Pam Bondi Archives - Page 5 of 24 - SaintPetersBlog

Adam Putnam: Florida ‘can be the jumping off point for the American Dream’

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam has a theory.

Some of the most talented people in the world are going to end up in Florida at some point in their lives. He just wants that to be sooner, rather than later.

“I want Florida to be more than the prize for a life well lived, of success accumulated someplace else,” said Putnam during the 2016 Future of Florida Forum Wednesday. “We can be the jumping-off point for the American Dream; the place where those dreams incubate, grow, develop, and explode into something bigger.”

To do that, the state should continue to focus on long-term investments in water and education, both critical to the future of Florida.

Putnam said recent water legislation was a step in the right direction, but said the state needs to “build on that success.” The state, he said, will face a one billion-gallon-a-day shortage by 2030, and lawmakers need to apply the same principles to water as they have for other aspects impacted by Florida’s growth.

“As Floridians, we’ve internalized the price of progress, the cost of growth. We’ve internalized they’re expensive, but we need them and we expect them,” he said. “We have a transportation plan … the same thing has to be applied to water infrastructure.”

Aging infrastructure could cost the state billions over the next 20 years, leaving state and local officials to figure out how to pay for the improvements. Last week, Frank Bernardino, a consultant with Anfield Consulting, estimated it could cost $48.7 billion over 20 years to address infrastructure.

And while the focus of water discussions often centers around the Everglades, Putnam said “Florida’s water issues are not limited to the Everglades.”

“Pinellas County can’t use Tampa Bay as their back-up sewage treatment plant,” said Putnam. “If (Pinellas County) can’t afford to make those improvements, how are Hendry and Glades County (going to afford it)?”

But water — which Putnam described as “Florida’s golden goose” — is just part of the equation. Putnam said the state has to keep focusing on education. While the system has changed substantially in recent years, Putnam said there needs to be as much of a focus on career training and workforce development as higher education.

“There is nothing wrong with a dual-track approach to higher education in Florida,” he said. “A dual focus of workforce development and higher education, the elite and the highly accessible, will transform Florida’s economy.”

Putnam helped kick off the Florida Chamber Foundation’s 2016 Future of Florida Forum. The annual event gives elected officials and business leaders a chance to discuss how to prepare for Florida’s future.

The 20-minute address had the feel of a stump speech, as Putnam touched on everything from economic development and workforce needs, to agriculture and growth. Putnam is widely believed to be considering a 2018 gubernatorial run, and has been a frequent speaker at Florida Chamber events across the state.

The forum, which coincides with the Enterprise Florida board of directors meeting, continues Thursday. Gov. Rick Scott, CFO Jeff Atwater, and Attorney General Pam Bondi are all expected to speak.

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Dan Gelber: No prosecutor would do what Pam Bondi did with Donald Trump’s donation

For the second time in a week, Florida Democrats blasted the campaign donation Donald Trump‘s foundation made to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi‘s committee.

This time, it was Dan Gelber saying Wednesday he knows of no prosecutor who would do what she did.

Gelber is a former federal prosecutor and a former Democratic member of the Florida House and Senate, who lost the 2010 election to Bondi in the attorney general’s race.

He said it’s conceivable that she was unaware, as she had said, of discussions in her office to investigate Trump’s Trump University in Florida when her independent political committee accepted a $25,000 check from the Donald Trump Foundation.

But she should have given the money back as soon as she learned of the allegations against the Trump Foundation, Gelber added.

Gelber joined Democratic U.S. Reps. Lois Frankel and Ted Deutch Wednesday in a telephone news conference organized by the Democratic National Committee. In addition to the Trump-Bondi matter, they discussed new revelations published by The Washington Post that the Trump Foundation also paid lawsuit settlements and court-ordered fines levied against Trump himself. If true, those, like the Bondi check, could be violations of federal and state law, Gelber said.

In the Bondi-Trump matter, while the Florida attorney general’s office was discussing consumer complaints alleging fraud by Trump University, and an investigation launched by the New York attorney general, the Donald J. Trump Foundation sent a $25,000 check to the And Justice For All, a now-closed electioneering communications organization. Around the time that check arrived, Bondi’s office decided not to investigate Trump University or join the New York case. She also decided to keep the money. On Tuesday she defended it as unrelated and appropriate.

