Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi met with Pres. Donald Trump the week before Thanksgiving and was tight-lipped when reporters asked what the meeting was about, though it hardly seems a secret.
Conservative Republican Bondi has said repeatedly she’s an old friend of Trump’s. They do have a history and she was one of just four women named to his top-tier transition team joining daughter Ivanka Trump, billionaire GOP donor Rebekah Mercer and Rep. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee.
Bondi’s conservative leanings predate Trump. Florida AG since 2011, Bondi is from Temple Terrace, Florida, an incorporated municipality in Hillsborough County, home to Tampa. Her father was a city councilor and one-time mayor of the ‘golf course community’ one of many that popped up in southwest Florida int he 1920s and ’30s. He was an educator at the University of South Florida and was a co-founder of the middle school concept. He encouraged his daughter to intern for the Hillsborough office of the state attorney while attending the University of Florida. She graduated from Stetson Law School in 1990 and was admitted to the bar in 1991. Married and divorced twice, Bondi served as an assistant state attorney in Hillsborough County. In 2010 she was elected as the first female attorney general in Florida. In 2013, she joined 21 other states in supporting a then-National Rifle Association effort to overturn a federal gun law.
Trump said he’d “love” to have Bondi in his administration and that he’d consider her “for anything.” Bondi, Florida AG since 2011, is out of office in a month due to term limits. Odds on for US AG, some have said she may be tapped to head up the Department of Homeland Security.
Bondi has generated controversy on the national stage for questionable election fundraising, deemed improper appearances on cable TV news as a host, not a guest, a major flip-flop on gay marriage and LGTB rights and her close relationship with Trump. Now some are speculating Trump is considering her for the nation’s top cop job: U.S. Attorney General.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Bondi Backtracked When Addressing LGBT Rights After the Pulse Nightclub Mass Slaying, Having Said in Court Same-Sex Marriage Would ‘Harm’ the Public
In court documents and according to myriad reporting at the time, Florida AG Bondi defended the state in a lawsuit filed by the Florida affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union that charged its refusal to recognize same-sex marriages done in states where it’s legal was unconstitutional. She proffered that the feds had no business in a state’s laws, but more importantly, perhaps, was her position that the right to define marriage as between a man and woman and had voted as such decades earlier.
According to court records, Bondi wrote, “Florida’s marriage laws, then, have a close, direct, and rational relationship to society’s legitimate interest in increasing the likelihood that children will be born to and raised by the mothers and fathers who produced them in stable and enduring family units.”
She told Anderson Cooper in June of 2016 right after the Pulse nightclub mass shooting, “I don’t believe gay people could do harm to the state of Florida,” saying “my lawyer argued a case” in court to uphold Florida’s constitution, which banned gay marriage. Pressed, she said she did not believe what her office argued in court.
“Of course not. Of course not,” she said. “I’ve never said that. Those words never came out of my mouth.”
2. After Not Investigating Trump University,’ the Florida AG Got a $25,000 Donation From Trump
The Orlando Sentinel and the Associated Press reported in 2016 that Bondi personally solicited a donation from Trump in 2013 even as her office was reviewing complaints by Trump University students who had been hustled out of tens of thousands of dollars for how-to-get-rich real estate seminars.
In her first term as Florida’s attorney general, a lawsuit alleged 5,000 people had been ripped off by Trump University to the tune of around $40 million. A similar thing was happening in Palm Beach with Trump’s ‘institute.’
Bondi, who decided against joining the lawsuit, suggested people lodging complaints should “search online for lawyers,” it was reported. The $25,000 donation to a political action committee raising funds for her re-election came from the Trump Foundation days after she said Florida would not be pursuing its own investigation nor joining in the class action lawsuit filed in New York.
The IRS, it was reported, found that the donation was improper.
Bondi said in a statement at the time that her office has “made public every document on this issue, which shows no one in my office ever opened an investigation on Trump University nor was there a basis for doing so. Any news story that suggests otherwise is completely false.”
