The Rachel Maddow Show weeknights at 9:00 Eastern on MSNBC. We are really happy to have you here. Big show for you tonight. The chair of President Biden's Council of Economic Advisors is here with us tonight, Cecilia Rouse. This will be her first interview here on the show. I'm really, really looking forward to talking with her today of all days. That will become clear why in just a moment. We're also going to be talking tonight with The New York Times reporter who just broke the astonishing story of a previously unknown, major grifts, major fraud, really, that former President Trump ran against his supporters in the final months of his time in office to the tune of over one hundred and twenty millions of one hundred and twenty million dollars and thousands of fraud claims.
Now, even one state Republican Party claiming to have been just plain ripped off by the former president and his operation. We will have more on that ahead tonight. Plus, we will have some very interesting news tonight, unexpected, at least to me. Unexpected news tonight from the NRA's bankruptcy trial, which ought to be getting more national attention than it is that is underway as of today in Texas. And it's proving to be super interesting. So we've got a lot to get to tonight.
But but if you heard any weird yips and shouts and exclamations tonight around dinnertime on the East Coast, I'm here to congratulate you, that that probably means there is a deep, deep politics nerd in your household. If you're a true civics dork, not just like a person who loves voting or even a person who knows the lyrics to some of the good Schoolhouse Rock songs like But if you are a legitimate deep dive civics dork, who knows what the candy desk is and who knows why the Secret Service used to be part of the Treasury Department and why it's not anymore.
I mean, if I if I can say to you what presidential speech has been read out loud in Congress every single year since eighteen ninety three and you can answer without hesitation. Oh, that's George Washington's farewell address. That's easy. If you are a true blue civics dork. Tonight was a really big night. And we're going to have an expert keep you on the straight and narrow here tonight in terms of what this means, but I think this is a very, very big deal.
All right. Here's what happened. Here's how I understand it. You might remember a couple of weeks ago we reported on this building sized light up led billboard that was running in Times Square in New York City. That's the size of a full building. Help is here. Thank you, Joe Biden. Thank you, Democrats. One hundred million shots. One hundred million checks. Help is here.
That was last month as Congress passed and President Biden signed the big covid Relief Act to fund the vaccine roll out to send Americans all those relief payments, to fund the reopening of schools to do to do all that stuff that was in that big, very consequential bill.
And you know, that billboard is not typical Democratic behavior, right? A big, brash, taking credit for it kind of thing like that. But the Republicans did make it possible for the Democrats to be that blunt about it, that billboard in Times Square blunt about it because not a single Republican in either the House or the Senate voted for covid relief. And so you legitimately can say, thank you, Democrats. And the relief bill has huge support among the public.
It did before it passed. It does even more so now that it has passed. It has fueled an over 70 percent approval rating for President Biden, specifically on the issue of his handling covid Republican members of Congress who voted against the bill. And they all did. All of them did in the House and the Senate. They're still now getting caught trying to take credit for things in the covid relief bill, even though they all voted against the bill.
Republican Senator Roger Wicker of Mississippi bragging about all the money from the covid relief bill that's coming to Mississippi, bragging about it like he had something to do with it, even though he voted against the bill. Republican Congressman Madison Cawthorn bragging just a few days ago about all the funding for, I think it was, health centers in his district, all that money coming to his district from the covid relief bill and bragging about it as if he had anything to do with the covid relief bill other than voting against it.
There was uniform Republican opposition to the covid relief bill uniform and unanimous, and so, yes, it may be brash to do it, but Democrats are in their rights to put something like this up in Times Square. Help us here. Thank you, Democrats. Thank you, Joe Biden. They're not overstating the case. There are no Republicans to thank. But now, as I said, this is Times Square in New York City now, as of this weekend, they started doing this around the country.
This is a billboard that went up in Minneapolis, Minnesota, today. Help is here. Fourteen hundred dollar checks, money to reopen schools, money for vaccines. Help is here thanks to President Biden on one side. And then on the other side, thanks to Senator Amy Klobuchar, thanks to Senator Tina Smith, Minnesota's two Democratic senators who both voted for the covid relief bill. So they get thanks.