“I would never trade any campaign donation — that’s absurd — for some type of favor to anyone,” Bondi told reporters.

Gelber said other prosecutors would have given the money back as soon as there was the appearance of a favor.

“You know for a prosecutor to make that sort of decision with a $25,000 check in their pocket is utterly unacceptable,” said Gelber, who, as a federal prosecutor in the 1980s and 90s focused on public corruption cases. “Pam has said she didn’t know any of this … Even if you take her at her word, that she didn’t know, the moment she found out she should have given the money back.

“More importantly,” Gelber added, “Trump knew exactly what he was doing. He knew precisely what he was doing. He knew exactly why he was sending that check over.”

Deutch and Frankel focused more on Trump, especially on more recent allegations raised by The Washington Post.

“This is a foundation, a charity, that is funded by other people’s money,” Deutch said. “The Donald Trump Foundation is not even Donald Trump’s money, yet he is using it to pay a fine, to settle a lawsuit. It is illegal.”

The trio have called for federal or state investigations. Deutch and Frankel did so last week. Yet Gelber conceded that if there were a federal investigation, it likely would not be revealed before or have any effect on the Nov. 8 election. He said such investigations typically take more than 50 or 60 days to gear up, and that the U.S. Department of Justice is hesitant to announce such investigations on the eve of an election.

That seemed to irritate Deutch, he called for immediate action.

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Angry Rick Scott wants Barack Obama declare Florida disaster after Hermine

No doubt there is bad blood between the Rick Scott and Barack Obama administrations.

It could be a reason why the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has rejected Scott’s request for federal assistance for a multitude of bad weather events — as well as requests for federal funds for handling the Zika virus and the Pulse nightclub shooting — over the past year.

But in a letter directed to the President on Tuesday, the governor lays out the case that it’s beyond time for the feds to help out the nation’s third-biggest state, following the damages incurred from Hurricane Hermine.

In his letter, the governor states there has been more than $36 million in damages due to the hurricane. A presidential disaster declaration would provide federal resources to support recovery efforts in Florida. This request is for both individual assistance for families and public assistance to help state agencies and local governments.

“We must do everything we can to ensure that Florida families and businesses can get back on their feet following Hurricane Hermine,” Scott said in a statement issued out Tuesday afternoon. “I have traveled across the state to meet Floridians who have been personally impacted by the storm, and communities are working hard to recover from flooding and damage. The resources and financial assistance from the federal government would support our communities and help them rebuild. We look forward to President Obama immediately issuing a declaration in support of all Florida families and businesses affected by the hurricane.”

Florida was rocked significantly by weather events in August and September this year. In his letter to the president, Scott lists the amount of rainfall to specific counties, with Pinellas leading the way with more than 22 inches.

Thirty-eight different counties in the state declared local state emergencies, 39 opened up their emergency operations centers and 34 opened up shelters.

“During the preceding 12 months, the state of Florida experienced repeated emergencies that required the development of significant state resources,” Scott writes. “Individually these incidents may not have overwhelmed the ability of the State of Florida to respond. Cumulatively, however, these emergencies significantly impacted the state’s capability to provide financial support following Hurricane Hermine.”

Scott then indicates how the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), under the guidance of former Floridian Craig Fugate, has refused to provide any funding from severe flooding from Aug. 1-9 of 2015, nor from the fallout of excessive El Nino-led rainstorms in January and February of 2016, nor from tornadoes that affected several Florida counties, nor to June’s Tropical Storm Colin.

Scott also cites the lack of any federal help after the Pulse nightclub shooting in June in Orlando, which led to the deaths of 49 people, the deadliest single-gunman massacre in U.S. history. Nor from the toxic algae bloom that emanated near Lake Okeechobee earlier this summer.

Three weeks ago the White House rejected Scott’s last request for a federal disaster declaration for Tampa Bay’s August flooding, prompting Scott communications director Jackie Schultz to say, “It’s disappointing that the Obama administration denied our request for federal assistance for those impacted by recent floods in the Tampa and west-central Florida areas.”

