Throughout the presidential election, Donald Trump has been adamant that he has donated to politicians of all parties as a way of purchasing favors for his business interests. It’s a theme he’s woven throughout his campaign.
Perhaps the clearest articulation of Trump’s views came during a January 9 speech in Iowa, when he said:
I’ve given to Hillary, I’ve given to everybody. Because that was my job. I got to give to them. Because when I want something I get it. When I call, they kiss my ass. It’s true. They kiss my ass.
Watch (beginning at 1:16):
Trump also used this “influence buying” argument to stress the importance of his pledge to self-finance his campaign.
From the first Republican debate on August 9, 2015:
I will tell you that our system is broken. I gave to many people. Before this, before two months ago, 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. They are there for me. And that’s a broken system.
A few days later, at the Iowa State Fair, Trump expanded on this point:
These are not people that are doing it because they like the color of his hair, believe me. These are highly sophisticated killers. And when they give $5 million or $2 million or a $1 million to Jeb, they have him just like a puppet. They’ll do whatever they want. He is their puppet. Believe me.
On Monday, however, Trump dramatically changed his tune when confronted about a $25,000 donation he gave to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi.
In several states, Trump is facing lawsuits over his now-defunct Trump University, which numerous former students contend was a scam.
One place Trump is not facing a lawsuit is Florida. Pam Bondi, the Attorney General of Florida, did consider an action against Trump University. But in June, she decided there wasn’t enough evidence to proceed.
And shortly before Bondi dropped the fraud case, she received a $25,000 donation from the Trump Foundation — a donation that was likely illegal since, as a non-profit, the Trump Foundation can’t donate money to a political campaign. Trump and his daughter Ivanka also donated directly to Bondi’s campaign.
Why did Trump donate? Was it, as he’s said repeatedly, to purchase influence? Of course not:
Q: So what were you hoping to get out of that donation?
Trump: I’ve just known Pam Bondi for years. I have a lot of respect for her. Never spoke to her about that at all. And just have a lot of respect for her as a person. And she has done an amazing job as attorney general of Florida. She is very popular.
Trump went on to say that he “never spoke to [Bondi]” about the donation. This appears to be contradicted by a statement from a Bondi aide named Marc Reichelderfer. The Associated Press reported in June that, according to Reichelderfer, Trump made the donation after receiving a personal phone call from Bondi.
Trump’s sudden change in perspective is convenient in light of the controversy surrounding the Trump Foundation’s illegal donation. Convenient, but not particularly convincing.