A money-counter for the Bondi PAC And Justice for All said in 2016 that the organization had attempted to send the money back to Trump but it declined to accept it the AP reported since Trump had already covered the donation with a personal check.
Trump said he never talked to her but about a donation nor the Trump University investigation and regardless, said she is “beyond reproach, she’s a fine person.”
3. Bondi Endorsed Jeb Bush for President & Months Later, Jumped Ship to Back Friend Trump
Bondi heaped praise on Bush endorsed him in June of 2015 and at an early rally in Tampa in November of 2015, when she introduced the “man who will be the next president of the United States.”
“He has done so much for our state,” she said, pointing to his “strong” character and “proven” leadership as evidence.
“He’s done things for our state and will do them for the country and the world. This is the most important election of our lifetime,” she said, adding that Jeb Bush “is the hands-on man we need to run our country.”
Bondi can be seen delivering these remarks on this C-Span video of the Bush rally beginning at around 6:20.
Four months later, she dumped Bush.
She said then she chose who she endorses in a “personal way,” adding that while she did endorse Bush and had by then known him for 15 years, said, “I look at the person, what’s important to me and I never want to lose that …I’ve known Donald … I see a different Donald Trump I think than a lot of people see. I see the way he interacts with his kids. I adore Ivanka. I think he’s um …he’s a great dad. His employees adore him; I think they would jump off a cliff for him.”
A Tampa Bay Times editorial called out Bondi’s duplicity as “graduate-level expediency,” saying she had now endorsed “…the man who belittled, mocked and trashed the ‘hands-on man we need to run our country’ just because it looks like (Trump’s) going to win the nomination …It’s also what we’ve come to expect from say-anything-to-anybody politicians.”
4. Bondi Was One of a Number of GOP State AG’s Who Sued to Stop the ACA. She Has Aligned Herself With the Trump Administration on its Immigration Policy
In late March, Bondi joined GOP Rep. Michele Bachmann outside the Supreme Court as Justice’s were hearing arguments on the Constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act.
Bondi is one of a number of attorneys general around the country suing to stop Obamacare access to health insurance for people with pre-existing conditions. The Sun Sentinel said that would be a “serious threat” for 1.7 million Floridians.
Protesters also criticized Bondi on her immigration position.
Homestead, Florida has been the scene of protests outside the center where reports say as many as 1,300 children are being held and it’s reported in Miami shelters, 10 infants to toddler-age children separated from their families are being held. Bondi has previously publicly supported Trump immigration policies.
5. Like Some Other Trump Administration &Amp; Trump-Supporting Elected Officials, Bondi Was Publicly Heckled at a Tampa Theater While Watching Mr. Rogers. She Was Criticized for Hosting a Fox News Show
Protesters yelled, ‘Shame on you!” and “What would Mister Rogers think about you and your legacy in Florida?” were reacting to Bondi’s official actions on health care policy and her position on immigration.
In the video shot by Organize Florida, a number of people can be heard yelling at Bondi as she exits the Tampa Theatre after a screening of the new Mr. Rogers doc, ‘Won’t You Be My Neighbor?’
Police confirmed they receive a call and came to escort Bondi out.
Bondi told the Tampa Tribune, “We were in a movie about anti-bullying and practicing peace and love and tolerance and accepting of people for their differences. That’s what Mister Rogers is all about. We all believe in free speech, but there’s a big difference there.”
There was initially not a plan to protest Bondi, the Tribune was told until she was spotted in the ticket line for the film about Fred Rogers of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood who was also a musician, puppeteer, writer, and Presbyterian minister.
In the late summer of 2018, Florida’s attorney general co-hosted Fox News’ ‘The Five’ for three days. And at the same time, appeared on Sean Hannity’s show.
Fox News said the Florida Commission on Ethics had blessed her appearances but the commission denied that, telling the Tampa Bay Times it had delivered no opinion. The paper said Bondi’s actions were “unprecedented.”
Bondi was nonetheless excited tweeting about it even.
She tweeted from her official account as Florida’s attorney general: “Psyched to be on ‘The Five’ again today with great people!”