Now, if you're in a state that doesn't have Democratic senators like Minnesota does, here's the version of this Bill Burr that you may see going up on the side of an interstate near you. This one's from North Carolina. I think this one also just went up today in Greensboro. And again, similar theme, help is here. Fourteen hundred dollar tax money to reopen schools, money for vaccines. And again, on the one side, it says, help us here thanks to President Biden.
But in this case, because it's North Carolina, the other side says help is here, no thanks to Senator Richard Burr and Senator Tom Tillis. Since North Carolina has two Republican senators and those Republican senators both voted no. All Republican senators voted no. It actually makes it particularly stark in a state like Wisconsin, where they've got one senator from each party, so their billboard has one senator over there with President Biden, thanks to President Biden and thanks to Senator Tammy Baldwin, help is here.
And then on the other side, it says no thanks to Senator Ron Johnson. He's over there on the right, all by himself in black and white looking, said the Democrats, taking a victory lap.
Taking credit for this wildly popular bill that, in fact, they got passed all alone with no help from the other side. It marks kind of a new vibe for Democrats for whatever reason, this time around, they want to be sure the country knows who it is that's getting stuff done. They're trying to make sure the public also knows who isn't helping, trying to increase the political cost of that for Republicans who are voting now against everything. But here's the thing.
The only reason this can happen, the only reason the Democrats are in a position to brag and brag in this way, to brag that it's only them, it's getting stuff done for the country and that Republicans are no help. So no thanks. The only reason this is possible is because the Democrats were able to pass that big bill, the covert relief bill, all by themselves. In the House of Representatives, you can pass things with a simple majority, you just need half of the House plus one.
Nancy Pelosi bares all the slings and arrows of all her many critics on the right. The Republicans and the conservative media love to deride Nancy Pelosi, but part of the reason they are always going after her is because she's really good at getting stuff done. She's really good at getting stuff passed in the House. She is a master of it. There will be buildings named after her in Washington one day. She does not miscounts. She does not miscalculate.
If Democrats have legislation that they want to pass in the House. You give Nancy Pelosi a Democratic majority in the House, however slim, she will get that legislation passed. And she does it every time, like a machine, like a boss in the Senate. It's not that simple in the Senate, the filibuster rule means you can't do it that way because the minority party can insist that in the Senate you can't pass things with a simple majority with 50 votes plus one.
They can use that filibuster rule in the Senate to insist instead that you need a supermajority, you need 60 votes to pass something for Democrats to pass legislation with 60 votes. They would need 10 Republican senators to cross the aisle and vote with them. And in this Republican Party, that is a joke. You couldn't get 10 Republican senators to vote for a resolution proclaiming that today's Monday and tomorrow's Tuesday. You couldn't get 10 Republicans to vote for a bill that says my ice cream tastes good.
Not if it was a Democratic bill that needed ten Republican votes to pass. They will just never do it. And so that that procedural thing about the Senate makes the prospects of Joe Biden's presidency very mathematically simple. And this is the thing that undergirds everything else that we talk about in politics and in policy in this time in our country. It is that the sum total of what the Biden presidency is going to be able to get done in terms of real policy, in terms of actual legislation, the big stuff that you can only do by passing something through Congress and the president signing it, the alpha and Omega, the full sum total of what the Biden presidency is going to be able to accomplish is defined by how many bills they can pass through the Senate.
And that is wholly defined by how many bills they can pass that aren't going to be subject to the filibuster rule, that aren't going to be subject to that 60 vote threshold, because that 60 vote threshold will be impossible to reach for any bill that says anything at all. The way they got the covid relief bill is they used an exception to the filibuster rule, the exception these for the covid relief bill so they could pass it with 50 votes so they could pass it with only Democratic senators voting for it.
And all the Republicans voting now is the thing that has the world's most boring name. It's called it's it's it's it's called budget reconciliation. Are there two more boring words in the English language? Budget reconciliation sounds incredibly boring, and it is a technical thing inside Senate rules. And it has a very boring name, but it has a very important purpose. It allows that once per year, once per budget, once per every piece of legislation that Congress passes every year.
