Former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi has become something of a punchline during President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial in her role as the defense team’s Hunter Biden specialist.
Over the course of 10 hours of testimony on Wednesday, she only spoke once, but the halting and deliberate manner in which she pushed conspiracy theories aimed at shifting attention from Trump to the Biden family went viral and became the subject of a Daily Show video.
Things went downhill for her again on Thursday when she stumbled through an allegation about how Hunter and his father Joe Biden going on fishing trips together was purportedly evidence of corruption.
Here's Pam Bondi accusing Hunter Biden of going "on a fishing trip with Joe Biden's family in Norway," seemingly oblivious to the fact that as Joe Biden's son, Hunter is in fact part of said family ♂️ pic.twitter.com/obCYV28aST— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) January 30, 2020
The point of Bondi’s remarks seemed to be that Hunter was in close touch with Joe Biden, and therefore that his father must’ve been in the loop about his work for Burisma, a Ukrainian gas company that has been accused of corruption. But there’s no evidence that Hunter’s work influenced the Obama administration’s foreign policy, or that Joe Biden pulled strings to get Hunter his position. Hunter selling his family name, while unseemly, is not in and of itself corrupt.
Bondi’s arguments have nothing to do with the two charges against Trump under the articles of impeachment — abuse of power over withholding taxpayer-funded military aid to Ukraine in exchange for the personal political favor of investigating the Hunter Biden, and contempt of Congress charges for failing to comply with the investigation. Instead, her job is to change the subject; she wants to make it seem like it’s the Bidens who have a corruption problem.
But Bondi herself is a bit of a strange figure to serve the role of the “corruption” expert. Let’s review Bondi’s own very spotty record on the subject.
Bondi decided not to sue Trump University after she got a donation from Trump, among other unseemly things
Bondi’s relationship with Trump dates back to 2013, when as Florida attorney general, she announced she was considering joining a lawsuit that New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman was filing against Trump University for scamming students.
But four days later, Trump’s foundation cut Bondi’s reelection campaign a check for $25,000. Lo and behold, Bondi never ended up joining the lawsuit.
While still serving as Florida attorney general in August 2018, Bondi raised eyebrows by serving as co-host of Fox News’s The Five for three straight days. She didn’t end up running for reelection.
Bondi has been attacking Hunter Biden for serving in a well-compensated role despite having questionable credentials, but after leaving office in Florida, a firm she worked for was paid $115,000 a month for work she did lobbying for the Qatari government.
She left that role to join Trump’s legal team. In the months leading up to the impeachment trial, she’s served as one of Trump’s TV surrogates — a role in which she’s mangled basic facts surrounding the Ukraine scandal.
"He’s the Ambassador to Ukraine" -- here's Pam Bondi, special adviser to Trump on the impeachment inquiry, falsely referring to Gordon Sondland as Trump's ambassador to Ukraine on CBS This Morning pic.twitter.com/1URYGVK2RY— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) November 20, 2019
If all of this seems to point toward Bondi being a less than ideal choice to make the case for Trump about purported Biden corruption, you’d be right.
The shamelessness is the point
Bondi is just about the inappropriate person possible that Trump could’ve picked for her role. But the fact that she’s in that position anyway speaks to a broader shamelessness.
A key part of Trump’s defense has been to argue that the most personally corrupt president in modern American history is actually a principled opponent of corruption. Trump has claimed to not know fixers who worked with Rudy Giuliani to carry out his Ukraine scheme, despite video of them hanging out together at his Mar-a-Lago resort. He’s repeatedly pushed a number of easily debunkable lies about the timeline of the Ukraine scandal in order to make it seem like Democrats have just had it out for him.
Meanwhile, Trump’s Republican defenders have complained about Democrats not presenting new evidence during the impeachment trial, ignoring that the reason they’ve been unable to because Republicans voted to block them from being able to do so. And as new evidence of Trump’s misconduct has emerged, Trump’s defenders in the Senate and on his legal team have moved the goalposts from “there was no corrupt quid pro quo” to “corrupt quid pro quos aren’t impeachable.”
So shamelessness is a feature of Trumpism, not a bug. And while Pam Bondi’s performance may seem laughable to most, it’s been sufficient for Senate Republicans — and as far as Trump’s fate during the impeachment trial is concerned, that’s good enough.