Donald Trump says one thing that’s probably true: he’s a champion briber of politicians.
“I’ve given to everybody,” he says, “Because when I want something, I get it. When I call, they kiss my ass.”
But now he seems to be determined to undermine his self-proclaimed championship status. He denies that he got anything in return for a $25,000 “donation” to the attorney general of Florida. The fact that she dropped a fraud investigation against him was a mere coincidence, he said.
Furthermore, Trump bungled the way the bribe was transmitted and had to pay a fine earlier this year.
In 2013, the Washington Post reports, Trump funneled the donation to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi through the Trump Foundation, which is in itself illegal.
Like attorneys general in many states at that time, Florida’s Pam Bondi, a Republican, received numerous complaints that Trump University was a scam. Angry Floridians who felt they got short shrift for their tens of thousands of dollars in tuition wanted Bondi to join New York State’s attorney general in charging Trump and other university officials with fraud.
Bondi let it be known to Trump that she’d appreciate a contribution to her re-election campaign. She got a $25,000 check.
Her subsequent failure to act left individual Floridians who felt cheated to pursue reimbursement on their own. By contrast, in New York, the attorney general went ahead with the suit, representing students in his state that he believes were fleeced by Trump University in a bait-and-switch scheme.
When reporters questioned Trump about the $25,000 gift, he denied Bondi talked to him about a contribution. “I’ve just known Pam Bondi for years,” he said. “She was a great attorney general.”
Later, a Trump spokeswoman changed the tune. She admitted Bondi had asked Trump for the money.
Trump didn’t take the $25,000 out of his own wallet. Oh, no. He took it from the Trump Foundation.
The problem is, non-profit foundations are prohibited by the IRS from making political contributions.
And lying to the IRS is also against the law, even if you’re a billionaire.
Allen Weisselberg, Trump Organization chief financial officer and Trump Foundation treasurer, tried to explain away the bungled bribe as a series of convoluted missteps by underlings.
Weisselberg claimed, a Trump clerk was asked to write a check for $25,000 to an organization called And Justice for All, which was Bondi’s political action committee.
Weisselberg swears that the clerk found a charity named And Justice for All in Utah, which helps people with disabilities, and wrote the check intending it to go to that organization.
And then, he says, the check, somehow, he doesn’t know how, got sent to Bondi.
But wait, there’s more.
When the Trump Foundation’s accounting firm listed the foundation’s 2013 donations for the IRS, it didn’t list either And Justice for All in Utah nor And Justice for All in Florida. Instead it listed an entirely different group, Justice for All in Kansas.
Bottom line: the Trump Foundation told the federal government that it had given a grant to a non-political charity, when, in fact, it had given the money to the campaign to re-elect Florida Attorney General Bondi.
That’s about as political as you can get and is illegal for charities like the Trump Foundation.
Result: the Trump Foundation was slapped on the wrist with a $2,500 fine.
The IRS never would have discovered this on its own. Its staff has been decimated by Republican budget cutting.
It took the legwork of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), several Florida newspapers and the Washington Post to uncover the truth. “The bribery of an elected official is the ultimate betrayal of the public’s trust, and the facts strongly suggest that happened here,” CREW Executive Director Noah Bookbinder said recently. “It will be shocking and disheartening if it turns out that Florida’s highest law enforcement official did indeed put her office up for sale and that Mr. Trump so readily paid for it.”
When they did, Trump denied any of it was done on purpose, even though he’s the guy who keeps bragging on the campaign trail that he “knows how to work the system” and that he, and he alone, “can fix it.”
Which Trump is real? To answer that question, it seems, all one need do is follow the money.
Additional information for this article came from an OpEd by Leo Gerard President, United Steelworkers of America.
Photo: Donald Trump with Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi. | Gerald Herbert/AP