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Opinion Why isn’t Trump facing a bribery investigation?

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Donald Trump has demanded that Hillary Clinton be investigated, tried and convicted of bribery in connection with meetings she held as secretary of state with those who gave to her foundation. There are plenty of reasons this is silly, including the lack of evidence that Clinton met with these ex-donors — who include a Nobel Prize winner and many public figures with whom one would assume a secretary of state should meet — because of the donations. Simply taking a meeting with a donor, moreover, is not in the Supreme Court’s parlance an official act that violates bribery statutes.

The same lack of legal liability cannot be said of Trump. He broke federal law in connection with his foundation’s gift to to a campaign group connected to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi. The Post reports, “Trump and his team also failed to disclose the gift to the Internal Revenue Service, instead reporting that the donation was given to an unrelated group with a similar name — effectively obscuring the contribution.”

The Washington Post's David Fahrenthold breaks down the controversy over Donald Trump's $25,000 donation to a group linked to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi (Video: Sarah Parnass/The Washington Post)

One cannot miss the giant red flag. Why is a charity giving money to aid a pol with whom the foundation’s head has pending legal business? Recall that after the gift was received an official act occurred, the very act Trump had been seeking, namely the decision not to proceed with the case against Trump University. Right there you have a prima facie case of bribery– a payment (an illegal one at that) and a quid pro quo. Trump’s claim that “I never even spoke to [Bondi] about it at all” is irrelevant; his check spoke for him. Moreover, there seems to be evidence that Trump and Bondi did speak. (“Marc Reichelderfer — who worked as a consultant on Bondi’s reelection effort — told the Associated Press in June that Bondi spoke with Trump and solicited the donation herself. It was unclear on Monday whether Trump meant that he had never discussed the donation with Bondi — effectively contradicting Reichelderfer — or if he had simply never mentioned the Trump University case.”) This is a stronger case than was the case against former Virginia governor Bob McDonnell. And what’s more, it is now reported that Trump held a lavish fundraiser at his Mar-a-Lago resort for Bondi after she decided not to proceed with the case. It did not stop there. The Huffington Post reports: “In addition to the $25,000 donation from his foundation and the star-studded Mar-a-Lago event, Trump and his daughter Ivanka each gave $500 to Bondi’s campaign in the fall of 2013. The following spring, Ivanka and her father donated another $125,000 to the Republican Party of Florida ― Bondi’s single biggest source of campaign funds.”

Clinton pounced. She told the press on her plane, “Of course, as we know, there was a phone conversation between them. They contradict each other.” She continued, “The American people deserve to know what was said, because clearly the attorney general did not proceed with the investigation.” She didn’t stop there: “The list goes on and on: the scams, the frauds, the questionable relationships, the business activities that have stiffed workers.” The Bondi incident gives Clinton one more excuse to bring up Trump’s tax returns. “What is he hiding?” is the question of the day.

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The FBI does not like to comment on pending investigations, but it seems only fair — since Clinton’s email case was splattered all over the headlines — for its director to explain why it presumably has not gone after Bondi and/or Trump. And where has the U S. attorney for Florida been?

Regardless of what law enforcement does, Trump should hold a press conference, answer all questions, explain the payment and respond to others who claim that Trump and Bondi spoke about the donation. He also needs to release those tax returns. The indulgence shown in allowing Trump to remain essentially mute on this issue, conceal his taxes and slide by with a stunningly unprofessional and uninformative letter from his doctor should end. Clinton, no paragon of transparency, is nevertheless right to insist on all these matters that Trump “come clean.”

The Republican National Committee failed in its obligation to its voters and the country at large to insist on Trump’s transparency before bestowing its nomination. It is now up to the press, the debate moderators and the voters to demand answers. If nothing else, the Bondi scandal should be a prime topic for questioning in the debates.