Maher to Schmidt: "Where did the other money go?"

The Lincoln Project is imploding before our eyes and I’m here for it. It is one thing to be a Never Trump Republican or Independent voter voicing an opinion against Donald Trump. It is another thing to make a career move worth tens of millions of dollars with the help of Democrats and other Never Trumpers at the expense of Republican voters. The Lincoln Project members have been exposed for what they are now.

They are grifters. They built their brand on hatred of Donald Trump and the fact that they are no longer relevant in the Republican Party. Trump brought in a wave of new people onto the scene. For the first time since the days of George W. Bush, none of them were involved in Republican politics at the highest level. Some of them tried to be a part of Trump’s administration, like Kellyanne Conway’s husband. Others were just in it to make a quick dollar. Besides the ugliest story coming out of this group, John Weaver’s story, there is the developing story of Steve Schmidt. The more he is exposed, the uglier he gets.

It takes a certain ballsy behavior to announce on social media that you are resigning from the Lincoln Project and also pimp out an appearance on Bill Maher’s show later that night. That is what Schmidt did on Friday. He is actually trying to play on the sympathies of The Lincoln Project’s supporters (donors) to the very end. He says now he will take some time off to get himself healthy.

Schmidt tweeted that he stepped to make room for a female board member as a first step to reforming the group’s leadership. “It’s time to step back from the front – to get healthy mentally, physically and spiritually. I look forward to being on Real Time with Bill Maher tonight on HBO and then to taking some much needed time off.”

Steve Schmidt wasn’t Maher’s special guest. That distinction went to Rep. Adam Kinzinger. Kinzinger is the darling of the anti-Trumpers now that he has gone further than just be a reliable critic of Trump’s. He has formed a PAC, the Country First PAC, to save the party from Trump going forward. Schmidt praised Kinzinger’s efforts.
Schmidt, in an apparent reference to the coronavirus, accused Donald Trump of having the blood of “hundreds of thousands of Americans on his hands.” During this video clip from Maher’s show, Schmidt referred to the Republican Party as a “coalition of convenience of conservatives and fascists.”

Maher said that Republicans “don’t do epiphany.” He was talking about today’s vote in Trump’s impeachment trial in the Senate. He, like everyone else, knows that Trump will be acquitted.

But, pre-Senate vote, he tamped down hopeful Dems and anti-Trump conservatives crossing their fingers for a conviction after so much distressing footage of the Capitol assault shown during the trial, reminding them that Republicans “don’t do epiphany.” A conviction is considered extremely unlikely, requiring 17 Republicans to vote with 50 Democrats. “They never come around,” Maher said. “This is the problem with Democrats. Always hoping. It’s the Charlie Brown with the football thing.”

His special guest Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) may be an exception. The former U.S. Air Force pilot recently launched the Country First PAC to move the Republican Party away from Trump’s influence and was one of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach the former POTUS after the Jan. 6 insurrection.
“We need a Republican party that isn’t crazy,” Kinzinger said, acknowledging that it’s a herculean task. “I may not succeed. I am at peace with trying. Someone has got to do something.”

“If I could go back now, I would vote for Joe Biden in a heartbeat,” he said.

Kinzinger has his work cut out for him. Not only is his PAC’s name not very original but the latest polling shows that strong support of Trump remains among Republican voters.

Maher wasn’t bold enough to quiz Schmidt about Weaver. He didn’t even mention Schmidt’s involvement with The Lincoln Project when he introduced him. He did, though, lightly question him about the money the group took in and where it went. Schmidt brags about playing a part in Trump’s defeat and also destroying Pence’s political career and that of others.

“Look, at the end of the day, I’m proud of the fact that we destroyed Donald Trump’s and Mike Pence’s relationship and took Pence out of public life,” Schmidt said. “I’m proud that we decapitated his campaign manager from the campaign because of our ads. … Since the election, we’ve helped lead a boycott of Corporate America for those 147 seditionists.”

“When we look at the totality of what the Lincoln Project … did in this election, we accumulated billions of views — ”

“And dollars,” Maher chimed in.

“We have more followers online than the RNC did,” Schmidt said. “We built streaming services and podcast services — ”

“And all the money went toward where it should?” Maher asked.

“Out of $87 million that was raised by The Lincoln Project, about 63-to-66 million of that money went towards voter contact, into voter contact programs,” Schmidt responded. “Campaigns cost a lot of money. All of this stuff, every super PAC operates like this. And The Lincoln Project did it for a specific reason.”

“Where did the other money go?” Maher pressed the group co-founder.

“The law requires that you make disclosures, but you don’t have to disclose subtractor payments, which is how you protect your staff and all sorts of vendors from the harassment of the Trump people,” Schmidt responded. “We want to protect our people, infrastructure costs, but we spent 75, 80 percent of total money on voter contact.”

That’s his story and he’s sticking to it. I’ll be honest – I’m not the least bit moved by Schmidt’s last-minute move to portray himself as a victim of abuse or his mental health issues. It may all be true but the timing of it is highly suspect. While Schmidt goes about taking a break from the spotlight and getting himself healthier, he’ll be doing so in very comfortable surroundings, thanks to the generous contributions from Democrats and disgruntled Republican voters. He went where the money was, after all, when the gravy train from Republicans dried up. It was never about his political convictions, it was all about the money. You can see pictures of what look to be his boat and property at the top of his Twitter page.

Maher did take Schmidt to task for stealing material from him.

Later, as Schmidt bragged that The Lincoln Project was the “first” group that “drew blood” against Trump, Maher challenged the co-founder about one particular ad that he suggested was his idea.

“Well, actually Steve, you stole one of my bits almost beat for beat,” Maher said.

“Which one?” Schmidt asked.

“The ad about Trump being infirm and couldn’t put a sentence together,” Maher responded. “Look, I’m glad you did, but … ”

“I mean, it’s not the most original work — right? — making that … his infirmity?” Schmidt pushed back. “It’s a pretty obvious thing.”

“Steve, don’t make me show both of them,” an irritated Maher said before asking his producers on the set if they had the clips accessible to watch and compare. “We did this and then you did yours about a month later.”

Last year, The Lincoln Project was, in fact, called out for repeatedly plagiarizing the tweets of others who had lesser followings.

Good riddance to him and his ilk. We’ll see how long it lasts.