Donald Trump denies trying to buy off Florida's attorney general in Trump U fraud case

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi speaking at a Donald Trump rally
(Image credit: Mark Wallheiser/Getty Images)

Late last week, The Washington Post reported that Donald Trump paid a $2,500 penalty to the Internal Revenue Service this year for an improper $25,000 donation from the Donald J. Trump Foundation to a campaign group supporting Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi (R), who had solicited a contribution from Trump while her office was deciding whether to join a fraud lawsuit against Trump University. Trump Organization controller and senior vice president Jeffrey McConney told The Washington Post's David A. Fahrenthold that the check from the foundation "was just an honest mistake," and that "it wasn't done intentionally to hide a political donation, it was just an error."

Hillary Clinton's campaign took the occasion to pound Trump, with spokeswoman Jennifer Palmieri noting Trump's criticism of the Clinton Foundation. "Donald Trump has no standing whatsoever to question the Clinton Foundation, which works to make AIDS and malaria drugs more accessible, when it's been proven he uses his own foundation to launder illegal campaign donations," she said, adding that "it appears the payment may have been intended to stave off an investigation into the sham Trump University that has ripped off unsuspecting students."

On Monday, Trump said he had done nothing improper and rejected the pay-to-play allegation. "I've just known Pam Bondi for years," Trump said. "I have a lot of respect for her. Never spoke to her about that at all ... She has done an amazing job as attorney general of Florida. She is very popular." Trump, who hadn't reported any personal donations to his foundation since 1988, reimbursed the foundation for the $25,000. You can learn more in Fahrenthold's interview with MSNBC's Joy Reid:

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There is no proof that the string of mistakes by different people at the Trump Organization was meant to hide the donation to Bondi, or that Trump was hoping to influence Bondi's decision on Trump University or Texas attorney general (now Gov.) Greg Abbott's — both declined to sue Trump U., Bondi after receiving the donation and Abbott a few years before getting a $35,000 check. And as Paul Krugman warns at The New York Times, "if reports about a candidate talk about how something 'raises questions,' creates 'shadows,' or anything similar, be aware that these are all too often weasel words used to create the impression of wrongdoing out of thin air."

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