Did Trump backdate his charity’s $25,000 check to Pam Bondi’s PAC by four days? Or was it sent, as Bondi AND Trump now say, in response to Bondi’s phone solicitation of a donation from Trump made (according now to Bondi herself) not weeks before the Orlando Sentinel reported that Bondi’s office was considering joining a fraud lawsuit against Trump U. but instead—coincidentally, of course—only a few days before the Sentinel reporter phoned Bondi’s office and inquired about the office’s plans regarding that lawsuit?

Last night I clicked on the NYT website and saw a prominently-featured article by Kevin Sack and Steve Eder titled “New Records Shed Light on Donald Trump’s $25,000 Gift to Florida Official.”  The article lays out a sequence of events concerning Trump’s charity’s Sept. 2013 check to Florida AG Pam Bondi’s 2014-reelection-campaign PAC.

The check, it was reported earlier in various news articles in the last three months arrived at the PAC four days after an article was published in the Orlando Sentinel reporting that Bondi’s office was considering joining a lawsuit** filed two weeks earlier by New York AG Eric Schneiderman alleging concerted fraud by Trump University and Trump Institute victimizing a significant number of New Yorkers.  The fraud also victimized a number of Floridians.

Most of the news reports on this came earlier this month after it was reported that nonprofit Trump Foundation had paid a $2,500 fine to the IRS for violating tax law concerning the political donation.  It hadn’t been of sufficient importance to the political news media and punditry to give these reports real attention, partly, I think, because it hadn’t been of sufficient important to Hillary Clinton to mention this and drive it home in public statements; only news about the content of this or that Clinton email, especially if it tied in, however trivially, with the Clinton Foundation, could (and did) attain news-media-frenzy/inundation-of-coverage status.

And Clinton and her campaign didn’t think to have Clinton herself educate the public about this or anything else about Trump if it didn’t already come out of Trump’s mouth or his Twitter feed.  Anything about Trump that Trump wanted hidden managed to be hidden almost completely from most of the public that doesn’t read the Washington Post or the New York Times.  Or the Orlando Sentinel.  And Clinton was fine with that, apparently.  Or fine enough not to make an issue of any of it, since Trump himself wasn’t talking about it.

But here’s something that those news reports from earlier this month reported, concerning the timing of a phone call from Bondi to Trump, reported initially back in June when the story first broke nationally (for roughly three minutes), in which she solicited a campaign donation from him, according to Bondi herself.  And it conflicts materially, as AGs would say (“material” and “materially” are big in legalese), with what Bondi is now saying was the timeline.

In the reports earlier this month, Bondi was saying that her phone solicitation of Trump occurred several weeks before the Sentinel article was published on Sept. 13, 2013, reporting that “saying that Ms. Bondi’s office would ‘determine whether Florida should join the multi­state case.’”  If I recall correctly, one article quoted Bondi or her spokesperson as placing the timing of the phone call as sometime in July.

In any event, Bondi was saying earlier this month that her phone solicitation of Trump was part of a midsummer series of routine campaign solicitations to wealthy Republicans who lived mostly or largely in Florida (as Trump does), and that therefore she could not reasonably be said to have been trying to extort a donation from Trump, whose foundation’s check arrived at her PAC four days after the Sentinel article was published.

But now Bondi is claiming, according to the Sack and Eder article (which no longer is anywhere on the Times’ opening online page, best as I could tell, even though it was published online only last night and appears on the front page of today’s paper), that her phone call to Trump actually occurred in … late summer 2013, although no precise date is offered.  And that Bondi—and Trump—are now saying that Trump’s foundation’s check indeed was sent in response to Bondi’s phone solicitation.

But, not to worry, folks.  The Times story reports that the foundation’s check, signed by Donald J. Trump—is he the foundation’s treasurer?—is dated Sept. 8, 2013.  The article includes a photocopy of the front and back of the check.

That’s right; the check arrived four days after the Sentinel article was published, but it was dated four days before the article was published.*

The Sack and Eder article, however, reports that the Sentinel reporter first contacted Bondi’s office by phone on August 29, 2013 to inquire whether her office would be joining the New York case on behalf of 23 Floridians who had filed fraud complaints with that office, one filed after Bondi assumed office in January 2011, the others during her immediate predecessor’s term.  And that the phone call set off a series of internal inquiries resulting in a response to the reporter from Bondi’s communications director, to whom the reporter had placed the call, saying that “We are currently reviewing the allegations in the New York complaint.”

