Donald Trump brags, loudly and often, about his ability to influence elected officials with well-placed campaign donations. “When I want something, I get it,” he said at a campaign event in January. “When I call, they kiss my ass. It’s true. They kiss my ass. It’s true.” But, confronted this week with further evidence of his having bribed the Florida attorney general, Pam Bondi, to drop an investigation of his for-profit real estate school, Trump University, Trump has stammered and back-tracked and equivocated.
Earlier this summer, Bondi’s spokesperson confirmed that the AG had personally asked Trump for money during a 2013 phone call. In September of that year, her office announced that it was considering joining a lawsuit being brought against Trump University by New York attorney general Eric Schneiderman. Three days later, And Justice for All, the committee supporting Bondi’s re-election campaign, received a $25,000 check from the Donald J. Trump Foundation. Her office subsequently declined to join Schneiderman’s lawsuit, citing insufficient grounds to proceed.
(Schneiderman’s suit in New York is currently set to go to trial, although not until after the presidential election in November. A pair of class-action lawsuits against Trump University in California are also set to go to trial.)
Trump denies that he and Bondi ever spoke about Trump University. “I never spoke to her, first of all, she’s a fine person beyond reproach,” he told the Associated Press on Monday. “Never spoken to her about it. Never. Many of the AGs turned that case down because I’ll win that case in court, many turned that down...I just have a lot of respect for her and she’s very popular.” (Bondi spoke at the Republican National Convention this year.)
In the spring following that $25,000 contribution to Bondi’s political committee, the Huffington Post reports, Trump hosted a $3,000-per-person fundraiser at Mar-a-Lago, his resort in Palm Beach, Florida. Around the same time, Trump and his daughter Ivanka donated $125,000 to the Republican Party of Florida—of which Bondi was a primary beneficiary.
Trump didn’t write Bondi a check on the night of the fundraiser at Mar-a-Lago, but the use of the space itself constitutes a significant donation. From HuffPo:
Space at the resort is expensive to rent, and Trump has charged his own presidential campaign roughly $140,000 per event for use of the mansion.
In contrast, the Republican Party of Florida paid only $4,855.65 for the Bondi fundraiser, cutting a check on March 25, 2014. It was a “small event on the lawn ... featuring snacks and refreshments, attended by about 50 people,” a Bondi campaign staffer told The Huffington Post.
Last week, the Washington Post reported that Trump recently had to pay a fine after the IRS reviewed his foundation’s contribution to Bondi’s PAC—registered nonprofits, it turns out, cannot make political donations. Also, on the Trump Foundation’s tax filings from that year, the contribution to Bondi’s political committee is not listed. Instead, filings disclose a $25,000 donation to a similarly-named charity in Kansas—one that has not ever actually received any money from the foundation. Trump was forced to pay a $2,500 fine.