|Pam Bondi and Donald Trump|
Boston attorney J. Whitfield Larrabee filed the complaint on August 3, claiming that probable cause exists to establish that Trump failed to pay $25,000 for the 2013 tax year and failed to pay interest, taxes and penalties on at least $25,000 of unreported income. The alleged violations are connected to a campaign donation Trump made to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi. (See the complaint and related documents at the end of this post.)
The complaint also alleges that Trump failed to report income and pay taxes related to a $35,000 donation to Texas Attorney General Gregory Abbott's 2013 campaign for governor.
In both instances, the states were thinking about joining, or initiating, investigations or litigation against Trump University. After the donations arrived, both AGs withdrew from any actions that would cast scrutiny on Trump University.
Larrabee's complaint alleges two counts of political corruption and one count of organized crime against Trump and the Trump Organization.
In a separate complaint, Larrabee alleges tax evasion against former Trump campaign manager Paul J. Manafort and related organizations regarding $12.7 million in cash payments Manafort received from the Ukraine Party of Regions between 2007 and 2012.
Taken together, Larrabee's documents portray a Republican presidential candidate who is at the center of a financial mess that could have criminal implications.
What about details regarding the donation to Florida AG Pam Bondi? From the complaint:
In summer of 2013, at a time when her office was reviewing complaints against Trump University and related entities, Florida Attorney General Pamela Bondi personally solicited a campaign contribution from Trump.
Weeks after Bondi solicited the contribution, on September 17, 2013, a political group backing Bondi's re-election, called And Justice for All, reported receiving a $25,000 contribution from The Trump Foundation. In its 2013 990-PF Information Return, the Trump Foundation reported making a contribution to And Justice For All, although it listed the incorrect address for recipient of the $25,000 political contribution. The And Justice for All organization was established and maintained by Bondi. In a Statement of Solicitation Filed by Bondi on August 6, 2013 with the Florida Division of Elections, as required by Florida Statute, 106.0701, Bondi stated that she “established and “maintained” the And Justice for All political organization.
What are the implications of the transaction? Larrabee spells it out in stark legal details:
The payment made to Bondi’s political committee was a bribe given in exchange for Bondi’s agreement not to join in or initiate litigation against Trump, Trump University, and related entities.
In violation of his fiduciary duty as the president and manager of the Donald J. Trump Foundation, Trump arranged for Donald J. Trump Foundation to make the payment to Bondi’s political group.
It is illegal under the laws of the United States, Florida and New York for charities to make political contributions. 26 U.S.C. § 501(c)(3) provides that charitable foundations may not “participate in, or intervene in (including the publishing or distributing of statements), any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office.”
If the IRS takes a close look, it could spell trouble for Trump:
By misappropriating the assets of the Donald J. Trump Foundation, and converting the assets of the foundation for his own personal use so as to promote his political agenda,Trump personally benefited from the campaign contribution to And Justice for All. Because Trump converted and stole money from the Donald J. Trump Foundation, for his own use and benefit, he had a duty to report the $25,000 as income on his 2013 tax return.
There is probable cause to conclude that Trump did not report the $25,000 payment as income and that he did not pay taxes on this income because the payment itself was an illegal one, and it is unlikely that Trump voluntarily disclosed his illegal acts to the United States government.
The allegations regarding the Abbott donation in Texas feature a similar refrain:
In 2010, Richard Berlin, an Assistant Attorney General with the Texas Consumer Protection Division requested permission to file a lawsuit against Trump University,Trump and his business partners seeking more than $5.4 million in penalties and restitution related to fraud and deceptive business practices. The suit was dropped by the office of Texas Attorney General Gregory Abbott. Former Texas Deputy Chief of Consumer Protection John Owens said the case was strong and had been dropped for political reasons. In 2013, Trump contributed $35,000 to Attorney General Abbott in his campaign to be Governor of Texas. Gregory Abbott is presently the Governor of Texas. Trump has engaged in a pattern of corrupt influence peddling.
To his credit, Trump has been up front about the way he conducts business and political affairs. Unfortunately, it appears his methods conflict with the law. Writes Larrabee:
Trump has publicly declared that he gives political contributions to elected officials in exchange for political favors. On July 16, 2016, while campaigning in Laconia, New Hampshire, Trump spoke about Jeb Bush’s fundraising. He stated: "He raises 100 million, so what does 100 million mean? 100 million means he's doing favors for so many people, it means lobbyists, it means special interests, it means donors. . . . Who knows it better than me? I give to everybody. They do whatever I want. It's true." On January 9, 2016, at a campaign rally in Clear Lake Iowa, which was broadcast on C-SPAN, Trump boasted, “You know, it's interesting. I was looking at the ones I'm running against. I've contributed to most of them -- can you believe it? I've contributed to most of them. And one of them said, No, I don't think you've contributed to me. They found out I did. I contribute to everybody. I've given to Democrats. I've given to Hillary. I've given to everybody, because that was my job. I've got to give to them. because when I want something I get it. When I call, they kiss my ass. It's true. They kiss my ass. It's true.”
It's almost comical now to read Trump's words. But they aren't so funny when taken in context with federal law, as Larrabee points out:
There is probable cause to conclude that, in exchange for Trump’s promise of financial support, Abbott agreed not to pursue litigation against Trump University, Trump and Trump’s business partners, to the benefit of Trump and The Trump Organization.
By avoiding litigation in exchange for the payment of a bribe, Trump and The Trump Organization not only received a $5.4 million dollar benefit in that they avoided paying penalties and restitution, but they also received a valuable benefit in that they avoided the attorney’s fees and litigation costs that they would have incurred if the Attorney General’s Office had moved forward with the recommended litigation.
There is probable cause to conclude that Trump and The Trump Organization did not report the $5.4 million benefit as income and that they did not pay taxes on this income because the payment itself was an illegal one and it is unlikely that Trump or The Trump Organization voluntarily disclosed these illegal acts to the United States government.
There is probable cause to obtain indictments against Trump and The Trump Organization for tax evasion in the 2010 to 2013 time period related to the failure to report and pay taxes on more than $5.4 million in income.
Where is this headed? That is not clear. But this is clear: Attorney J. Whitfield Larrabee isn't messing around.