September 13, 2016
Donald Trump and Pam Bondi appear to have committed a federal crime relating to an apparent bribe solicited by the Florida Attorney General and paid by Trump and the Trump Foundation, according to a criminal complaint filed today by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW). The complaint also calls for an investigation into whether the Trump Foundation broke federal criminal law by making numerous false reports to the IRS on its tax forms.
A few weeks before a newspaper reported that her office was considering joining a lawsuit against Trump University, Bondi personally solicited a campaign contribution from Trump, which her political committee received four days after the news report was published. A month later, her office told newspapers it would not be taking legal action against Trump or Trump University. This was followed by a fundraiser at Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s private Florida club, for which Bondi was charged less than $5,000, well below the market rate, which may have been a reward for Bondi’s refusal to file charges. This timeline suggests that Bondi may have solicited the contribution—and Trump and the Foundation may have paid it—as a bribe to influence her office’s action.
“The bribery of an elected official is the ultimate betrayal of the public’s trust, and the facts strongly suggest that happened here,” CREW Executive Director Noah Bookbinder said. “It will be shocking and disheartening if it turns out that Florida’s highest law enforcement official did indeed put her office up for sale and that Mr. Trump so readily paid for it.”
After CREW’s March IRS complaint against the Foundation for falsely claiming it did not engage in political activity, the Foundation admitted that the contribution was political and Trump or the Foundation paid a penalty to the IRS for engaging in political activity. The March complaint also noted that instead of Bondi’s group, the Foundation’s tax returns listed an organization that never received a donation. New reports have found four other organizations which appear on the Foundation’s returns but claim never to have received donations, as well as contributions from two companies that have denied giving it any money.
“We have now seen so many false statements on the Trump Foundation’s tax returns that it is hard to know whether we can believe anything the Foundation has claimed,” Bookbinder said. “The Department of Justice and US Attorney should immediately commence an investigation.”
Federal criminal law prohibits state officials working at agencies that receive federal funds from soliciting or accepting a bribe and prohibits anyone from bribing those state officials, with violations punishable by up to ten years in prison. Likewise, “knowingly and willfully” making “any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement” on tax returns is punishable by up to five years in prison.
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) is a non-profit legal watchdog group dedicated to holding public officials accountable for their actions. For more information, please visit www.citizensforethics.