Donald Trump’s Connections To Florida’s Attorney General Just Got Shadier (Updated)

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump walks in the rain with Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, as he arrives at a campaign rally in Tampa, Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2016. CREDIT: AP Photo/Gerald Herbert
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump walks in the rain with Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, as he arrives at a campaign rally in Tampa, Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2016. CREDIT: AP Photo/Gerald Herbert

Donald Trump is facing new legal battles as details emerge about the Trump Foundation’s $25,000 donation to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi (R).

Bondi dropped her state’s investigation into the now-defunct Trump University in October 2013, shortly after Trump made the sizable and likely illegal donation to her campaign. On Tuesday, the Huffington Post reported that not only did Trump give her cash, but he also held a fundraiser for Bondi in March 2014 at his expensive Mar-a-Lago Florida resort.

According to the report, the use of Trump’s Palm Beach resort space is not cheap — the GOP candidate has charged his campaign roughly $140,000 per event for use of the estate. The event was held just five months after Bondi reversed course and ended her investigation.

As Trump campaigns for the presidency, Trump University is facing litigation over allegations that its fraudulent seminars swindled and misled people in a number of states. In New York, the attorney general’s civil lawsuit claims that the unaccredited Trump University deceived students into thinking that they were attending a legitimate, accredited university.

Trump’s $25,000 donation — which his foundation failed to disclose to the IRS — came just three days after Bondi announced she was reviewing the allegations in New York. And despite reports that Bondi reached out to the real estate mogul to seek financial assistance for her struggling 2014 reelection campaign, Trump claimed on Monday that he “never spoke” to Bondi about donation.

“Many of the attorney generals turned that case down because I’ll win that case in court,” he said while campaigning in Ohio. “Many turned that down. I never spoke to her.”

On Wednesday, watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) announced it would be filing an IRS complaint against the Trump Foundation over the illegal donation. The complaint alleges that Trump used his foundation for his personal benefit.

“Private foundations exist for the public good, that’s why they’re tax-exempt,” CREW Executive Director Noah Bookbinder said in a statement. “They absolutely cannot be used to attempt to quash an investigation into their founder’s business.”

CREW originally filed a complaint in March after first discovering the illegal $25,000 donation from a foundation to a political campaign. The group has also targeted the Inspector General for Florida’s Office of the Attorney General and the state’s Commission on Ethics with litigation over Bondi’s involvement in the matter.

After news broke of the donation in July, the editorial boards of the Orlando Sentinel, the Miami Herald, and the Tampa Bay Times all called for independent investigations of the gift.

Boston attorney J. Whitfield Larrabee, who filed three ethics complaints against Bondi earlier this year, said he is also seeking a federal criminal bribery charge.

“If it looks like a bribe and quacks like a bribe, I think it’s a bribe,” he said.

Update:

House Democrats on the Judiciary Committee sent a letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch on Tuesday asking the DOJ to investigate the bribery allegations. Also on Tuesday, CREW filed a criminal complaint in federal court calling for an investigation.