Not Her First Cover-Up: Trump Impeachment Defense Adviser Pam Bondi

(Graphic: Jared Holt)

This is a third in a series examining the backgrounds of the legal team defending President Donald Trump in his impeachment trial.

The impeachment trial isn’t the first time that former Florida Attorney General Pamela Jo Bondi has heard allegations of criminal behavior surrounding Donald Trump and chosen to look the other way.

Bondi, who is currently serving on President Trump’s impeachment defense team as a special adviser to the president during Trump’s trial in the U.S. Senate, served as Florida’s attorney general from 2011 to 2019, the first woman to do so in the Sunshine State. Before joining Trump’s impeachment defense team, Bondi was working at Ballard Partners, a lobbying firm that brags about its close ties to the president. Mother Jones reported that Bondi helped Ballard Partners “lobby the White House for clients including General Motors, Major League Baseball, and the Government of Qatar.”

In recent years, Bondi has faced renewed scrutiny over a complaint of bribery, which centered on an illegal $25,000 campaign contribution Bondi solicited from Trump in 2013 for her reelection effort “near the same time that Bondi’s office was being asked about a New York investigation of alleged fraud at Trump University,” according to the Associated Press. Bondi has denied the allegations of bribery and said that Trump was on a list of “friends and family” from which she asked for money.

The complaints against Bondi were eventually dismissed by state prosecutors in 2017, although the thoroughness of the state attorney’s office was questioned at the time. Columnist Scott Maxwell wrote in the Orlando Sentinel in 2017 that it did not appear prosecutors spoke to any witnesses before dropping the complaints, and it seemed that the state attorney’s office ignored key evidence related to the case.

In the memo dismissing the case, Amira Fox, then the chief assistant state attorney, said that the complaint against Bondi was “insufficient on its face to conduct a criminal investigation” and that “the majority of the complaint consists of insinuation without any material evidence in support.” Bondi, cleared of any wrongdoing, later endorsed Amira Fox when she ran for state attorney.

Bondi was a steadfast ally of Trump in Florida in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election, leading chants of “Lock Her Up” during her speech at the Republican National Convention where Trump was officially nominated. In 2018, Trump said he “would consider Pam Bondi for anything” and that he would “love to have her in the administration.” On Jan. 21, Bondi took part in the Trump impeachment trial as a member of the White House defense team.

Bondi’s job is to attempt to persuade the public to overlook the allegations in Trump’s impeachment, but those efforts have not come without notable blunders.

In a November interview with CBS, Bondi was asked whether President Trump knew U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, who offered damning testimony during the House’s impeachment inquiry, and Bondi launched a defense of Trump in which she repeatedly misstated Sondland’s job title, inaccurately referring to Sondland as the “ambassador to the Ukraine.”

More recently, last Tuesday, Bondi stood at the podium in the U.S. Senate and berated House Democrats for the way they conducted their impeachment inquiry into Trump.

“We are here tonight because they threw due process, fundamental fairness, and our constitution out the window in the House proceedings. That’s why we’re here,” Bondi said. She added, “Intel and Judiciary Committees was a one-sided circus.”

Ironically, Bondi used her only opportunity to speak on the floor of the Senate during the impeachment trial to attack the rules that Republicans outlined and Trump’s legal team argued for.

Bondi has had better luck gaining traction on Fox News, which has largely attempted as a network to downplay and ignore the impeachment. On Saturday night, Bondi appeared on “Justice with Judge Jeanine” and said that the impeachment trial was “an insult to the American people” and that legislators “have not charged the president with any crime because the president did nothing wrong.” Bondi said the articles of impeachment against Trump were “basic trash” and said the whistleblower who set in motion the inquiry against Trump was an “informant” and “leaker.” Fox News has hosted members of Trump’s impeachment defense team more than 350 times in the past year, according to Media Matters.

As Florida’s attorney general in 2013, Bondi postponed an execution of a prisoner because it conflicted with a reelection fundraiser she was hosting, the Tampa Bay Times reported. In 2014, South Florida Sun Sentinel reported that Bondi was defensive of her stance that same-sex marriage should be banned in Florida, which led a local LGBTQ outlet to dub her “Bondi the Bigot.”