Emails obtained by The Daily Beast have revealed that Trump’s team was repeatedly informed that an organization to which Trump ended up sending a $25,000 check was, in fact, political — which contradicts the explanation for the 2013 donation that has previously been provided by Trump allies. The organization in question was a political committee supporting Pam Bondi, who served as Florida state Attorney General at the time, and Trump made that donation amid consideration by her office of whether to join an investigation against Trump University, which was a fraudulent education scheme run by Trump. The money came from Trump’s charitable foundation, although it’s flatly illegal for charities to provide political donations.
Bondi ultimately declined the chance to pursue Trump University-related matters, leading some to suspect that she’d essentially been bribed by Trump’s $25,000 check. And as it turns out, “new records acquired by The Daily Beast show that Trump Organization employees were explicitly told this was a donation to a political group, and emails show that Trump’s own executive assistant had met in person with Bondi’s finance director in New York City,” according to The Daily Beast. Allen Weisselberg, who works as chief financial officer for the Trump Organization, claimed that if those involved in the donation had been aware of the committee’s status as a political organization, then they “would have taken it out of [Trump’s] own personal account” — but these messages show that Trump’s team was poised to have already known that exact thing.
There’s an email thread from August of 2013 in which Bondi’s then-campaign finance director Deborah Ramsey Aleksander provided Trump’s executive assistant Rhona Graff with the name and federal tax identification number of the organization to which Trump sent the donation, and Alexsander described the entity as an “ECO,” which stands for Electioneering Communications Organization. Subsequently, Alexsander sent Graff a copy of the committee’s W-9 form on file with the IRS, which reveals the organization’s “federal tax classification” as a “political organization,” which seems pretty difficult to miss!
Jordan Libowitz, who works at the government watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and who was originally involved in the effort to reveal this scandal, called those email exchanges a “smoking gun.” As he put it: “It kind of blows up their whole story… The Trump Organization staffers knew they were making this political donation. There are no questions about it. There is no ambiguity.” As for consequences for being caught in possible knowing violation of criminal law — the Trump charitable foundation has already been dissolved amid legal trouble surrounding its operations.