Let’s be clear about one thing from the start — we don’t know for sure that Donald Trump made a huge campaign donation to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi in exchange for her declining to file a lawsuit on behalf of residents who claim they were defrauded by Trump University. But we do know this: the timing of the two events was quite curious.
Now The Huffington Post is reporting that not only did a Bondi super PAC get a fat $25,000 check from the Trump Foundation, the candidate also threw a big fundraiser for her at his Mar-a-lago resort in Palm Beach, and charged her less for the rental of the venue than what he has charged his own campaign.
Mar-a-lago doesn’t come cheap, and Trump has charged his campaign $140,000 per event for the use of it. And what did Bondi pay? According to the report, the bill to the Florida Republican party came to just $4,855.65. Not only did Bondi get a bargain basement price on the rental, according to the invitations she also got an appearance from The Donald himself, as well as Mr. “Noun-Verb-9/11” Rudy Giuliani.
The HuffPo story outlines all of the money Trump has sent in Bondi’s direction over the time since she declined to prosecute Trump University. In addition to the $25,000 donation and the fundraiser, Trump and his daughter Ivanka each donated $500 to Bondi’s re-election campaign in 2013. He also contributed $125,000 to the Florida GOP, which was Bondi’s single largest source of campaign funds. And of course the discount on the rental of his resort, which is another huge donation.
In addition to the timing of this sequence of events looking very suspicious, Trump has only made matters worse on himself by bragging on multiple occasions that he pays off people to get things done. He told a crowd in Iowa last January,
“I’ve given to everybody, because that was my job. I’ve got to give to them. because when I want something I get it. When I call, they kiss my ass. It’s true. They kiss my ass. It’s true.”
In a GOP debate, defending his past donations to Democrats, he said this:
“I give to everybody. When they call, I give. You know what? When I need something from them, two years later, three years later, I call them, and they are there for me.”
Trump concluded that remark with the observation “And that’s a broken system.” But it is a system he has admittedly played and apparently continues to play.
It should be pointed out that it was Bondi who approached Trump for a campaign contribution — the idea didn’t originate with him. That is when he presented her with the Trump Foundation check. He also paid an IRS fine for that contribution, due to a violation of the rules limiting the types of things tax-exempt non-profits are allowed to contribute to.
This is worth noting: by contributing foundation money, Trump donated to Bondi’s campaign using not his own money, but the money of those who had donated to what is supposedly a charitable organization. A lot of Trump’s donors might be surprised to learn that he considered the re-election of the Florida Attorney General a “charitable” cause.
The crew of former Trump supporters on MSNBC’s Morning Joe made it clear that they see a direct line from Trump’s admission that he bribes politicians to the Bondi contributions. Even Republican apologist Mark Halperin said it was up to Bondi and the Trump campaign to prove that there was nothing shady going on.
The combination of Trump’s bragging and his desire for secrecy surrounding his business dealings has created this current predicament for the candidate. And until he and/or Bondi can provide some concrete evidence that this was a coincidence and not a quid pro quo, all we can do is quote that tired old saying “if it walks like a duck…”
Here’s the take on the issue from the panel on Morning Joe:
— Morning Joe (@Morning_Joe) September 7, 2016
Featured image via Alex Wong/Getty Images