Sack and Eder detail what occurred:

It was Aug. 29, 2013, an unremarkable day inside Florida’s whitewashed Capitol, and a typically sweltering one outside among the mossbearded oaks and sabal palms. Around 3:45 p.m., Jennifer Meale, the communications director for Attorney General Pam Bondi, fielded a seemingly routine call from a financial reporter for The Orlando Sentinel. The attorney general of New York had recently filed a lawsuit against Donald J. Trump alleging fraud in the marketing of Trump University’s real estate and wealth­building seminars. Had Florida ever conducted its own investigation, the reporter asked.

The call set off an exchange of emails between Ms. Meale and top lawyers in the office. She learned that 23 complaints about Trump­related education enterprises had been filed before Ms. Bondi became attorney general in 2011, and one since. They had never generated a formal investigation, she wrote the reporter, but added, “We are currently reviewing the allegations in the New York complaint.”

The Sentinel’s report, which was published on Sept. 13, 2013, paraphrased Ms. Meale’s response and took it a step further, saying that Ms. Bondi’s office would “determine whether Florida should join the multi­state case.”

Four days later, a check for $25,000 from the Donald J. Trump Foundation landed in the Tampa office of a political action committee that had been formed to support Ms. Bondi’s 2014 election. In mid­-October, her office announced that it would not be acting on the Trump University complaints.

The proximate timing of the Sentinel article and Mr. Trump’s donation, and suspicions of a quid pro quo, have driven a narrative that has dogged Mr. Trump and Ms. Bondi for three years. It has intensified during Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign, peaking this month with the filing of ethics complaints, calls for a federal investigation by editorial boards and Democrats in Congress, and a new investigation of Mr. Trump’s foundation by New York regulators.

But documents obtained this week by The New York Times, including a copy of Mr. Trump’s check, at least partly undercut that timeline. Although the check was received by Ms. Bondi’s committee four days after the Sentinel report, and was recorded as such in her financial disclosure filings, it was actually dated and signed by Mr. Trump four days before the article appeared.

The check’s date does not categorically demonstrate that Mr. Trump was not seeking to influence Ms. Bondi, a fellow Republican. Even as he has denied trying to do so in this instance, he has boasted brazenly and repeatedly during his presidential campaign that he has made copious campaign contributions over the past two decades, including to Hillary Clinton and other Democrats, in order to buy access and consideration for his business dealings. Politicians in Florida, which Mr. Trump considers his second home, have been among his leading beneficiaries.

An analysis of public records shows he has contributed at least $375,000 to state and federal candidates and political committees here since 1995, accounting for 19 percent of the roughly $2 million he has given to campaigns nationwide, other than his own. Although not unprecedented, his $25,000 gift to And Justice for All, the committee supporting Ms. Bondi, is among his largest.

What is more, when Mr. Trump wrote that check, he still theoretically had reason to be concerned that Florida’s attorney general could become a player in the legal assault on Trump University. Through 2010, when the company ceased operations, Florida had been one of the most lucrative markets for his unaccredited for­profit school. It ranked second among states in purchases, with 950 transactions, and third in sales, at $3.3 million, according to an analysis of sales data revealed in court filings.

The lawsuit by New York’s Democratic attorney general, Eric T. Schneiderman, which was announced on Aug. 25, 2013 — two weeks before Mr. Trump wrote the check to And Justice for All on Sept. 9 — did not cite allegations from consumers in Florida. But news organizations had reported as early as 2010 that the attorneys general of Florida and Texas had fielded complaints from consumers who had paid up to $35,000 for Mr. Trump’s seminars and mentoring programs. His contribution, therefore, could have been a pre­emptive investment to discourage Ms. Bondi from joining the New York case.

And then the coup de grace paragraphs of today’s Times article:

Brian Ballard, Mr. Trump’s lobbyist in Florida, said it was “ridiculous” to think his client sought to buy off Ms. Bondi. “I’m the Trump Organization lobbyist, and he has never, ever brought up Trump University with me,” he said. “It wasn’t something of concern to him. With Donald Trump, if a friend calls up and says, ‘Listen, I’m running for XYZ, could you help me?’ his instinct is to say yes. That’s all it was.”

Yet, even those who doubt anything nefarious between Mr. Trump and Ms. Bondi acknowledge that they bear blame for the intensifying focus on the appearance of a conflict. For his part, Mr. Trump fanned the embers by sending the contribution from his nonprofit foundation, which cannot under federal law make political donations.

When questions arose this year, he agreed to refund $25,000 to the foundation from his personal account and pay a $2,500 penalty to the Internal Revenue Service. Trump officials have called the mix­-up an inadvertent error by his staff. Ms. Bondi, meanwhile, has failed to explain why she accepted Mr. Trump’s check even after learning that her office was examining the New York case against Trump University. Six months later, she allowed him to host a $3,000­-per­-head fund­raiser for her at his Mar­a-­Lago Club in Palm Beach. Mr. Trump attended the event, which records indicate raised at least $50,000.