That's called the budget resolution once per budget resolution, which is once per year, the majority can pass things that have an impact on the budget. With only a simple majority, with only 50 votes on a vote that is not subject to the filibuster rule, that is not subject to the minority in the Senate forcing a 60 vote supermajority. And if you are not a civics dork, I realize this sounds like the most boring thing in the entire world, something that is way too arcane to ever bother learning about.
But in the real world, this is everything. I mean, put that Time Square billboard back up there again. This is what it means in the real world. Even with Republicans all opposed, Democrats were able to get that thing done anyway. They were able to get that huge covid relief package done. They were able to get it passed. And that's why you got fourteen hundred bucks in the mail and in the vaccine rollout, funded in schools, funded to reopen and everything else that's in it.
It only happened because they were able to use that boring sounding budget reconciliation thing. So 50 votes was enough because 50 votes is all they're ever going to be able to get because Republicans will vote no on everything. Now, you might remember right at the beginning of the Democrats taking control of the Senate, I interviewed Senator Chuck Schumer. I had his first interview when he became after he became the new majority leader of the Senate. And I asked him in that interview about what he planned to do now that the Democrats were in control, how he planned to get stuff done, despite the fact that Republican senators will vote for absolutely nothing, no matter how anodyne and unobjectionable it is.
And I remember keenly from that interview, I'm glad I went to D.C. and did it on purpose, did it in person, even though I was all freaked out about traveling and covid and everything. It was worth it being there in person, in part because I got to see in person eye to eye him, giving me that slightly approaching kid in a candy store.
Look, when he pointed out to me that actually they thought they'd be able to use this budget reconciliation thing not once but twice, budget reconciliation is the thing that allows them to pass a bill with just 50 votes, with just Democratic votes if they need to. He pointed out to me in that interview that by a quirk of fate, basically, they hadn't passed a budget resolution last year in twenty twenty. So Senator Schumer told me in that interview, told us he run the show at the beginning of this Congress.
They were actually going to be able to use budget reconciliation twice. They were going to be able to use it to pass Biden's first big bill, the covid relief bill, again with just 50 Democratic votes if they needed to. And then he said they could do it again a second time for a second big bill because of that quirk where the 20 20 budget resolution was left undone. And for all of the headlines, for all of the consequences, for all of the resulting politics, for all of the resulting policy in the movement of money and everything that changed for all the billboards in Times Square and on interstates near you, taking credit and pointing blame, that's really what it boils down to, Democrats and the current stupid system that we are in in the US Senate with the ridiculous filibuster rule and the also ridiculous arcane exception to it that relates specifically to budget bills, to budget resolutions, that once every budget resolution you can have this other thing that isn't subject to a 60 vote threshold.
This system, which Civic Stork's can't preach to you about chapter and verse with even some passion in their eyes about it while they do. But most people don't really care about and don't understand it well enough to care about. What it all boils down to is that Democrats in this system.
Believed until tonight that they had precisely to bite at the apple, they had two things that they could pass without any Republican support. The first thing they already did it covid relief bill. Second thing is going to be the big infrastructure bill, the administration already this weekend and today fanning cabinet secretaries and important members of the executive branch, even the vice president fanning them out around the country, making the case for why the infrastructure bill will be great and everybody should support it.
But before tonight, the very rough, blunt political truth behind that push for the infrastructure bill was basically, yeah, we did covid relief. We were able to do that because of budget reconciliation. We're also going to do this this infrastructure bill, but then that's it, that's all we're going to be able to get to do, because we only get two bills that we can pass under budget reconciliation. covid was first. This is the second thing, but then that's it.
So let's make sure this one, the infrastructure one, is really good and it's got everything we want. And it is it is the last thing that will pass the Senate as the last legislation that will get made in the Biden era. It is the last thing that President Biden will be able to sign. It's depressing to put it that way, but that's been what's going on, that's been the bottom line until tonight. Tonight, the yips and Woops and OMG is coming from your local civic start teenager down the hall, those noises and explanation exclamations were about this tonight.
The Senate parliamentarian just ruled that actually the Democrats can do this three more times this year. Wait, what this is this budget reconciliation thing that we're talking about. Usually, it's only once a year that you can do this. There's a budget resolution once per year and you can do this with a budget resolution once Schumer got very lucky, very lucky, and was going to be able to use it twice this year because of a quirk about last year's budget resolution never going through.
