That’s the latest spin on the Trump University/Trump Foundation/Pam Bondi scandal from the Trump campaign. I think we can all agree on “unfortunate.” Harder to believe in “coincidences” and “errors.”
Since the cable nets, the New York Times, and the Associated Press have all been too busy trying to find wrongdoing at the Clinton Foundation to cover it, and even now don’t seem to be able to get the facts straight, here they are (courtesy of CREW and the Nonprofit Quarterly:
- Trump University fleeced students around the country.
- Some of them complained.
- The Attorney General of New York backed the students legally.
- Victims in Florida asked the state AG – then and now, Pam Bondi – to do the same.
- Bondi called Trump personally and asked for a campaign contribution.
- The Trump Foundation issued a check for $25,000 to Bondi’s captive PAC, called “And Justice for All.”
- Of course a foundation can’t give charitable money to a PAC. That’s illegal. Internally, the Foundation recorded having paid the money to another group called “And Justice For All,” a Utah-based disability-rights group. That group never actually received any money from the Trump Foundation.
- When the Foundation filed its annual report with the IRS, it didn’t list the illegal contribution to Bondi’s “And Justice for All” PAC. Nor did it list the imaginary contribution to the Utah disability-rights group (which would have been legal). Instead it reported a contribution in the same amount to a Kansas-based anti-abortion group called “Justice for All,” which also never got a nickle from Trump.
- Three days later, the Florida AG’s office announced that it would not join the lawsuit against Trump U.
- A few months later, Trump and Rudy Giuliani headlined a fundraiser for Bondi at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club, giving the campaign a bargain-basement price for the use of the space.
- After the scandal broke, Bondi’s PAC tried to return the money, but the Foundation said “Never mind.” Trump wrote a check to the foundation as “reimbursement,” as if that made everything OK.
- The IRS just now hit Trump with a $2500 penalty.
So, if you’re like the White Queen, and practice believing six impossible things before breakfast, you can try to believe that:
- Bondi, when she made the fundraising call, didn’t know complaints against Trump were pending before her office, and didn’t bother to check.
- Trump, who brags about making political contributions to buy influence, made this one entirely innocuously.
- Trump somehow mistakenly ordered a $25,000 political contribution made illegally out of his foundation rather than writing a personal check.
- The Trump Foundation staff coincidentally found two other groups with similar-sounding names and actual charitable status. They actually sent the check to the correct address in Florida, but mistakenly recorded it internally as having been made to the Utah group and then made a completely different mistake by reporting to the IRS a contribution to the Kansas group, in the latter case with the correct address – not, of course, the address to which the check had actually been sent – and IRS number. And all of this mere sloppiness happened to one of the foundation’s biggest disbursements of the year.
Or, if your mind is as cynically twisted as mine, you can believe instead that Bondi asked for a bribe (or made an extortionate demand), that Trump made the payoff as demanded but tried to get a tax break for it by making it out of foundation money, the Foundation staff did the best they could to cover the whole thing up, the investigation was duly killed, and Trump made the balance of the payoff (or simply indicated his gratitude) by hosting the fund-raiser.