Florida’s three largest newspapers – the Miami Herald, the Tampa Bay Times and the Orlando Sentinel – just called for a federal investigation of Republican nominee Donald Trump’s payoff to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, which forced the Republican nominee to pay an IRS fine and re-ignited media coverage of the Trump University scam and cover up. To date, 827 Floridians have joined the New York Attorney General’s lawsuit against Donald Trump.
The Tampa Bay Times wrote a tough editorial entitled “Feds should investigate Bondi-Trump connection”:
Federal prosecutors should investigate whether there is any connection between the decision by Attorney General Pam Bondi’s office not to pursue fraud allegations against Trump University and a $25,000 campaign contribution he gave her. Since Florida prosecutors will not touch this mess, the Justice Department is the only option. The appearance of something more than a coincidence is too serious and the unresolved questions are too numerous to accept blanket denials by Bondi and Trump without more digging and an independent review.
The Miami Herald’s editorial board laid out the most obvious observation about unequal media coverage which has nearly excused Trump’s pay-for-play scheme to avoid prosecution, saying that Trump’s ‘gift’ to Bondi “deserves a closer look”:
Unlike the faux scandal over the Clinton institution, there were actual victims here — people who paid good money to Trump University and feel they were duped. Why is Pam Bondi not investigating that?
That the gift was given and received is not in dispute. The transaction took place. After the IRS action, Mr. Trump reimbursed the foundation and paid the $2,500 fine personally, according to a spokesman for the Trump Organization. The rest remains murky, and, so far, riddled with contractions and misdirection. More serious are the questions about why the money was given and how it came about.
The Orlando Sentinel’s Scott Maxwell – who uncovered Trump’s illegal political bribe to Bondi in the first place – was given the honor of publishing an op-ed column explaining that Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi deserved the bulk of the scrutiny as both a Republican elected official and as a lawyer who betrayed the public trust and that federal prosecution is the only genuine option available for the state’s top law enforcement officer:
The Florida Bar says it has no jurisdiction. The state attorney in Leon County has taken a pass. So have the governor’s office and the Legislature, both of which could demand hearings if they wanted.
Imagine you were robbed and the prosecutor gave the suspect a pass after taking $25,000 from him. There would be universal outrage — and rightfully so. This is not the behavior of an ethical prosecutor. If Floridians want action, they should speak up. But it may be up to the U.S. Justice Department.
When a prosecutor has been asked to investigate someone — and instead takes $25,000 in campaign cash from him — it’s the prosecutor who most needs probing. That’s why I began digging into this way back in 2013 — long before Trump was even a candidate for the White House.
Maxwell’s three years of work reporting on Trump’s political bribery scheme yielded details that show the Florida Attorney General’s office was more interested in discharging victims complaints summarily, than helping any of the twenty two Floridians who reported being burned in the alleged criminal racket:
In one instance, Bondi’s office told a man who said he lost $26,000 that he might be better off surfing the Internet. “I encourage you to visit an Internet search engine such ashttp://www.yahoo.com or http://www.google.com to search for information on any class action lawsuits you may benefit from,” wrote one Bondi staffer. Compare that to New York’s attorney general, who filed suit, labeling Trump University “a fraud from beginning to end.”
It’s kind of scary to think that a state Attorney General would take a bribe to kill a major investigation, but even more disturbing that there’s no checks on her elected office short of a federal prosecution – but that is the apparent state of affairs today in Florida.
Republican voters ironically chose Donald Trump as their nominee for President because they believed that as a purported political outsider, he would be “immune” from the influence of money in politics, and somehow bring an immunity to the effect of money in politics. Instead, he’s just been a living representation of the corrosive effect of cash in campaigning, shown through his bribes to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi and Texas Governor Greg Abbott, who took a delayed payday after killing an advanced investigation into Trump University.
We now have a confirmed payoff and receipt for a confirmed apparent conflict of interest, so it’s time for federal prosecutors to open a case against Bondi, and as well against Trump, because it takes two to tango in any pay-for-play politics, and these two Republicans cheated the public out of justice for all.
FB Photo Credit: NBC
Grant Stern is an Editor-At-Large for OccupyDemocrats and published author. His new Meet the Candidates 2020 book series is distributed by Simon and Schuster. He's also mortgage broker, community activist and radio personality in Miami, Florida., as well as the producer of the Dworkin Report podcast. Grant is also an occasional contributor to Raw Story, Alternet, and the DC Report. Find out more at grantstern.com.