So he was going to get to which is a huge deal, covid relief and infrastructure. But Schumer staff a week or so ago, a couple of weeks ago, apparently went to the parliamentarian of the Senate and said, hey, we've looked into this admittedly arcane rule that has huge real world consequences for the American people. And we think actually we don't have one more thing that we can pass this year with just 50 votes. We think if you look closely at the way this rule is written, we can do this three more times, this Congress.
Which means in real practical political terms, they can do covid relief check done, they can do infrastructure working on it, and then they can do two more things, this Congress, which means this year and next year, even if they don't get a single Republican vote, they went to the Senate parliamentarian with that proposal. And tonight the Senate parliamentarian said, yeah, I agree. Actually, you're right. And I know it's like a ruling of the Senate parliamentarian, it sounds like the smallest thing in the world, but this is like that you're doing your laundry and you find five bucks in your pocket.
You're like five bucks. I didn't know that was there. Then you finished the laundry. You pull your pull your clothes out of the dryer, pull out the lint trap to clean it. And there's a couple of hundred dollars, a couple hundred dollar bills stuck in there with the lint. Holy mackerel. I was like for five bucks. Look, here's two hundred. I mean, forgive me for geeking out about this. I know this is high level dork arama territory in terms of the machinery of how politics actually works.
But bottom line, this means the Democrats and the Biden administration can double the amount of stuff they they want to get done and that they can get done. Kofod relief was huge. They can only do that with budget reconciliation infrastructure on top of covid relief would be really huge. They can also only do that with budget reconciliation. Sure. But now tonight, multi ball bonus lives. Two hundred bucks in the lint trap. They just got the go ahead to do two more things using these same rules, which means the filibuster doesn't apply to more times.
And yeah, I'm sure they would love it. If none of this was necessary. Because at least some of the time some Republicans would cross over and vote for stuff that they like, but that is just not the world we live in. The real practical truth is that the only way Biden and the Democrats can get anything done is to do it around the Republicans and now they have a way to do that, a lot of that. If they can get it together to take advantage of this this winning lottery ticket that just fell into their lap.
Joining us now is a true expert on this stuff, Adam Jentleson, who was deputy chief of staff to Democratic Senate Leader Harry Reid for five years. Adam is the author of Killswitch The Rise of the Modern Senate and the Crippling of American Democracy. Adam Jentleson, thank you very much for joining us on short notice tonight. I know this is kind of like a birthday Christmas and New Year's Eve rolled up all in one for civics talks.
Very exciting. Everybody is talking about Senate rules. It's like Christmas for me. I am not as much of a dork as I actually should be on this stuff. I'm a dork enough that I'm excited by this being a big deal. But will you just tell me if I explained any of that wrong about what this ruling tonight means in practical terms?
No, I think you got it 100 percent correct in terms of what it allows Democrats to do. One way to think about reconciliation is it's like a special bucket that you can put certain kinds of legislation in and pass around the filibuster. And so Democrats thought they only had two buckets and tonight they learned they got a lot more buckets. One of the problems, though, is that this ruling doesn't change the type of legislation that can go into that bucket and that will continue to present some challenges for them as they move forward.
And that in oversimplifying but basically accurate terms is that it has to have, but they can only pass things using this rule if those things have a budget impact. And that is pretty narrowly defined by the parliamentarian. I mean, arguably. Right. But that that will still be the same standard that's applied to anything else they want to do, just like they were precluded, for example, from from raising the minimum wage in the covid relief bill because that was said not to have a budget impact.
They'll run up against that in just the same way with anything else they try to use these rules for, right?
That's exactly right. And when you say budgetary impact, your viewers might think, oh, that could mean a lot of things. You know, many things have impacts on the budget, but in Senate terms, that's defined very narrowly. And minimum wage is a good example. Commonsensical, you would think? Well, of course, minimum wage has a budgetary impact, but the parliamentarian ruled very narrowly that it didn't qualify. And so if the parliamentarian is ruling that things like minimum wage don't qualify as having a primarily budgetary impact, they're probably also going to rule that a lot of other things don't meet that standard.
