Trump adds former AG who refused to prosecute Trump University to impeachment team
Former Treasury Department spokesman Tony Sayegh, who has adviser Jared Kushner’s support, will also join the team.
Donald Trump will reportedly bring in an ex-prosecutor who figured in one of his earlier ethical scandals to help defend him in his latest imbroglio.
Former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi (R), whose impending appointment was reportedly pushed by White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham and acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, is expected to help coordinate messaging for the White House, according to the Wall Street Journal. She will joined by former Treasury Department spokesman Tony Sayegh, who reportedly had the backing of Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner.
According to senior administration officials who spoke with WESH 2 News, an Orlando NBC affiliate, Bondi and Sayegh are expected to work specifically on “proactive impeachment messaging” for the White House, among other things.
“The roles within the White House will be temporary and they would be working as Special Government Employees,” the official said.
According to the Journal, Sayegh and Bondi “were offered jobs this week, and details were being finalized, people familiar with the matter said. Both are expected to leave their current firms and return after completing their temporary assignments.”
The Journal quoted White House officials as saying there was no expectation of “any additional impeachment-related hires.”
The House Intelligence, Oversight, and Foreign Affairs committees are currently investigating Trump’s efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate his 2020 political rival, Joe Biden. Multiple officials have confirmed that Trump withheld security aid to the country to secure such an investigation, as well as a probe into a long-debunked conspiracy about the DNC servers.
Trump has denied any wrongdoing, dismissing the impeachment inquiry, like the Russia probe before it, as a witch hunt and refusing to cooperate with the investigation.
It is illegal to solicit or accept election help from a foreign national.
Trump claimed previously that he had no “team” to respond to the House impeachment inquiry, saying, “I’m the team. I did nothing wrong.” However several reports have suggested that the White House is quietly building up a “war room” to respond to impeachment-related issues, though not all staffers have warmed to the idea entirely.
Bondi’s hire, then, is the latest victory for those in the White House looking to assemble a response team — though Bondi herself may not be the best person to defend Trump’s ethics or campaign law compliance.
From January 2011 to January 2019, Bondi was Florida’s attorney general. In September 2013, her office announced it was examining whether to join the New York attorney general’s lawsuit against Trump University, Trump’s now-defunct for-profit real estate training program.
Three days later, the Donald J. Trump Foundation — his also-now-defunct, tax-exempt 501(c)(3) “charitable” arm — sent a $25,000 donation to And Justice for All, a political committee supporting Bondi’s re-election. The contribution was personally solicited by Bondi.
Bondi’s office then decided not to take action against Trump University, citing a lack of evidence (though Trump University would ultimately go on to agree to a $25 million settlement after others brought a class action suit). Trump and Bondi both denied that there was any connection between these events.
There were other problems, however.
The contribution itself was later determined by the IRS to be illegal, as 501(c)(3) entities are prohibited from funding political campaigns. Trump’s foundation failed to disclose this donation on its IRS disclosure forms, instead listing a contribution to a similarly named Kansas anti-abortion group. Three years later, Trump’s team corrected the error, citing an “unfortunate series of coincidences.”
The watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed a series of legal complaints against Trump, his foundation, and Bondi in 2016, which may have helped spur the foundation’s decision to shut down that December.
Bondi later endorsed and campaigned with Trump during his 2016 presidential campaign.
Bondi, confirmed to Fox News on Thursday that she would “most likely” take the Trump impeachment defender role had has “no reservations” about doing so.
“If it works out, it’s going to be wonderful,” she said.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.
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