Chris Wallace came into the third presidential debate wanting to be the invisible moderator. He had no interest in being the “truth squad,” saying he believes it is the role of the candidates to correct each other’s false statements.
For the most part, he adhered to his rule. Then came the moment Trump said that 100 percent of the Trump Foundation’s donations go to charity. Wallace jumped in:
TRUMP: I'd like to mention one thing. Trump Foundation, small foundation — people contribute, I contribute. The money — 100 percent goes to different charities, including a lot of military. I don't get anything. I don't buy boats. I don't buy planes. What happens, the money goes in —
WALLACE: Wasn't some of the money used to settle your lawsuit, sir?
TRUMP: No, we put up the American flag. And that's it. They put up the American flag. We fought for the right in Palm Beach to put up the American flag.
WALLACE: But there was a penalty imposed by Palm Beach County.
TRUMP: There was.
WALLACE: The money came from your foundation.
TRUMP: There was.
WALLACE: Instead of Mar-a-Lago.
TRUMP: Went to Fisher House, where they build houses, the money that you're talking about went to Fisher House, where they build houses for veterans and disabled.
Wallace, of course, was referring to Washington Post reporter David Fahrenthold’s discovery that in 2007 Trump used donations made to the Trump Foundation to settle $120,000 in fines over the height of a flagpole at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida. Fahrenthold reports:
In a settlement, Palm Beach agreed to waive those fines — if Trump’s club made a $100,000 donation to a specific charity for veterans. Instead, Trump sent a check from the Donald J. Trump Foundation, a charity funded almost entirely by other people’s money, according to tax records.
According to Fahrenthold’s reporting, the incident in Palm Beach was one of multiple instances in which Trump used the foundation’s donations to settle lawsuits, amounting to more than a quarter of a million dollars from his charity going toward settlements involving his for-profit businesses.