Sunday, September 18, 2016

It's not the crime that gets you - It's the cover up

Donald Trump
Donald Trump apparently bribed Florida's attorney general, the self-righteous Pam Bondi, to drop an investigation of Trump's fraudulent education scam — Trump University. Bondi's posture has been righteous indignation while failing to explain why Florida citizens, who were bilked out of $35,000 and more, were deprived of an official inquiry. Bondi apparently accepted a bribe and delivered a quid pro quo.

The media have been obsessed with the Clinton Foundation without a shred of evidence that Secretary Clinton did anything wrong. This matter of bribery does not seem to have garnered comparable attention. Preet Bharara, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, should be dragging Trump employees in front of a grand jury. Perhaps he is.

Let us review:

Click to enlarge: Trump Foundation check to a 527 organization
aligned with Pam Bondi's reelection campaign.

Click to enlarge: How the donation appeared on the Trump
Foundation 2013 tax return (form 990)
This chicanery begins with a donation of $25,000 in 2013 from the Trump Foundation to And Justice for All, a PAC aligned with Pam Bondi. The check was signed by Donald Trump. Days later Bondi decides not to pursue an investigation of Trump University.

Trump Foundation is a 501(c)3 tax-exempt organization. It is not permitted to make political contributions. The PAC is not permitted to accept contributions from a foundation and should have returned the check. Trump claims that it was a clerical error. That was followed with another “error” in that the Trump Foundation claimed it was a disbursement to an organization in Kansas with a similar name. It, too, was a PAC (now inactive) and would have been an impermissible contribution. In spite of designating the wrong payee, the check ends up in Florida. It's a fucking miracle.

Analysis:

In all my years as a chief operating officer or chief executive officer of a complex organization with many accounts, every disbursement request has included (in addition to the usual paperwork) the payee, the payee's address, the amount, the purpose and a designation of which account the check is to be drawn from. Excluding the payee is virtually impossible. In an organization as complex as Trump's with scores of accounts, designating the payer must be standard operating procedure. Indeed, if not indicated, whoever cut the check would have to have asked from which account the check was to be drawn. The more complex the organization is, the less likely it is for this kind of “error” to occur. Someone instructed an employee in the accounting office to draw a check from the Trump Foundation.

Perhaps they thought that a check from the foundation was less suspicious than a personal check from Trump given that he is constantly under audit by the IRS. Besides, this was other people's money, a freebie. You might recall that Leona Helmsley's problems started with not paying a few thousand dollars to contractors doing work on her home. New York realtors are notoriously cheap.

There was also a deliberate effort to disguise who the ultimate recipient was. Yet the check didn't go to the Kansas payee. Where did they come up with the similar name and who did so? It is not something that someone in Trump's accounting department would do.

This looks like a poorly orchestrated cover up. I do not personally like the term “pay for play.” Let us call it what it really is — bribery of a public official. Mr. Trump and Ms. Bondi should both spend some time as guests of the federal government.

As Richard Nixon famously said (on the Watergate tapes): “It’s not the crime that gets you… it’s the cover up.”

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