TALLAHASSEE — Hours before heading to a Donald Trump political rally on the outskirts of the state capital, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi said Tuesday she remains firmly in the Republican presidential candidate's corner despite some of his controversial remarks.
Bondi, a two-term Cabinet member who was the first statewide Florida politician to endorse Trump, said she has already voted for the New York businessman, who is a part-time Florida resident at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach.
Although Bondi has condemned Trump's lewd remarks about women recorded by an "Access Hollywood" TV crew in 2005, Bondi said she believes Trump will be a good role model for the nation. "I know Donald Trump. I have seen him evolve in the last 14 months," Bondi said. "I think he will be an excellent role model. I know he has raised wonderful kids. "I know two of his kids personally, Donald and Ivanka. I know he has raised great, hard-working kids."
Bondi was engulfed earlier in the campaign in a controversy about a $25,000 donation Trump made to her political committee and whether that influenced her office in 2013 to dismiss allegations that Floridians had been bilked by Trump University.
Bondi has adamantly denied a connection between the contribution and her office's handling of the Trump University issue. While talking with reporters Tuesday, Bondi said Trump would be "an excellent president." She added: "I hope either candidate would be a good role model."
But Bondi took exception to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton's conduct in a 1980s interview about representing a man who had been accused of raping a 12-year-old. Clinton, working for a legal aid clinic at the University of Arkansas, was appointed to represent the defendant in a 1975 case.
In the interview, Clinton is heard laughing as she recounts some of the details of the case, in which the prosecution lost key evidence and had to reach a plea agreement with the defendant, who passed a polygraph.
During their second debate in the presidential campaign, Trump accused Clinton of laughing at the 12-year-old, which was not true. Nonetheless, Bondi said she did not like Clinton's reaction in the recorded interview, which was first reported by the conservative Washington Free Beacon in 2014.
"I cannot get over the comments regarding the 12-year-old who was raped," Bondi said. "Not mocking the 12-year-old but laughing at acquitting someone who passed a lie detector who she didn't believe. I have a very, very difficult time with that."
Bondi also said she strongly supported Trump's call for a more-secure national border, with the candidate promising to build a wall between the United States and Mexico and have Mexico pay for it.
"I have fought against drugs. I believe in securing our borders because right now we are seeing in an influx of cocaine and heroin coming into our country," Bondi said. "That is so important to me."
Bondi also backed Trump's promise, if elected, to appoint a special prosecutor to renew the investigation into Clinton's use of a private email server when she was the secretary of state. The case was closed on the recommendation of the director of the FBI, James Comey. Bondi, who was a state prosecutor in Tampa before her election to the Cabinet in 2010, said she has discussed the issue with former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, a top Trump supporter and a former federal prosecutor.
"We both have very, very serious concerns about things she has said and done that very well could be illegal," Bondi said. Bondi said the "election has gotten ugly on both sides."
"We can all disagree philosophically," Bondi said. "But ultimately, hopefully within less than 15 days from now, this election is going to be decided.
"Will I accept the election results? Absolutely. Will I support our president whoever that might be? Absolutely. Did I vote for Donald Trump? Absolutely."