Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump participates in a roundtable discussion with African American business and civic leaders, Sept. 2, 2016, in Philadelphia, Pa. 
Photo by Evan Vucci/AP

Trump tries to explain away Florida AG controversy

The story of Donald Trump’s improper contribution to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi (R) has been percolating for months, and yesterday, the Republican presidential hopeful addressed the story directly. The Washington Post reported:
Donald Trump on Monday dismissed questions about his failure to disclose an improper $25,000 contribution in 2013 to a political group connected to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, who was at the time considering whether to open a fraud investigation against Trump University. […]
“I never spoke to her, first of all. She’s a fine person, beyond reproach. I never even spoke to her about it at all. She’s a fine person. Never spoken to her about it, never,” Trump said Monday while campaigning in Ohio. “Many of the attorney generals [sic] turned that case down because I’ll win that case in court. Many turned that down. I never spoke to her.”
Let’s take a minute to review how we reached this point, because some of Trump’s explanation is problematic.
In 2013, Bondi, the conservative Florida A.G., briefly considered joining a multi-state suit against “Trump University,” but she dropped the investigation after the Trump Foundation made a $25,000 contribution towards her re-election campaign.
While Trump insisted yesterday that he never spoke to Bondi directly, there’s some evidence to the contrary: as the Post’s report noted, a consultant on Bondi’s re-election campaign “told the Associated Press in June that Bondi spoke with Trump and solicited the donation herself.”
Complicating matters is the nature of the contribution: Trump didn’t write the check himself; he made the $25,000 donation through his charitable foundation, which cannot legally support political campaigns. Trump’s operation then misreported the contribution to the IRS, ultimately having to pay a fine.
Consider the series of events:
1. Bondi’s AG office considered joining a case against the scandal-plagued “Trump University”
2. The Trump Foundation sent $25,000 to help Bondi’s campaign
3. Bondi ended the investigation into “Trump University”
4. The Trump Foundation misreported the improper contribution
5. The IRS fined Trump’s operation
According to Trump and Bondi, these developments amount to a series of coincidental missteps.
Given the Republican candidate’s comments yesterday, however, there’s an angle to this that probably deserves some additional scrutiny: why did Trump send Bondi $25,000 in the first place?
According to Trump, he never spoke to Bondi. That’s probably untrue, but for the sake of conversation, let’s say he’s correct. Also according to Trump’s campaign, he wasn’t trying to derail an investigation into his so-called “school.”
So why write a $25,000 check in a state A.G. race?