaro said.

Likely Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s campaign suggested Mr. Trump was trying to weasel out of ponying up the money he promises, and saying it is part of a long pattern of “disrespect” that he has shown the nation’s military veterans.

“I think the problem here is the difference between what Donald Trumps says and Donald Trump does,” Mrs. Clinton said later on CNN. “He has bragged for months about raising $6 million for veterans and donating $1 million himself, but it took a reporter to shame him into actually making his contribution and getting his money to veterans. Look, I am very glad he did, but I don’t know if he should get much credit for that.”

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