Bill Maher grills Steve Schmidt on Lincoln Project's finances -- but not Weaver scandal
Independent journalist joins 'The Ingraham Angle' to discuss the downfall of the anti-Trump PAC
But Maher avoided asking Schmidt about the explosive John Weaver scandal that has rocked the group.
Schmidt was not confronted about whether he was aware of Weaver's alleged predatory behavior -- despite reports that the leadership of The Lincoln Project had been told about at least 10 allegations as early as June 2020, with Weaver's alleged victims including two Lincoln Project employees.
Maher also skipped over Schmidt's Lincoln Project title when he introduced him to the audience, referring to him as the "founder of SES Strategies and an MSNBC contributor."
But Maher did allude to The Lincoln Project's troubles during the show's panel discussion, telling Schmidt he knew that guest had "had a rough week."
Maher then confronted the former GOP operative on the subject of massive amounts of money that he claimed were "sloshing around in politics," pointing to criticism The Lincoln Project received from U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y.
Bill Maher, left, and Steve Schmidt. (HBO/Getty Images)
"You can say whatever you want here. I'm not here to prosecute you," Maher began. "AOC said 'The Lincoln Project,' that's your project that ran a lot of great ads -- liberals loved those ads. She said you were in 'scam territory.' I don't know, I like the ads."
Schmidt then touted The Lincoln Project's anti-Trump messages, claiming the group built "the most successful super PAC in American political history" and did "tremendous damage to Donald Trump."
But Maher tossed some cold water on Schmidt's boasts.
"If that's true, then why did he do six percentage points better with Republicans [in 2020] than he did in 2016?" Maher asked. "He got 94 percent of Republican votes and 88 percent the first time."
"Why did [Trump] do six percentage points better with Republicans [in 2020] than he did in 2016? He got 94 percent of Republican votes and 88 percent the first time."— Bill Maher
Schmidt sidestepped the question, insisting the group was "trying to win the election." He said he didn't "give a s---" how many Republicans voted for Trump but was more focused on "independent White men."
"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."
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.