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Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi Gets Mired In Questions About Trump Donation

Donald Trump and Pam Bondi together in this undated photo.
Michele Sandberg
Getty Images

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi continues to face questions over whether a campaign contribution Trump gave to her in 2013 was in exchange for dropping a potential investigation into his real estate investment program, Trump University. Now Congressional Democrats are calling for an investigation into the issue, and so are newspapers, and the issue is not going away.

Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump recently paid a fine for a campaign donation made in 2013 to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi. Bondi asked Trump for the donation. And it came from his  charitable foundation—a violation of tax laws. Democratic Florida Congressman Ted Deutch believes  Bondi was considering whether to join a fraud investigation into Trump University at the time.   

“But before Bondi made the decision on how to proceed, she solicited, and then she accepted $25,000 from Donald Trump.," Deutch claimed.

But Bondi strongly denied an investigation ever took place when asked about it recently by Fox News Host Neil Cavuto. And she placed blame for the narrative on Democratic Presidential Candidate Hilary Clinton.

“No, of course I asked Donald Trump for a contribution," Bondi told Cavuto.  "That’s not what this is about. She (Clinton)  is saying he (Trump)  was under investigation by my office at the time and I knew about it. None of which is true.”

Bondi’s office released more than 8,000 pages of documents related to the donation.  The New York Times recently reported the Florida Attorney General’s office had received nearly two dozen complaints before Bondi took office. Only one complaint came in afterward.  In 2013 around the same time she asked for a donation, an investigation into Trump’s real-estate program was unfolding in New York. The Orlando Sentinel first wrote about this the same year. But in 2014, Bondi announced her office wouldn’t be joining the investigation. Other than the Sentinel report, there’s no hard evidence one was even underway. And that, says Tampa Bay Times Reporter Michael Auslen is the issue.

“I’m not scandalized by the fact that this came from the foundation account versus his personal account. I think the questions worth asking are more in the line of was he expecting the attorney general to not act, or giving her money to keep her in office because she hadn’t acted. I think those are questions worth asking.”

Bondi attempted to give the donation back to Trump but it was rejected. And Trump has maintained the money coming out of the charity was a clerical error. Still, he has boasted about buying influence from elected officials before.

“You know, it’s interesting the ones I am running against--I’ve contributed to most of them, can you believe it? I’ve contributed to most of them and one said to me, ‘no I don’t think you’ve contributed to me,’ then found out I did—I give to everybody. I’ve given to Democrats, I’ve given to Hilary. Because that’s my job. Because when I want something. I get it. When I call, they kiss my ass. It’s true. They kiss my ass.”

Trump made that statement during a campaign rally in Ohio in January. Yet, even if there is no smoking gun in the saga, Bondi’s political future is growing increasingly cloudy. She’s been rumored as a potential 2018 gubernatorial candidate, or even congressional hopeful. But Politico Florida’s Matt Dixon says that’s now in doubt.

“Trump has faced months of bad headlines, he’s used to it. She is not. But in context, I don’t think anyone knows what her political future is right now. People used to think she had statewide aspirations, congressional aspirations. Different aspirations. I don’t know what her next step is. If you don’t have a next step politically, it can’t hurt you, but in a vacuum I’d say she’s facing the brunt of this.”

Bondi may be caught in it a while longer. There’s a growing number of voices, including Congressional Democrats, and newspaper editorials calling for investigations into the Trump-Bondi connection and his charity. 

Follow @HatterLynn

Lynn Hatter is a Florida A&M University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Lynn has served as reporter/producer for WFSU since 2007 with education and health care issues as her key coverage areas.  She is an award-winning member of the Capital Press Corps and has participated in the NPR Kaiser Health News Reporting Partnership and NPR Education Initiative. 

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