So it's great that there are more vehicles to to try to take a run at this. But there are things like voting rights that are never going to pass that budgetary impact criteria. And so while there are more buckets for Democrats to use, things like voting rights are never going to be allowed to go into those buckets. And so those things are always still going to be left outside the bucket, left to be blocked by the filibuster. And so that's still a big challenge.
Well, voting rights is exactly what I was going to ask you about, Adam, is there a way, obviously Democrats like H.R. one and H.R. for the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, the the the for the People Act, which is now before the Senate, a Senate bill, one they like those the way those are currently construed, looking at what those bills are trying to achieve in terms of putting a nationwide floor underneath voting rights so that states can't attack them and rescind them the way that's happening right now and a lot of Republican controlled states.
Is there a way to reconceive that legislation a little bit so that it might get closer at least to fitting under the kind of rules that you'd need to be able to pass it using reconciliation?
I'd love to tell you, yes, but I don't think that that is possible. I think that you can get really creative under reconciliation rules, but it's also sort of a common sense test that the parliamentarian applies. And so something like voting rights, you could you could certainly argue that there are many budgetary impacts of those bills in their implementation. They will have a budgetary impact. But it's it's pretty clear that the main purpose of them is not to impact the budget, it's to expand voting rights.
And so you're going to have a really hard time making the case that those pass muster under reconciliation, very strict standards. I say that as someone who desperately wants H.R. one and the voting rights bills to pass. But I think that realistically, Democrats, while they should be very excited about tonight's ruling, also have to face the fact that it doesn't change the fundamental challenge that H.R. one and voting rights bills are unlikely to ever fit into one of these reconciliation buckets.
They'll still have to pass through regular order on the Senate floor, which, under the rules, as they're currently constructed, mean that they'll be able to be blocked by a filibuster. So Democrats still have to face this basic question of whether or not to reform or end the filibuster if they're serious about passing H.R. one and voting rights bills. Adam Jentleson, former deputy chief of staff to Harry Reid, the author of Kill Switch. Adam, thank you for helping us sort this out tonight.
It was, for me at least, a very unexpected piece of news from the parliamentarian and one that I think is going to start resonating pretty loudly in our political coverage as soon as everybody figures out just what this means. Thank you so much.
Thank you, Rachel. So if the Biden administration and the Democrats in Congress all of a sudden tonight just doubled their opportunities to pass legislation that has a budgetary impact, legislation to pass legislation in a way that does not require them to persuade Republican senators to come over to their side on this, what are they going to do with this opportunity? Did they know this was coming? Do they have stuff in mind that they want to now stack up to try to pass this way?
And if you're a top economist sitting in the White House right now, what does this mean for you? President Biden's top economist joins us live here next. Stay with us.
We crunched the numbers, we find that five point five percent of the two trillion dollar, five point six of the two trillion dollar proposal is only dedicated to roads and bridges. Why is that?
Well, we're talking about roads and bridges. We're talking about rail and transit. We're talking about airports and ports. As you mentioned, we're talking about things like the grid. I don't know why anybody would say it's a mistake to invest in the grid after what we just witnessed in Texas. We saw US citizens living in Texas melting snow in their bathtubs to be able to flush their toilets in the United States of America. That is unacceptable. So, yes, infrastructure includes energy infrastructure.
Fact of the matter is that the situation where you have a hundred thousand school. Placing all those prices in. Talking about making sure that the got pesticides for. Talking about making sure. Where we can reduce some of the federal buildings that are just absolutely. President Biden speaking today, Transportation Secretary Bill Richardson speaking this weekend as the administration starts to make its case all over the country to pass a big infrastructure bill. Now, the Republican Senate leader already says there will be no Republican votes for it no matter what is in it, which is nice for him to let us know that at the outset.
As I mentioned before the break, we just got news tonight that the Senate parliamentarian is going to allow Democrats to pass more bills this year with just a simple majority in the Senate that Republicans wouldn't be able to filibuster. Does that at all change the scope of this administration's ambition around big ticket items like infrastructure? Will it change their pitch to the public? Joining us now is Cecilia Rouse. She's chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisers. Dr. Ross, it's a real pleasure, a real honor to have this time with you tonight.