Before he ran for governor in 2010, Scott led a movement to try to bring down what would become the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare). He’s also sued the Obama administration regarding veterans programs and federal hospital funding, while Attorney General Pam Bondi has joined up with other Republican attorneys general to sue the president over some issues, including his executive orders in late 2014 to shield several million undocumented immigrants from being deported.

In the immediate aftermath of the Hurricane Hermine, Tallahassee-based Democratic Representative Gwen Graham sent a letter to Obama requesting federal assistance. She said today she supported Scott’s missive to the White House.

“Hurricane Hermine was the greatest natural disaster our region has faced in a generation,” Graham said. “I fully support Governor Rick Scott’s request for federal assistance and renew my call on President Obama to quickly approve all available and applicable help for North Florida,” Representative Graham said. “North Florida families are as strong as they come, and we will recover from this storm. I’m hopeful the state and federal government will work together, as neighbors worked together after the storm, to best serve the constituents we represent.”

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Pam Bondi defends decision to take money from Donald Trump

Attorney General Pam Bondi forcefully denied wrongdoing Tuesday in connection with a $25,000 campaign contribution from Donald Trump’s foundation after her office received complaints about Trump University.

“I would never trade any campaign donation — that’s absurd — for some type of favor to anyone,” Bondi said during a frequently testy exchange with news reporters outside her Capitol office.

“He donated to multiple candidates, Democrats and Republicans alike,” she said.

Why not return the money when critics questioned its propriety?

“If I had returned it, you would have been reporting: Bondi accepted a bribe, got caught and returned it. That’s how reporting goes,” Bondi said.

“There was nothing improper about it,” she said of the donation. “So there was no need to return it.”

And she rejected suggestions the controversy would force her from office.

“Absolutely not,” Bondi said.

“I am proud to be attorney general, and I have two years before I’m termed out. I’ve always wanted to be attorney general. I’m a career prosecutor. I’m very, very proud of the work we’ve done.”

Democrats and other critics indeed have characterized the donation as a bribe from Trump to Bondi to shelve any investigation of Trump University, now the subject of an investigation by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman over alleged fraud.

Bondi insisted her office fielded a single complaint against Trump University during her tenure and declined to prosecute in 2011. Trump made the donation through his foundation in 2013.

Bondi said news organizations were getting the story wrong.

“I’m not saying any of you were malicious,” but it was misreported that her office had declined to join Schneiderman’s case, she said. In fact, she continued: “No other AG in the entire country has joined Gen. Schneiderman’s suit — nor were they asked to.”

New York, where Trump U was headquartered, was the proper venue for any legal action, Bondi said.

She now wishes she’d “personally sat down with each of you and shown you all the documents that explained it to you myself,” she said.

Has the affair damaged her credibility?

“I hope not,” Bondi said. “I hope people look at the great things we’ve done. We’ve fought pill mills from Day 1. We’re fighting synthetic drugs. I’m obsessed now with fentanyl and heroin coming into this country.

“I hope you can continue to report the things that we are doing that are helping children. Cybercrimes are a horrible, horrible issue now. And on Oct. 10, we’re having a human trafficking conference,” she said.

“I hate that this is taking away from all the things that we can be doing to help people.”

She outlined her relationship with Trump. “I met him before I was AG. I think I actually met him in college, but I didn’t know him well then at all.”

Later, Trump contacted her after she got press for a murder case she prosecuted and the relationship developed from there. She’s friends with two of Trump’s children, she said.

The donation happened like this: “I was calling friends and family and many, many people because I was running for re-election.”

Again, why not return the money, a reporter asked Bondi.

“Because Donald Trump was not under investigation in Florida,” she replied. “Mark Hamilton, a staff attorney, had handled that back in 2011.”

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Amendment to restore voting rights to Florida felons clears key hurdle

Backers of a proposed constitutional amendment that could allow former criminals to vote have met a key hurdle in their quest to make the ballot.

State election officials this week reported that amendment supporters have gathered nearly 71,000 signatures from registered voters. This means the initiative will be reviewed by Attorney General Pam Bondi and the Supreme Court of Florida.

