The Trump University bribe to get the Florida Attorney General to drop the case
Kevin Drum posted a useful timeline:
Ladies and gentlemen, here is a timeline of events for your consideration. All of these events took place in 2013:
Late August: Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi calls Donald Trump to ask for a donation to her reelection campaign.
September 10: In an unusual show of interest in a down-ballot race in Florida, Ivanka Trump donates $500 to Bondi. Apparently that’s insultingly small.
September 13: Bondi tells the Orlando Sentinel that her office is “currently reviewing the allegations” that Trump University has defrauded its students.
September 17: The Trump Foundation makes a $25,000 contribution to a PAC backing Bondi.
October 15: The Florida Attorney General’s office backtracks, telling the Orlando Sentinel there was never any consideration of joining the lawsuit against Trump U because they had received only one complaint during the time Bondi was in office. This was untrue: the AG’s office had received a couple dozen complaints, but had weeded them out so they could say there was only one.
There have been an endless number of stories about “clouds” and “suspicions” and “questions raised” regarding donations to the Clinton Foundation while Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State. So far, though, there’s nothing even close to a smoking gun. Quite the opposite: the evidence so far suggests very strongly that nobody ever got anything for contributing to the Foundation.
But here we have a case that’s a mere hair’s breadth away from a smoking gun. There’s only the slightest wiggle room for believing that the events in Florida are all just a big coincidence. Maybe they deserve a little bit more front-page attention?
John Cassidy in the New Yorker discusses this case in greater detail:
If news cycles were driven by issues of import, rather than what’s new, Trump University, the scandal-plagued learning annex which promised to teach its students Donald Trump’s secrets of how to get rich in real estate, would never leave the front pages and home pages of American media outlets. As I noted in a June post that was based on court documents, even some of Trump University’s own employees regarded it as giant ripoff. The idea that the proprietor, and principal promoter, of such an enterprise could end up in the Oval Office is absurd on its face.
In California, three lawsuits filed by aggrieved former Trump University attendees, some of whom spent many thousands of dollars on courses, are still working their way through the court system. Another case, which was brought by Eric Schneiderman, New York’s Attorney General, is also pending. What brought the story back into the spotlight recently was a story by the WashingtonPost’s David Fahrenthold.
Late last week, Fahrenthold reported that Trump had earlier this year paid a twenty-five-hundred-dollar penalty to the Internal Revenue Service for violating tax laws. The penalty stemmed from a donation Trump’s charitable foundation made in September, 2013, a twenty-five-thousand-dollar payment to a political group supporting the reëlection of Pam Bondi, the Attorney General of Florida. When Trump’s charity made the donation, Bondi, a Republican who took office in 2011, was deciding whether to launch a formal investigation into Trump University, following complaints by Florida residents who claimed that they had been bilked. Shortly after Trump’s charity made the donation, Bondi announced that she wouldn’t go ahead with the probe of Trump University. In 2014, she was reëlected.
In a saner country, it would be a crime for a businessman to make a large contribution to an elected law-enforcement officer whose office was looking into his dealings. Thanks to our nutty campaign-finance laws, Trump was perfectly within his rights to send twenty-five thousand dollars to the pro-Bondi group—which went by the name And Justice for All—or so it seems. But it was a violation of tax laws for his charity to make a political contribution—that’s why he had to pay a penalty to the I.R.S. One of Trump’s aides told Fahrenthold that the donation from the Trump charity was the result of a clerical error. The aide said the money should have come from one of Trump’s personal accounts.
Precisely where the money came from within the Trump empire is not the real issue, of course. The question is whether Trump effectively bribed Bondi to back off the investigation. Both parties have . . .