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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Pam Bondi's 'lock her up' speech gives critics new ammunition



Attorney General Pam Bondi followed Gov. Rick Scott to the national stage Wednesday to give Florida an unusual 1-2 punch at the Republican National Convention. She said Trump will secure America's borders, roll back President Barack Obama's executive orders, and appoint conservatives to the U.S. Supreme Court.

"Winning this election means reclaiming something to which I’ve dedicated my entire career: the rule of law," said Bondi, a former Hillsborough assistant state attorney and Florida's first two-term attorney general since Democrat Bob Butterworth left office in 2002.

Bondi, the state's chief legal officer, said of Hillary Clinton: "'Lock her up.' I love that. Stay with me."

The crowd loved that chunk of red meat, but she also sought to temper Trump's talk of building a wall and mass deportations of immigrants that has alienated Hispanic voters. As she told the Cleveland crowd: "He will enforce immigration laws to keep us safe, while allowing legal immigrants to bless this nation with their talents and their dreams ... Donald Trump will take control of our borders because we must stop the influx of cocaine and heroin coming into our country and my state, killing our kids."

Bondi has official and personal Twitter accounts, and her fiery rhetoric had her critics instantly heating up their keypads to rehash a number of her controversies, from a $25,000 Trump University campaign donation to fighting stricter clean water rules in Chesapeake Bay to her testy exchange with CNN's Anderson Cooper over her past opposition to same sex marriage. Twitter critics called Bondi "corrupt," a "dumpster human," and worse.

The liberal group Progress Florida electronically sent a petition it said was signed by more than 6,000 Floridians, asking U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch to investigate Bondi's acceptance of a $25,000 check from a Trump foundation in 2013 at a time when her office was reviewing a citizen's complaint about Trump University's practices. The group's Mark Ferrulo said Bondi has shown "a disturbing pattern" of siding with lobbyists and donors over Florida citizens.

A leading LGBT group in South Florida, SAVE, is using the convention appearances of Bondi, Scott and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio as fodder to raise money for its Team Equality 2016 Victory Fund.

"Is it a surprise that any of these career politicians would cozy up to an angry homophobe, woman-hater, and racist like Donald Trump?" SAVE said in an email blast, citing Bondi's "crusade against marriage equality in 2014."

Bondi and Scott were among the night's first speakers. Bondi is the only woman who holds statewide office in Florida and is expected to play a high profile role in Trump's Florida campaign.

"I know Donald. And I’m proud to know Donald," Bondi said. "He will appoint conservative justices who will defend, rather than rewrite, our Constitution."

In a Fox News appearance on Tuesday, Sean Hannity asked Bondi if she would work in a Trump administration, and she replied that she would do anything to help Trump. Bondi's term expires in 2018 and she can't run again because of term limits.

[Last modified: Wednesday, July 20, 2016 10:46pm]


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