Florida’s constitution bars people convicted of felonies from being able to vote after they have left prison. Convicted felons must ask the governor and members of the Cabinet to have their voting rights restored.

The amendment would allow most convicted felons to have their voting rights automatically restored after they have completed their prison sentences and probation. Felons convicted of murder or a sexual offense would not be eligible.

Amendment supporters are aiming to place the amendment on the 2018 ballot.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

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Donald Trump signed improper charity check supporting Pam Bondi

Donald Trump‘s signature, an unmistakable if nearly illegible series of bold vertical flourishes, was scrawled on the improper $25,000 check sent from his personal foundation to a political committee supporting Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi.

Charities are barred from engaging in political activities, and the Republican presidential nominee’s campaign has contended for weeks that the 2013 check from the Donald J. Trump Foundation was mistakenly issued following a series of clerical errors. Trump had intended to use personal funds to support Bondi’s re-election, his campaign said.

So, why didn’t Trump catch the purported goof himself when he signed the foundation check?

Trump lawyer Alan Garten offered new details about the transaction to The Associated Press on Thursday, after a copy of the Sept. 9, 2013, check was released by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

Garten said the billionaire businessman personally signs hundreds of checks a week, and that he simply didn’t catch the error.

“He traditionally signs a lot of checks,” said Garten, who serves as in-house counsel for various business interests at Trump Tower in New York City. “It’s a way for him to monitor and keep control over what’s going on in the company. It’s just his way. … I’ve personally been in his office numerous times and seen a big stack of checks on his desk for him to sign.”

The 2013 donation to Bondi’s political group has garnered intense scrutiny because her office was at the time fielding media questions about whether she would follow the lead of Schneiderman, who had then filed a lawsuit against Trump University and Trump Institute. Scores of former students say they were scammed by Trump’s namesake get-rich-quick seminars in real estate.

Bondi, whom the AP reported in June personally solicited the $25,000 check from Trump, took no action. Both Bondi and Trump say their conversation had nothing to do with the Trump University litigation, though neither has answered questions about what they did discuss or provided the exact date the conversation occurred.

House Democrats called earlier this week for a federal criminal investigation into the donation, suggesting Trump was trying to bribe Bondi with the charity check. Schneiderman, a Democrat, said he was already investigating to determine whether Trump’s charity broke state laws.

Garten said the series of errors began after Trump instructed his staff to cut a $25,000 check to the political committee supporting Bondi, called And Justice for All.

Someone in Trump’s accounting department then consulted a master list of charitable organizations maintained by the IRS and saw a Utah charity by the same name that provides legal aid to the poor. According to Garten, that person, whom he declined to identify by name, then independently decided that the check should come from the Trump Foundation account rather than Trump’s personal funds.

The check was then printed and returned for Trump’s signature. After it was signed, Garten said, Trump’s office staff mailed the check to its intended recipient in Florida, rather than to the charity in Utah.

Emails released by Bondi’s office show her staff was first contacted at the end of August by a reporter for The Orlando Sentinel asking about the Trump University lawsuit in New York.

Trump’s Sept. 9 check is dated four days before the newspaper printed a story quoting Bondi’s spokeswoman saying her office was reviewing Schneiderman’s suit, but four days before the pro-Bondi political committee reports receiving the check in the mail.

Compounding the confusion, the following year on its 2013 tax forms the Trump Foundation reported making a donation to a Kansas charity called Justice for All. Garten said that was another accounting error, rather than an attempt to obscure the improper donation to the political group.

In March, The Washington Post first revealed that that the donation to the pro-Bondi group had been misreported on the Trump Foundation’s 2013 tax forms. The following day, records show Trump signed an IRS form disclosing the error and paying a $2,500 fine.

Bondi has endorsed Trump’s presidential bid and has campaigned with him this year.

She has said the timing of Trump’s donation was coincidental and that she wasn’t personally aware of the consumer complaints her office had received about Trump University and the Trump Institute, a separate Florida business that paid Trump a licensing fee and a cut of the profits to use his name and curriculum.

