Rachel Maddow reveals Donald Trump's sketchy fundraising ties to a "nonexistent veterans group"

Trump's "policy speech" aboard the USS Iowa was just a ploy to raise cash for one guy in South Dakota named Joel

By Sophia Tesfaye

Senior Politics Editor

Published September 16, 2015 4:10PM (EDT)

  (Gage Skidmore)
(Gage Skidmore)

"It is weird enough to see Donald Trump campaigning for president standing on a decommissioned battleship when his only connection to the military is that he went to a military themed prep school in the 1960s," MSNBC's Rachel Maddow exclaimed on her MSNBC show last night.

One day after dazzling a crowd of 15,000 Trump supporters in Texas, the Republican presidential frontrunner traveled to San Pedro, California, to board the decommissioned USS Iowa for what was billed as a "policy speech" hosted by the group, "Veterans For A Strong America."

"I didn't expect it, didn't ask for it," Trump said of the group's endorsement of the businessman turned candidate before thanking the group's president, Joel Arends. In introducing Trump, Arends claimed the endorsement was a departure from the group's (which he claimed had hundreds of thousands of members) usual practice of not endorsing candidates, citing 2016 as too pivotal an election to sit out.

Maybe it was the protestors shouting "Dump Trump" just below deck or the high winds that distracted Trump, but Tuesday evening's speech barely reached normal Trump levels of energy let alone a new layer of policy.

"We have illegal immigrants that are treated better by far than our veterans. It's not going to happen anymore." Trump vowed in front of the ship's massive 16-inch guns without offering any details on how he would accomplish that.

On her show, Maddow explored just how Trump could get away with visiting a famed battleship on behalf of a veterans group without announcing one plank of his foreign policy agenda.

"Veterans For A Strong America really does appear to be just one guy," Maddow explained. "This is apparently just a guy named Joel from South Dakota."

Noting the "group's" surprising show of support for Trump after his attack on Sen. John McCain's record as a war hero, Maddow revealed that the most recent FEC filing for the group shows that they have $30 in the bank with debts totaling $318 to another company held by Arnends. Tickets to the Trump's speech sold for as mush as $1,000. 850 Trump supporters attended the speech aboard the USS Iowa.

"The whole thing is fake. The whole thing is made for TV. Except for the fact that presumably he did raise money for this guy tonight. And this guy really is the frontrunner for the Republican nomination by a mile. And so far Republican voters do not seem to care that it is all made up," Maddow concluded.

Watch the segment, via MSNBC:

Maddow On The Koch Brothers: 'I'm Not Going To Read Their Script'

By Sophia Tesfaye

Sophia Tesfaye is Salon's senior editor for news and politics, and resides in Washington, D.C. You can find her on Twitter at @SophiaTesfaye.

MORE FROM Sophia Tesfaye

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

2016 Campaign 2016 Republican Primary Aol_on Donald Trump Msnbc Rachel Maddow Scams Veterans Video