Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump talks with press on Sept. 5, 2016, aboard his campaign plane, while flying over Ohio, as Vice presidential candidate Gov. Mike Pence looks on.
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New details emerge in Trump’s Florida AG controversy

Updated
The Rachel Maddow Show, 9/6/16, 9:38 PM ET

Trump Florida AG donation timing raises pay-to-play questions

David Fahrenthold, a reporter with The Washington Post, talks with Rachel Maddow about the investigation into the suspicious timing of a political donation from the Trump Foundation to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s reelection, and Bondi’s…
As Rachel noted on the show last night, Donald Trump’s $25,000 campaign contribution to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi (R) was problematic for all sorts of reasons, and if the Republican presidential hopeful was counting on the controversy fading away, he’s likely to be disappointed.
 
On Monday, for example, Trump told reporters he “never” spoke to Bondi, a claim that contradicted evidence that the Florida A.G. had personally reached out to Trump about a political donation. Yesterday, the presidential candidate clarified matters, conceding he did speak to Bondi, but not about her possible investigation into “Trump University.”
 
Last night, the Huffington Post reported some additional details about the simmering controversy, including a March 2014 event in which Trump opened his Palm Beach resort, Mar-a-Lago, for a Bondi fundraiser at a generous price.
Trump, whose personal foundation had given $25,000 to a pro-Bondi group the previous fall, did not write a check to the attorney general that night. But by hosting her at Mar-a-Lago and bringing in some of his own high-profile Florida contacts, he provided her campaign with a nice financial boost. […]
 
The use of Mar-a-Lago alone was a donation of some value. Space at the resort is expensive to rent. Trump has charged his own presidential campaign roughly $140,000 an event for use of the resort. In contrast, the Republican Party of Florida paid only $4,855.65 for the Bondi fundraiser, cutting a check on March 25, 2014.
Even the New York Times, which has conspicuously avoided reporting on this story, has broken its silence, publishing a news article and an editorial this morning. The latter argued, among other things, “there’s little doubt” that Trump and Bondi “abused the public trust.”
 
With these details in mind, consider this timeline of events:
 
* Late August 2013: Bondi reached out to Trump, seeking financial support for her 2014 re-election campaign in Florida.
 
* Sept. 13, 2013: Bondi’s AG office acknowledged that it was investigating fraud allegations against “Trump University.”
 
* Sept. 17, 2013: Trump’s charitable foundation, which is legally prohibited from donating to political campaigns, cut a $25,000 check for a group supporting Bondi’s campaign.
 
* Oct. 15, 2013: Bondi’s office reversed course and said it wasn’t pursuing allegations made against “Trump University.”
 
* March 2014: Trump offered Bondi’s re-election campaign a generous deal while renting out his resort in Palm Beach.
 
Trump’s operation later paid a fine to the IRS for the improper campaign donation – which had been misreported to the tax agency.
 
Keep in mind, there’s more than one angle to this controversy. The first has to do with the accounting: Trump used his foundation to make a donation that violated federal tax law. That’s not good.
 
The second is the allegation that this is a straightforward “pay-for-play” scandal: Trump wanted to influence the Florida Attorney General’s office, the accusation goes, so he cut a generous check, and received the exact benefit he wanted.
 
Trump has been quite candid in his explanations for why he made so many political contributions to so many candidates and office-holders. “I’ve given to everybody,” he boasted earlier this year. “When I want something I get it. When I call, they kiss my ass. “It’s true. They kiss my ass.”
 
Trump added at a debate last year, “I was a businessman. I give to everybody. When they call, I give. And you know what? When I need something from them, two years later, three years later, I call them, and they are there for me.”
 
So the question in the Bondi controversy is obvious: was his $25,000 contribution an investment to an official he “needed something from”?
 
 
 

Donald Trump and Scandals

New details emerge in Trump's Florida AG controversy

Updated