NEW YORK — Hillary Clinton’s campaign on Tuesday will launch a multi-pronged communications effort to trash Donald Trump’s record on veterans’ issues and undermine the billionaire’s news conference touting the money he’s raised for veterans’ causes in recent months.
The campaign will host a national press call, release statements and unleash surrogates in key battleground states armed with talking points and opposition research to highlight Trump’s past disparaging remarks about veterans, his Veterans Administration reform plans, and his months-long refusal to fully account for the funds he raised in January for veterans’ charities, according to plans the Clinton campaign shared with CNN.
The plan is the Clinton campaign’s most targeted effort yet to disrupt a Trump-organized event that the billionaire hopes will earn him hours of free — and largely positive — media time. And it comes on the heels of the Clinton camp’s week-long effort last week to knock Trump off-message and discredit the presumptive Republican nominee by hammering him over a series of comments he made about the 2008 financial crisis.
The effort Tuesday will be an early test of whether the Clinton team’s more traditional campaign and communications outfit can scramble Trump’s unprecedented dominance of — and heavy reliance on — free media coverage.
Trump has said he plans to issue a full accounting of his veterans fundraising during his news conference Tuesday at Trump Tower, just over four months after he claimed to have raised $6 million for veterans’ charities instead of attending a GOP presidential debate. During that time, Trump has come under intense scrutiny as reporters have been unable to account for the sum total.
Trump in the last week has conceded he raised less than $6 million — but more than $5 million — for veterans’ charities, and finally posted the $1 million donation he had pledged to contribute himself.
Trump told CNN last week that waiting for donations wasn’t the only reason for the delay in reporting. He said after vetting, some of the veterans’ groups no longer met proper standards and needed to be replaced.
As for Hillary Clinton’s campaign, strategically-placed surrogates in battleground states, including Virginia, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Florida and Colorado, will hold press conferences Tuesday and make the rounds of local media to press the case that Trump has not been a positive force for veterans. At least one of the surrogates in each state is a vet.
The Trump campaign had no immediate comment Tuesday.
Surrogates will accuse Trump of scamming veterans through his scandal-ridden Trump University, criticize his plan to partially privatize veterans’ medical care and will raise Trump’s assertion last summer that Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, a Vietnam veteran and former POW, is not a war hero — “I like people that weren’t captured, OK?” Trump said in July.
The campaign will also hit Trump for declining to expressly support the latest version of the post-9/11 GI bill in a CNN interview earlier this month, and his 2004 efforts to boot street vendors, including military veterans, who were hawking goods in front of Trump Tower.
At the same time, the campaign will release statements and hold a national press call slamming Trump’s record on veterans and playing up Clinton’s own positions, the campaign told CNN.
Earlier Tuesday morning, the campaign also rolled out its agenda for military families, which the campaign plans to tout throughout Tuesday as a contrast to Trump.
The daylong rollout will also underscore the Clinton campaign’s advantage — with a communications staff of more than a dozen — in the arena of traditional campaign politics.
The Trump campaign, which boasts a formal communications department of one, would be hard-pressed to pull off a similarly concerted and coordinated messaging effort, barring proclamations from Trump himself.