Thank you for making time to be here. Oh, it's my pleasure. Thank you for having me. So I noted in the introduction there that Senator McConnell has already said pretty bluntly that there won't be any Republican votes for the infrastructure bill, and he wasn't talking about something specific in it that he doesn't like when he made that case. He seems to be saying full stop. No matter what case is made for it, there aren't going to be any Republican votes.
I wonder if you and the other people working on this in practical terms in the White House have to factor that in when you try to make the case to the public for doing something big like this.
Well, look, President Biden has been laser focused on two on accomplishing two things in his presidency. One is getting us through this pandemic and the ensuing economic crisis. We've been through a once in a century pandemic which brought the economy to its knees, brought untold suffering to the American people to recognize that even before the pandemic, we had structural inequality. We had decades of increasing income inequality. We had decades where we were not investing in our infrastructure. This economy had real infrastructure investment needs.
So this is where Build Back Better came into play. So he has been focused on these really important economic investments from the very beginning.
So, you know, he would like to be able to pass and accomplish these goals in a bipartisan fashion. But what's most important for him is that we actually make these investments in our economy and that we make the we make the the US the competitive country it should be, and to ensure we're prepared for the twenty first century.
One of the issues that is having a lot of political debate around it already is the way that President Biden has proposed to pay for this, including by increasing the corporate tax rate from twenty one to twenty eight percent. It's interesting to me that that idea has actually made the proposal pull better than if you don't explain how to pay for it, which I think tells you the America, at least among the American public, there is some appetite for making corporations pay.
But it sort of feels to me like talking about any specific corporate tax rate is kind of grasping at phantoms a little bit because we keep seeing headlines, including this week, about how the biggest and most profitable corporations in the country, just year after year seem to pay nothing if not negative taxes. Feels like the biggest and most savvy corporations never get anywhere near paying that rate that we spend so much time debating. Well, that's exactly right, what President Biden is trying to do here is to make really important investments in our in our economy, in our workforce, to make the US more competitive.
But we understand we have to do that in a fiscally responsible way. We know that corporate tax revenue as a share of our revenue base has been declining over time. And he really believes that corporations should pay their fair share. After all, they benefit from many of the public goods, which we will be generating as a result of these investments. And it's absolutely outrageous that the proposal to increase the corporate tax rate from twenty one percent to twenty eight percent, which really is lower than it's been since World War Two, it's only been in the last, what, three, four years since the Tax Cut and Jobs Act in twenty seventeen, that the corporate tax rate was so very low and yet the US economy was doing just fine.
So President Biden is simply asking that corporations pay their fair share so that we can have a prosperous economy for everybody that's widely shared among everybody here in the US. I think that when it comes to the idea of infrastructure, even though it's a long, hard to pronounce word, everybody's everybody's left, right and center on board with the idea of spending American taxpayer dollars to improve bridges and roads and ports and airports and all of these things that we think of as traditional, literally concrete infrastructure.
But there's other things in this proposal that Republicans in particular have derided as having nothing to do with infrastructure they've said they wanted. They want it all stripped out of the bill. What is the argument for how, for instance, the money that's proposed to provide care for the elderly and disabled that's in this bill, how does that lead to jobs? How is that part of infrastructure as it's conceived for this bill? Well, look, I like to think of care as well for what for centuries when women were providing most of the care in the home and the man this is just traditional stereotypical was working outside of the home.
There was kind of shadow infrastructure being provided by that woman. She was taking care of the children. She was taking care of their elders. Now, women, many women would like to work outside of the home, but somebody still needs to take care of the children, needs to take care of the elders. When we think about our population in particular, over the next, what, 10 years, we know that a growing proportion of the workforce will be retiring.
We'll be reaching retirement age in the next decade or so. The fraction of our population that is over the age of eighty five will increase by a third and we need to be taking care of our elders. So A, someone needs to be taking care of them for women to be able to work disproportionately women. But B, we're actually proposing to be that there are jobs that will be created and taking care of people who deserve to be taken care of with dignity in their elder years.