No, on second thought I think maybe this is the coup de grace in the article:

Now, with the revelation of the date on Mr. Trump’s check — which came in a release of correspondence by Mr. Schneiderman — it appears that Mr. Trump and Ms. Bondi had in their possession a piece of favorable evidence that they bewilderingly failed to disclose.

“All these things come together in a way that if you don’t unpack the whole thing, the unspoken implications coalesce to create this great suspicion,” said Mac Stipanovich, a longtime Florida Republican strategist and lobbyist who disdains Mr. Trump and has never worked with Ms. Bondi. “The optics are terrible even though there is not a shred of evidence that Pam Bondi solicited a bribe or that Donald Trump provided one.”

Mr. Trump and Ms. Bondi have said they share a long friendship, but the origins of it are not apparent. Ms. Bondi, who declined requests for an interview, initially backed former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida for president. After he withdrew from the race, she endorsed Mr. Trump the day before Florida’s March 15 primary, snubbing the state’s other favorite son, Senator Marco Rubio.

The only woman currently holding statewide elected office in Florida, she has since become an enthusiastic Trump surrogate. Ms. Bondi became a conservative darling in 2010 when, as an assistant state attorney, she won her post in her first campaign of any kind. Her political future is unclear as she faces a two­-term limit and has said she will not run for governor in 2018.

It was in late summer 2013, as her re­election campaign was gearing up, that Ms. Bondi called Mr. Trump to solicit the donation, aides to both of them have said; they have declined to provide a precise date. Records show that Mr. Trump had already donated $500 to Ms. Bondi’s campaign on July 15.

His daughter Ivanka Trump donated another $500 on Sept. 10. The Texas attorney general’s office, then under Greg Abbott, a Republican, had also decided in 2010 not to act on complaints against Trump University when it left the state. Mr. Trump later donated $35,000 to Mr. Abbott’s successful 2014 campaign for governor. Mr. Abbott’s office has denied there was any connection. No other attorneys general have joined Mr. Schneiderman’s litigation.

The Times, of course, can’t explicitly suggest in a news article that Trump may have backdated by a week of so that check from his foundation to place its issuance to a barely-comfortable and conveniently clairvoyant four days before publication of the Sentinel article.  But it can, well, intimate it, by, say, saying:

Now, with the revelation of the date on Mr. Trump’s check — which came in a release of correspondence by Mr. Schneiderman — it appears that Mr. Trump and Ms. Bondi had in their possession a piece of favorable evidence that they bewilderingly failed to disclose.

But accepting the date of that check as accurate, the date coupled with the Aug. 29 2013 date in which the Sentinel reporter first contacted Bondi’s office—and the admission now by both Bondi and Trump that Bondi’s phone solicitation to him came not in July and not several weeks before the article was published but a couple of weeks before it was published and likely after the Sentinel reporter first inquired to her office about whether that office might join the New York lawsuit filed two weeks earlier.

A phone inquiry likely prompted by a call to the business reporter by one of the complainants to the Florida AG’s office upon learning of the New York AG’s lawsuit.  I mean—donchathink?

Which highlights three things: One, that Trump habitually pays to silence government officials and private individuals about his scams—including possibly some bank-loan scams that were never investigated for what they sure sound like they were.  Why weren’t these investigated?

Another is how perfect an example of what Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders have made so central to their political messages: that the economic and legal systems are rigged by people and industries that sponsor political campaigns, not on issues but of candidates including officials running for reelection or higher office.

And finally, this: Why is it that Republican AGs—the self-styled champions of the working class—in the states in which the largest numbers of fraud complaints against Trump U. and Trump Institute unconcerned about the complaints?  But all the way back in 2013 the New York state AG, unlike, say, Bondi and Abbott, a member of the elite—was?

I don’t expect the questions I’ve raised here, including in that last paragraph, to be mentioned by pundits or by Clinton, since they don’t involve anything that Trump has said or tweeted within the last 24 hours (or ever), and they have nothing to do with racism, xenophobia, misogyny, anti-gay sentiment—or foreign affairs.  And therefore since moderate Republicans, to the extent that they care at all, are fine with the issues I’ve discussed.

Still, on the remote chance that Clinton and some pundits could actually draw attention to them, I hope that someone who matters reads this post.  Although I won’t hold my breath, because I want to be alive to continue posting about this kind of stuff.

Even if ignored.


*Sentence corrected 9/16 at 9:20 a.m.  The cut-and-paste error, in which the clause after the comma was the same as the clause before the comma, was evident.

** Link added 9/16 at 10:00 a.m.