Neither company was still offering seminars by the time Bondi took office in 2011, though dissatisfied former customers were still seeking promised refunds.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

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Florida Dems file election complaint against Donald Trump in Pam Bondi deal

Florida Democratic Party Chair Allison Tant filed a complaint Thursday with the Florida Elections Commission charging that Donald Trump violated Florida law with his $25,000 donation to a committee supporting the re-election of Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi.

The complaint does not charge Bondi with any wrongdoing. And it doesn’t delve into the relationship between Trump and Bondi. Rather, it deals with what happened later as the money moved around.

The elections charge against Trump involves his 2013 Trump Foundation’s $25,000 donation to And Justice For All, a now-closed electioneering communications organization. The donation came as Bondi’s office was reviewing complaints against his Trump University. Bondi’s office decided not to investigate the complaints or join a lawsuit pursued by New York’s attorney general.

Democrats have characterized the donation as a bribe from Trump to Bondi to dissuade any investigation of Trump University. Trump and Bondi have both denied it.

Tant’s complaint doesn’t go there at all, though she references it in a press release accompanying a copy of the complaint.

Rather, the formal complaint delves into the complex financial shufflings that followed, involving And Justice For All; the political action committee that succeed it, Justice For All; the Trump Foundation; and Trump himself. Essentially, it charges that the $25,000 was moved around between funds, ultimately illegally.

“As previously reported, Pam Bondi personally solicited Trump for a donation. The Trump Foundation then donated $25,000 to Pam Bondi in violation of IRS code. When Bondi attempted to return the donation, the Foundation refused to accept the check. Trump then personally reimbursed the Donald J. Trump Foundation $25,000 in violation of Section 106.08(5)(a), Florida Statutes,” the Florida Dems’ press release states.

“Donald Trump’s record of using his foundation to exert his political will, as well as [the] purchase of six-foot portraits of himself, is well-established,” Tant stated in the release. “Unfortunately for the ‘law and order’ candidate, reimbursing his foundation for a $25,000 illegal donation to Pam Bondi is in violation of Florida elections law prohibiting donors from giving contributions in the name of another entity. While a full inquiry by the Department of Justice is needed, we are hopeful the Florida Elections Commission will do its part to hold Trump accountable for his flagrant disregard of the law.”

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Hillsborough Clerk Pat Frank gets the last word in beef with Hillsborough PTC

Less than two weeks before Hillsborough County Democrats went to the polls last month to vote in the clerk of the court race, WTSP-Channel 10 ran an explosive story on how the Public Transportation Commission had lost faith in the office, and was now taking public money away from the clerk’s control. The story painted Clerk of the Court Pat Frank in an extremely bad light, just as early voting had begun in her bitter primary race against Kevin Beckner. Ultimately, the story did nothing to harm her electoral prospects, and she ended up crushing Beckner by more than 18 percentage points on Election Day.

Frank stood before the PTC board and its executive director, Kyle Cockream, at Wednesday’s monthly meeting, and blasted the public bashing of her office.

“We’re used to criticism,” she said, but added that it was “frustrating when when we are blamed for something that is not our fault.”

Frank acknowledged independent auditors made critical discoveries surrounding the PTC’s accounting in the past three years, but contended those issues had nothing to do with the clerk’s office.

“The audits clearly state that the problems are with your staff, which has struggled to adapt to a new computerized accounting system,” she said. “More training is clearly needed and my staff stands ready to help. My office was also criticized for late payments to vendors and duplicate payments. A review of the past 12 months shows that my office paid your invoices within 3.5 days, though often the invoices were not sent to us for weeks. We cannot pay invoices unless they are sent to us with proper documentation. Also, the same review found only one duplicate payment, which was the result of PTC staff error.”

The story also alleged the PTC had discovered the clerk’s office was about to pay $180,000 for an $18,000 vehicle.

Never happened, Frank said on Wednesday.

“The invoice was submitted incorrectly by the vendor and caught by the PTC staff,” she said. “It was never sent to my office. We have repeatedly asked your staff for documentation to back up its complaints about my office.”

The clerk’s office has handled the accounting for the PTC for decades, but Cockream has recently authorized the agency to begin looking for services from the private sector. In her parting remarks, Frank said he should “feel free” to do so, but “just don’t criticize my office on your way out the door.”