So it's it's part of infrastructure because we need these kinds of jobs, this kind of care to enable disproportionately women to actually go to work, just like I need the road outside of my house in order to get to my job, I need to know that the electricity is going to turn on in order to to do my job. I need increasingly broadband in order to do my job or, by the way, for my kids to go to school.
So all of these are infrastructure to help us do the kinds of economic activity that we need to do to to ensure that our economy is healthy and moving forward. Cecilia Rose, the chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, again, it is a real honor to have you here. Thank you so much for your time tonight. I have a feeling that the politics on this bill and on this issue are going to get crazier and crazier over the next few weeks as it's debated.
We'd love to have you back. Thank you very much. It's been a pleasure. All right. All right, coming up next, we're going to be speaking with The New York Times reporter who broke a huge story in politics this weekend about the former president running a straight up 100 million dollar plus grift on his supporters in the last weeks that he was in office, last weeks that he was in office, a previously unreported story. We've got the guy who broke that news coming up with us right after this.
Stay with us. Here's how it starts, quote, Stacey Blat was in hospice care last September listening to Rush Limbaugh's dire warnings about how badly Donald Trump's campaign needed money when he went online and chipped in everything he could. Five hundred dollars. It was a big sum for a sixty three year old battling cancer and living in Kansas City on less than a thousand dollars per month. But that single five hundred dollar contribution, federal records show it was his first ever.
It quickly multiplied, quote, Another five hundred dollars was withdrawn the next day, then five hundred dollars the next week and every week through mid-October without his knowledge until Stacey blats. Bank account had been depleted and frozen when his utility and rent payments bounced. He called his brother Russell for help with the blats soon discovered was three thousand dollars in withdrawals by the Trump campaign. In less than 30 days, they called their bank and said they thought they were the victims of fraud, Russell said.
It felt like it was a scam. It was it was a scam perpetrated by the then president of the United States on his most ardent followers to the tune of many, many, many millions of dollars. As Shane Goldmacher lays out in an absolutely gob smacking investigation in The New York Times, the Trump campaign last year started putting little checkboxes on its online donation portal checkboxes that were already pre checked when he went to make a donation. First, it was a box that locked you into repeating your donation every month.
Then it changed into a repeated donation every week that there was a second check box with which the campaign internally called its money bomb, which locked you into an extra donation on some random day of the campaigns. Choosing to be clear, if you didn't want the Trump campaign to keep reaching into your bank account or your credit card over and over again, you would have to see all of those boxes, read them, understand them and deliberately uncheck them. If you just let them be, they would keep coming for more money from you without ever notifying you.
The campaign kept finding new and inventive ways to hide even that fine print beneath lots of ridiculous boldface randomly all caps, nonsense verbiage that begged you basically to not read to the end. Shane Goldmacher writes that, quote, The tactic ensnared scores of unsuspecting Trump loyalists, retirees, military veterans, nurses, even experienced political operatives. Soon, banks and credit card companies were inundated with fraud complaints from the president's own supporters about donations they had not intended to make, sometimes for thousands of dollars.
And all big campaigns do end up refunding some amount of money to donors because of mistakes or because some folks give more than they intended, or they accidentally give more than the legal maximum. And they have to it has to be made square. But the Trump campaign was in a different stratosphere. They had to refund over one hundred and twenty million dollars to their online donors. For reference, the corresponding event for the Biden campaign was twenty one million dollars.
And amazingly, Trump paid for those refunds with money he raised from his donors in his next scam, soliciting donations after the election, supposedly to fight election fraud or stop the steal or whatever. For what it's worth, this New York Times story upset Mr. Trump enough to elicit one of his weird, misspelled statements from Mar a Lago. Former president says the Times story is all wrong and also that he was the real winner of the November election. By the way, the Trump campaign may be over, but the for profit company they put in charge of all their online donations to the point that they had to refund over one hundred and twenty million dollars, that company is still going quite strong in Republican politics.
One member of the Republican National Committee is raising the alarm about this company, which is called Win Red, and what it's doing in his state in Minnesota. According to the Huffington Post, this RNC official in Minnesota has written to state party officials, state Republican Party officials, complaining that all of all the money raised online by the Minnesota Republican Party in the last year and a half, over half of it has gone straight to this company for something called Winfried credit card processing fees.
