WASHINGTON (AP) — Donald Trump, meet public accountability.
The real estate magnate turned presidential candidate is fussing over probes into his promises — whether they match his deeds and whether his deeds were legal. But scrutiny is a fact of life for any aspiring public official, even more so for those who win office. Multiply that, should Trump win the presidency.
Probes into Trump University and Trump's promise to raise money for veterans' groups and calls for him to release his tax records are mere whiffs of the prodding he'd receive as president making decisions that involve taxpayer money. And presidents face no shortage of second-guessers, many empowered by open government laws — and the Constitution. The courts and Congress, for example. Watchdog groups. And yes, journalists.
A look at Trump's testy relationship with scrutiny:
Trump says he has no objection to scrutiny. He gives interviews almost daily, as well as long, rambling news conferences, opening himself to questions in ways Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton does not. But on some matters — which other public figures know come with the territory — "nobody's business" is his approach toward disclosure. He's deployed that concept against efforts to find out if he really raised the $6 million he'd claimed in January for veterans groups. (He raised nearly that amount, but distributed much of the money only after reporters pressed — and said reporters should be "ashamed" for asking). He also declared his tax returns were no one's business, in response to calls from public interest groups to release them as others running for high office do. (He says won't release them until an audit is finished.)
CASH FOR MILITARY VETERANS
Trump's veterans' fundraiser grew from his feud with Fox News, which led to him boycotting one of the network's debates and throwing a splashy rally to benefit veterans before the leadoff Iowa caucuses. Under pressure from The Washington Post and other outlets to disclose recipients of the money, Trump's campaign refused for months to say which charities had received the money, leading to questions about whether the money raised was less than he had said. In the last week of May, Trump sent more than a dozen big checks to veterans' charities. On Tuesday, he announced he had made good on his pledge and raised $5.6 million for veterans groups — including $1 million of his own. But he spent much of the time griping about "sleazy" and "dishonest" reporters — while yielding to the pressure and telling the public the names of all 41 groups that received money.
Trump University is the target of two lawsuits in San Diego and one in New York that accuse the business of fleecing students with unfulfilled promises to teach secrets of success in real estate. Trump insists that customers were overwhelmingly satisfied with the offerings, and he's not happy about the judicial scrutiny.
From the campaign stage, Trump has gone after U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who last week ordered documents from the case unsealed. Curiel, according to Trump, is "a Donald Trump hater" and "hostile" to the mogul. He also raised questions about Curiel's ethnicity. "The judge, who happens to be, we believe, Mexican, which is great, I think that's fine," Trump said of Curiel, who was born in the U.S.
It was the second time Trump has brought up the judge's ethnicity as he complained about his treatment.
Trump's 40-minute harangue against reporters probably cost him nothing in terms of support from his fans — they boo journalists at his rallies. What was significant was Trump's apparent point: The veterans groups that received money from his effort have millions more dollars than they did without his help, but that became clear only when he finally told Americans where the money actually went and when.
Trump made clear that he sees little value in the press' oversight role — but lots of value in the public praise he felt was due.
"Instead of being like, 'Thank you very much, Mr. Trump,' or 'Trump did a good job,' everyone's saying: 'Who got (the money)? Who got it? Who got it?' And you make me look very bad," he complained. "I have never received such bad publicity for doing such a good job."