But before leaving the dais, Frank took a shot at the agency’s payment to the Tallahassee lobbying firm of Corcoran & Associates in 2015 — a payment noted PTC critic Jeff Brandes called on Attorney General Pam Bondi to investigate

“If you want to save money, you might consider deleting the $120,000 you paid to Corcoran & Associates — a firm with family connections to the incoming speaker of the House, Richard Corcoran. Thank you for your time.”

There was no microphone for Frank to drop, or she undoubtedly would have done so with that zinger.

“I’m really sorry if anyone’s feelings got hurt in all of this. That was certainly not the intention,” Cockream responded later in the afternoon, adding he has had recent conversations with Frank’s staff. “If we can find a resolution to the issues at hand, then that’s the end of the game. I don’t see any benefit in engaging in any public bantering back and forth about it. She’s an elected official and I respect that office and I’d never do that.”

 

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New York AG opens investigation against Trump Foundation

New York’s attorney general is investigating the Donald J. Trump Foundation to make sure the organization is complying with state laws governing charities.

POLITICO is reporting Attorney General Eric Schneiderman “has opened an inquiry into the Trump Foundation based on troubling transactions that have recently come to light.” Schneiderman announced the investigation Tuesday.

Schneiderman recently filed a lawsuit against Trump University, and in an interview with CNN, said the Manhattan billionaire’s charitable foundation is also under examination.

“My interest in this issue really is in my capacity as regulator of nonprofits in New York state,”  Schneiderman told “The Lead” host Jake Tapper. “And we have been concerned that the Trump Foundation may have engaged in some impropriety from that point of view. … We have been looking into the Trump Foundation to make sure it’s complying with the laws governing charities in New York.”

The continued interest in the Trump Foundation comes after several news stories cite tax records showing Trump had not given to his own foundation since 2008, as well as a Washington Post report saying he “spent $20,000 of money earmarked for charitable purposes to buy a 6-foot-tall painting of himself.”

Among the troubles facing Trump’s Foundation include an illegal donation in 2013 to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, during the time Bondi was considering joining Schneiderman in a fraud case against Trump University.

Both Trump and Bondi have denied any connection between the donation and her ultimate decision not to continue the investigation; Trump later paid a $2,500 fine to the IRS for making political donations through a charitable foundation.

Schneiderman, a supporter of Hillary Clinton, has insisted no political motivations were behind the Trump University inquiry and had not hesitated to discuss the case publicly.

Trump University was “really a fraud from beginning to end” and “just a scam,” Schneiderman told ABC’s “Good Morning America” in June. If elected, Trump might have to testify as either president or president-elect,  Schneiderman said.

According to POLITICO, Trump responded by calling Schneiderman “hack” and a “lightweight,” claiming the attorney general “is trying to extort me with a civil lawsuit.”

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Hillary Clinton ad goes after Donald Trump-Pam Bondi money

A new Hillary Clinton commercial being released on the internet Wednesday highlights the donation Donald Trump‘s foundation made to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi and calls it corrupt politics.

The 2013 donation, made as Bondi’s office was reviewing a potential action against Trump University in Florida, has become big fodder for Democrats. On Tuesday, members of Florida’s Democratic congressional delegation called for a federal investigation. U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch said it looks like “a bribe” and U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel said it looks like corruption.

Now it’s Clinton’s turn.

The 30-second spot begins by defending the Clinton Foundation, which was attacked as corrupt by Republicans and Trump. And then the narrator urges people to look at the Trump Foundation. Exhibit No. 1 [and only exhibit in the ad]: the $25,000 donation from the Trump Foundation to Bondi’s re-election campaign, followed by her office’s decision to not investigate Trump University.

Trump and Bondi have insisted there was no quid-pro-quo.

Here’s Hillary’s recount of the matter, as told by the narrator, while ABC News footage of Trump and Bondi hugging onstage rolls:

“He sent Florida AG Pam Bondi thousands from his foundation just as she was considering an investigation into his sham university. She cashed the check, blocked the case. And he tried to cover up the donation. So, when you hear Donald Trump talk about corrupt politics, remember which candidate actually practices it.”

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