Most of the money they have raised online in the past year and a half, year and a half has gone to that company to keep. I mean, this can't go on indefinitely, right? I mean, the Republican Party can't just be an assemblage of various players who are all constantly scamming each other and running fraud schemes on each other. Right. I mean, this does have to I don't know. The New York Times reporter who broke this amazing story joins us live next.
Stay with us. A rush to the end here and tell you, I don't know how long it's going to take for this to become a big class action, civil lawsuit or potentially even a criminal fraud investigation. But the story fairly begs for both or either of those. Shane Goldmacher of The New York Times breaking the news this weekend of how the Trump campaign ran an over one hundred million dollar scam on its own supporters around the election last year, basically duping their donors into repeated payments they never intended to make, which resulted in thousands of fraud claims by those Trump supporters trying to figure out where all their money went.
Joining us now is New York Times national political reporter Shane Goldmacher. Mr. Goldmacher, thank you so much for making time tonight. It's nice to have you here. Thanks for having me on.
I feel like one of the things that was helpful for me to understand in your reporting was that this was something more than just a quantitatively bigger problem than you'd see on other campaigns. Lots of campaigns have to refund money to donors for various reasons. This seems like it wasn't just a larger amount of money, but it was almost a qualitatively different approach that they were taking toward trying to relieve their donors of money that their donors didn't actually intend to give. Is that fair?
I mean, you can really just look at the refund data and it tells this whole story at the beginning of twenty twenty before they started deploying these boxes and before they made them weekly, before they added a second check box and before they obscured the language in those boxes. The refund rate that the Trump campaign and the Biden campaign had in the first five months of the year was almost the same. In fact, the Biden campaign at a slightly higher refund rate.
But from the moment these boxes began with two of them and then became increasingly complex, the Trump refund rate went up and up from two percent in those first six months of the year to a total of ten point seven percent over the course of the entire campaign, which was 12 percent in the last half of last year. That is to say, at the end of the day, one out of every ten dollars that people donate to Donald Trump online and up, getting refunded back to donors.
Now, not all of those are are fraud fraud claims that people called and said the credit card, this is a scam, but a good chunk of it is. When I went to the Trump campaign and told them the findings, they basically said, look, we had less than one percent of our donors formally complained to their credit card that they had been scammed. That's still a very large number, because when Red and the Trump campaign and generally tried to get people back their money if they asked for it.
So these are people who went to the father step to call their credit card, canceled their card and say, hey, I've been a victim of something here at best in their accounting. Close to two hundred thousand transactions were subject to that at credit card companies. And I talked to numerous officials at these banks who said there was a surge of fraud complaints around the election and shortly after. When they had to refund this money, did they refund it with interest because they have the money and we're able to use it for campaign purposes before they refunded it, if they ended up refunding it without interest, were they, in effect taking interest free loans from their donors?
I have not heard of anyone who got their money back with interest and more than just an interest free loan from their supporters, this was money to the Trump campaign when it needed it. As you covered and as you recall, in October, the Trump campaign entered those final weeks of the election with far more television ads reserve than they had money in the bank. So by collecting these recurring donations before the election and in many cases refunding them after the election, that's when donors noticed their credit card bill had six charges from the previous month that they were often unaware they had made they had the money when they need it.
And Trump continued to raise tens of millions of dollars after the election when he was talking to supporters and saying, you have to stop this deal. I really won and you need to give me your money so I can fight this in the courts. The reality is more of the money he raised after the election went towards paying for these refunds than it went toward legal bills. Stunning, absolutely stunning New York Times national political reporter Shane Goldmacher, this is an incredible story.
Thank you for helping us understand it. Thanks for having me on. We'll be right back. That is going to do it for us tonight. It's been good to have you here. I'll see you again tomorrow night. Is this still a normal day at the office? What does that mean exactly? You think that's what he's trying to do? Why are we learning this now? Is that weird? Why is this happening? Why is that? Why is that?
Why is that. Buckle up. Stay with us.