What We Know About the Trump Foundation Gift to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi's Fundraisers

Trump's foundation sent a check to Pam Bondi's fundraising committee in 2013.

December 03, 2016, 9:08 PM

— -- Donald Trump met with Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi Friday at Trump Tower as the president-elect continues a series of meetings around assembling his Cabinet and top staff.

Bondi is a vice chair on Trump's presidential transition team, but many in the public may most associate her with Trump over a past political contribution that raised questions.

The scrutiny centered around a $25,000 check that the Donald J. Trump Foundation sent to Bondi's political fundraising committee in 2013. Critics said the donation looked like an attempt to sway Bondi's office not to take legal action against the now-defunct Trump University. Trump and Bondi said the contribution had no connection to her office's ultimately deciding against taking legal action.

Here is what we know:

Timeline of What Happened in 2013

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced on Aug. 25, 2013, that he had filed a lawsuit against Trump and Trump University.

Schneiderman's lawsuit accused Trump of "mis[leading] consumers into paying for a series of expensive courses that did not deliver on their promises," which Trump denied.

On Sept. 11, 2013, a spokeswoman for Bondi’s office confirmed to the Orlando Sentinel that her office was reviewing the New York lawsuit. Her office now tells ABC News its review was to determine if the allegations in the New York complaint had any relevance to Florida.

A few days later, Bondi’s political fundraising group, And Justice for All, confirmed that it had received a check for $25,000 on Sept. 17, 2013, from the Trump Foundation. Bondi would be up for re-election in 2014. The check, obtained by The New York Times, shows Trump signed it on Sept. 9, 2013, before Bondi's office said that it was reviewing the New York lawsuit.

Florida's Office of the Attorney General had received multiple consumer complaints about Trump-related seminars and education programs, most of them before Bondi was elected as the state's top prosecutor in 2010. But in mid-October of 2013 the Miami Herald reported that Bondi's spokeswoman had said no action would be necessary because the affected Florida consumers would be compensated if Schneiderman won his lawsuit.

Bondi’s Response

Bondi has said the decision not to take legal action against Trump University had nothing to do with the donation to her fundraising committee by the Trump Foundation.

"I never, nor was my office, investigating him. Never. I would never lie. I would never take money. I've been obviously devastated over this," she said in a voicemail message to a Tampa Bay Times reporter in June, according to the newspaper.

Bondi's political consultant for her 2013 re-election campaign, Marc Reichelderfer, said she had reached out to the business mogul for a donation and had been unaware of the consumer complaints against Trump University when she did so.

Bondi's phone call with Trump occurred "several weeks" before her office said it was considering whether to join the Trump University lawsuit, Reichelderfer told The Associated Press.

Bondi's office said at the time she decided not to sue that she had received only a single complaint about Trump University, according to the AP. Later her office said this statement was accurate at the time because most of the complaints were received prior to Bondi's assuming office and concerned Trump Institute, a separate corporate entity that was licensed by Trump to run his seminars but with his keeping a share of the profits, the AP reported based on depositions in the Trump University case. New York Attorney General Schneiderman sued both Trump University and Trump Institute.

A New York Times review of 8,000 pages of documents released in connection with an open records request found no evidence that Bondi had a direct role in assessing the merits of a case against Trump University nor that she knew of the complaints at the time of the donation request. Additionally, her predecessor, two top deputies and the chief lawyer within his consumer protection division told the Times they were also unaware of the complaints.

Trump’s Response

Trump has said he "never" discussed the lawsuit with Bondi when she called him for a donation.

"She's a fine person. Never spoke to her about it at all. Never," Trump said, taking questions from campaign reporters back in September on his private plane. "Many of the attorney generals [sic] turned that case down because I'll win that case in court."

Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway told "Good Morning America" in September that Trump and Bondi "may have talked about anything" in their phone conversation.

Bondi’s Endorsement

Bondi endorsed Trump for president on March 14.

"People today are looking for leadership, the kind that Mr. Trump offers, that's unafraid to tell it like it is and will do something about renewing America's strength and greatness," Bondi said. "That's why I am pleased to announce my support of Donald Trump for president. We have been friends for years, and I know his family personally. I've seen firsthand how he leads, and how he cares deeply about the people of this country."

Latest Developments

Aside from any question over whether the donation was an attempt to influence Bondi, federal tax law prohibits charitable foundations from making political contributions to any candidate running for public office. The IRS slapped a $2,500 penalty on the Trump Foundation this year for violating the law through its donation to Bondi's campaign group, according to the Washington Post. Trump Organization officials told the Post that the donation to Bondi's political fundraising committee was the result of a clerical error and that Trump paid the IRS penalty himself as well as reimbursing his foundation the $25,000.

In November, shortly after winning the presidential election, Trump agreed to a $25 million settlement of three lawsuits, the one in New York plus two in California, against Trump University, with no admission of wrongdoing.

The Associated Press and ABC News’ Josh Haskell, Katherine Faulders and Meghan Keneally contributed to this report.

Editor’s note: For clarification, this story has been updated to reflect that the Florida Attorney General’s Office says it reviewed the New York lawsuit against Trump University to determine if the allegations in that complaint contained any relevance for Florida, not to join the other state’s suit.

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