Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed a request Wednesday for an official investigation to determine if Donald Trump bought off Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi.
In a press release, CREW announced that it had filed official requests with Inspector General Steve Rumph of the Florida’s Office of the Attorney General (OAG) and Stanley Wesson, Chair of the Florida Commission on Ethics.
CREW is a non-profit organization whose stated mission is to promote ethics and accountability in government.
Last month, the Associated Press reported that Bondi had received a $25,000 campaign donation from Donald Trump after her office told the press that the OAG was looking into complaints against Trump University. Shortly after receiving the money, Bondi denied that there was any such investigation and that Florida would not be participating in a nationwide lawsuit against Trump University.
CREW Executive Director Noah Bookbinder stated:
‘THE APPARENT TIMING OF DECISIONS NOT TO TAKE LEGAL ACTION AGAINST TRUMP UNIVERSITY OR THE TRUMP INSTITUTE ARE DEEPLY CONCERNING.
‘BEFORE THE DONATION ARRIVED, THE ATTORNEY GENERAL’S OFFICE TOLD THE PRESS IT WAS CONSIDERING TAKING ACTION AGAINST TRUMP UNIVERSITY, BUT SOON AFTER THE MONEY CAME, THE OFFICE MADE IT CLEAR THAT NO ACTION WOULD BE TAKEN.’
As stated in the official request letter to the two agencies:
‘THIS TIMELINE SUGGESTS A LINK BETWEEN THE CONTRIBUTION AND OAG’S DECISIONS, WHICH, IF PROVEN, LIKEly WOULD VIOLATE FLORIDA’S PROHIBITION ON UNLAWFUL COMPENSATION AND THE STATE’S STANDARD OF CONDUCT FOR PUBLIC OFFICIALS.’
Further investigation of public records by CREW revealed that the Florida OAG received no less than 22 complaints against Trump University between February 2008 and May 2011.
CREW has made public records of OAG communications and complaints against Trump University available through Scribd. Many of the complaints come from senior citizens. One complaint, filed in May 2011, described a student of Trump University who had lost over $26,000 and was forced to declare bankruptcy.
CREWS letter details the chronology of events: In August 2013, New York Attorney General Schneiderman filed a lawsuit against Donald Trump and his “university,” alleging that they “engaged in persistent fraudulent, illegal, and deceptive conduct.” The suit sought full restitution of over $40 million for more than 5,000 defrauded customers. At or near the same time that the lawsuit was filed, Bondi personally solicited a campaign donation from Donald Trump.
On Sept. 11, 2013, an Orlando Sentinel reporter asked the OAG if Florida was going to join in the New York lawsuit, and at that time the OAG responded that the office was reviewing the allegations. The Orlando Sentinel published the OAG response on Sept. 13.
A few days later, on Sept. 17, the Donald J. Trump Foundation made a $25,000 contribution to And Justice for All, an organization started by Pam Bondi to support her re-election in 2014.
When the Orlando Sentinel followed up on the possible charges on Oct. 14, the OAG responded: “there is no multi-state investigation; there was no consideration of whether to join.” The OAG told reporters that they had received only one complaint against Trump University during the time Bondi was in office. However, the public records also show that the office had received numerous complaints before she took office, and that it routinely pursued older complaints filed against other companies than Trump’s.
The letter requesting the investigation stated that CREW’s research revealed few communications regarding whether the OAG should investigate the complaints or join the lawsuit. However, many of the office’s internal communications seemed concerned over what the OAG should tell the press.
Earlier complaints against Bondi over this issue include those filed in June by J. Whitfield Larrabee, a Boston lawyer who filed with the Florida Commission on Ethics, the Florida Elections Commissions, and the Florida Bar. According to Politico, Larrabee has filed federal complaints as well, seeking criminal indictments against both Bondi and Trump for bribery and fraud.
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