— Donald Trump holds his first presidential fundraisers this week. The events directly benefit his campaign, but he doesn’t see it that way.

Trump insists that his about-face from self-funded candidate to one who relies on donors is happening only at the request of the Republican National Committee.

“The RNC really wanted to do it, and I want to show good spirit,” Trump said in a phone interview with the Associated Press. “’Cause I was very happy to continue to go along the way I was.”

Trump’s self-funding has been a point of pride, a boast making its way into nearly every rally and interview. The billionaire lent his campaign at least $43 million, enough to pay for most of his primary bid.

“By self-funding my campaign, I am not controlled by my donors, special interests or lobbyists. I am working only for the people of the U.S.!” he wrote on Twitter in September.

With this week’s fundraisers — a small gathering Tuesday in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and a large $25,000-per-head dinner Wednesday in Los Angeles — Trump gains hundreds of thousands of campaign dollars but loses his ability to accurately assert that he is free from the shackles of outside donors.

Trump’s voters repeatedly have cited his independence from the influence of donors and special interests as a top reason they back him. It’s not clear how they will react now.

Perhaps to assuage those voter concerns, Trump is trying to promote his fundraising agreement as beneficial to other Republicans, not his own campaign.

The deal itself shows Trump comes first.

For every check he solicits — and donors can give almost $450,000 apiece — the first $5,400 goes to Trump’s primary and general election campaign accounts. The rest is spread among the RNC and 11 state parties.

The RNC can use its money to help Republican candidates for Senate and Congress. However, Trump’s team and Republican officials also have said the RNC plans to take the lead on major presidential campaign activities such as voter identification and turnout.

Asked by The AP if he sees a contradiction in asking for money after repeatedly saying he stood above the other candidates because he didn’t, Trump said, “No, because I’m raising money for the party.”

Trump also first denied to the AP that he is raising any money for the primary. Reminded of the terms of the fundraising agreement, he then said primary donations don’t really count because he already has defeated his GOP rivals.

He promised not to use any donor money to pay down his loans. That means he has until the Republican convention in late July to spend primary contributions on expenses such as staffing and summer ads.

Despite Trump’s claim that he would have carried on self-funding if not for the RNC, in other media interviews he has expressed a reluctance to sell buildings or other assets to pay for a costly general election.

Trump’s likely opponent, Hillary Clinton, aims to have $1 billion for her bid, through her campaign, the Democratic Party and outside groups.

Campaign snapshots

HillaryClinton and Bernie Sanders dueled for support ahead of California’s presidential primary on Tuesday as the Vermont senator showed few signs of backing off as he sought to boost his longshot odds for the nomination.

Sanders’ campaign launched a $1.5 million ad buy in the state and announced that it would seek a recanvass in last week’s Kentucky primary, where he trailed Clinton by less than one-half of 1 percent. The recanvass, which is not a recount, involves reviewing the election results but is unlikely to change the results or the awarding of delegates.

Donald Trump and his team are aggressively defending his fundraising for veterans charities, disparaging news reports that say the actual amount raised is shy of the $6 million the Republican presidential candidate claims.

Monday night, Trump tweeted that he had raised more than $5 million.

Reporters have been asking for proof. The Washington Post’s David Fahrenthold said Trump’s January fundraiser was “a huge boost” for veterans groups that got money, but that only $4.45 million can be loosely verified.


Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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