Florida Democratic U.S. Reps. Ted Deutch and Lois Frankel called Tuesday for someone to investigate the Donald Trump–Pam Bondi matter that Deutch said “looked like a bribe.”
In a telephone press conference with Florida media organized by the Democratic National Committee, Deutch and Frankel insisted more needs to be revealed about the $25,000 donation Trump’s Trump Foundation made to Bondi’s 2014 attorney general re-election campaign just as her office was looking into alleged fraud complaints about his Trump University.
Trump has insisted there was no quid-pro-quo. And Bondi insisted her office’s decision to not investigate the complaints did not reach her desk, and had nothing to do with Trump’s donation — a contribution later determined by the Internal Revenue Service to be improperly made.
In a development unrelated to the Deutch-Frankel press conference, the matter now has been referred to the U.S. Department of Justice. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington announced Tuesday it has filed a complaint against Bondi, Trump and the Trump Foundation, and called for an investigation into whether the Trump Foundation broke federal criminal law by making false reports to the IRS.
In the complaint, CREW asked Raymond Hulser, chief of the Department of Justice’s Public Integrity Section to investigate whether Bondi solicited a bribe and whether Trump paid one.
It’s a matter that Deutch and Frankel echoed later Tuesday.
“The appearance of this is very clearly a pay-for-play,” Deutch said. “It looks like there was a bribe made to get the attorney general to drop the case.”
“Donald Trump has bragged that he can buy politicians …. He calls it a broken system. Honest people would call the transaction between Pam Bondi and Donald Trump corruption,” Frankel said.
Deutch referred to reporting by Orlando Sentinel columnist Scott Maxwell in which Bondi acknowledged in 2013 that the office was reviewing complaints from people who thought they were defrauded by Trump University. Then, four days later, the Trump Foundation donation arrived for Bondi’s campaign. He also noted that Maxwell also reported the AG’s office responded to an open-records request with email showing the agency advised people who thought they were scammed to go on the internet and look for lawsuits to join.
Deutch said he did not want to call for a specific investigation by a specific agency because he did not want to limit the scope. He said if there is a potential violation of law, then the U.S. Department of Justice ought to look into it. If there is a potential violation of ethics, then The Florida Bar ought to look into it.
[Afterward, The Florida Bar advised it has no jurisdiction over the state attorney general.]
Neither he nor Frankel seemed to think Bondi should be a priority in any investigation. Both hammered Trump. Both argued that similar events occurred in Texas and Florida, suggesting Trump has a pattern of trying to dissuade attorney general investigations into his businesses by using campaign contributions to reward or punish attorneys general.
When asked if there was anything in Bondi’s past record to suggest she would have launched a formal investigation into Trump University based on the complaints, Frankel responded, “The point of this conversation is not necessarily whether or not Pam Bondi has a history of being derelict in her duties. I want to bring you back to Donald Trump, who is running for president of the United States of America. In his business, he paid people, he paid politicians, to get what he wanted. We believe that is what happened here.”