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The midterm elections will show if Trump is still a 'kingmaker'

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. The midterm elections in November will determine which party controls Congress, so there's a lot at stake. The primaries will also test how much power Donald Trump holds within the Republican Party and whether the party's new litmus test is endorsing the lie that Trump won in 2020. My guest, Shane Goldmacher, a national political correspondent for The New York Times, has been writing about Trump's attempts to be a kingmaker in the party. He's been endorsing a lot of candidates to show the power he has to reward or punish, but some of his endorsements have been backfiring. Goldmacher has also been investigating new secret coalitions of wealthy Republicans trying to wield power outside traditional party machinery. Trump is implying he wants to run again in 2024, but he hasn't yet announced. Goldmacher has been reporting on accusations that Trump is now violating campaign finance law by fundraising for his political endeavors without having announced his run. He's also continuing to find new, previously unheard of ways of cashing in on his status as a former president. Shane Goldmacher, welcome to FRESH AIR.

SHANE GOLDMACHER: Thanks for having me on.

GROSS: You write that Trump wants to be a Republican kingmaker. He's endorsed more than a hundred and twenty candidates to elevate his allies, punish those who've crossed him and turn the lie that the election was stolen into a litmus test for the party. How's this track record so far? If you look at the range of his candidates, how is he doing?

GOLDMACHER: We're about to find out, is the short answer. You know, he's endorsed all these candidates. There's only been one primary so far in 2022, and it was in Texas. And all the candidates that he supported won. But Texas wasn't really a test. In that state, and in some others, he endorsed people who were widely expected to win anyway. His track record historically has been really strong. I mean, this is something that Trump himself has obsessed over, publicly and privately. He keeps track of his endorsement track record. He sees it as a clear barometer of his strength in the party. And he's only had a couple of defeats, and they've been prominent ones. And so he's extended himself pretty broadly ahead of 2022.

I would circle the month of May to tell us whether that track record's going to stay the same this year because in May, you have a series of races that are going to test Trump's sway in the party. Some of them are really well-known and prominent. The biggest one is the governor's race in Georgia, where since the Republican governor certified the 2020 election - Brian Kemp - Trump has been after him. He has personally recruited a challenger and has made it a top priority to try to defeat him. That's one race in May. But you have a series of others - the Pennsylvania Senate race where he just endorsed, the North Carolina Senate race where Trump just endorsed, even the Idaho governor's race where Trump is backing a Republican challenger to the incumbent governor and a House race in West Virginia. There's a whole series of races where we'll have a better sense of Trump's standing in the Republican Party. We know he's personally popular - almost every poll shows it - but can he defeat candidates who he disagrees with even if he's not the one on the ballot? That's the real question.

GROSS: Pennsylvania's an interesting race, which I just want to refer to briefly here, because Trump decided to endorse Dr. Mehmet Oz, who is a famous TV personality. Before he had his own show on TV, he was a regular on Oprah's show. So you've got one reality TV guy endorsing another TV guy (laughter). So it's interesting in that respect. And, you know, I live in Philadelphia, so their ad campaigns have been a little crazy. Have you been seeing their ads?

GOLDMACHER: I mean, relentless. I think it's one of the most expensive races in the country and extremely negative - extremely negative ads, basically a bombardment of attacks on Dr. Oz for being a RINO - you know, many attacks on McCormick for his stances. And I think it's only going to intensify in the coming weeks.

GROSS: Who would you say is further to the right between McCormick and Oz?

GOLDMACHER: You know, it's hard to say who's further to the right. You know, neither of them fit the sort of mold of a current Trump Republican. You know, Oz was a television personality. He came about through "The Oprah Winfrey Show." This is something that the McCormick campaign and his allies have hammered Oz for.

GROSS: Yeah, they call him a Hollywood liberal.

GOLDMACHER: A Hollywood liberal. And there's pictures of him kissing the Hollywood star. And the word RINO is tossed about almost every hour on television in Pennsylvania.

GROSS: The Hollywood star on the Walk of Fame. On the...

GOLDMACHER: Yes, the Hollywood star on the Walk of Fame. There's an image of him reaching down and kissing it, which is the close and open to quite a number of television ads this cycle. You know, so you have Oz on one end, and then you have McCormick on the other, who is a - you know, the CEO or was the CEO of one of the largest hedge funds in the world and, you know, an administration veteran of the Bush administration - very much sort of a traditionalist Republican makeup - you know, Connecticut and, you know, Army veteran and worked for the Bush administration. And he's recast himself in this contest as a MAGA Trump Republican, and so has Oz. And they both lobbied pretty aggressively for Trump's endorsements. They took multiple trips down there. Each of them have met with Trump more than one time. And McCormick met with Trump just before he formally endorsed Oz.

It shows you Trump's power in this party that these two candidates - one a celebrity like Dr. Oz, who has his own name and reputation, and McCormick, you know, a prominent business leader who has his own political history, as working in the Bush administration - have run so heavily as Trump Republicans and so heavily sought his endorsement. It really tells you everything you need to know about the state of the Republican Party in 2022, that in a swing state, in an important key state and one of the most important battlegrounds at the presidential level in the country, the best way to try to become the Republican nominee this year is by becoming as close as you can to Donald Trump.

GROSS: Let's talk about Alabama and Congressman Mo Brooks. To refresh everybody's memory, he was a big supporter of the falsehood that Trump actually won the election. He spoke at the January 6 rally. He voted against certifying the election. Trump endorsed him and then withdrew the endorsement, and that really backfired on Trump. Can you talk about that a little bit?

GOLDMACHER: So one of Trump's early endorsements in this cycle was of Mo Brooks, who, as you just said, was a leader in the efforts to block the certification of the 2020 election. And his alliance with Trump and his role in that were absolutely central to his Senate race. On Mo Brooks's website today, the central image when you go there is of him speaking at that January 6 rally. And until Trump rescinded his endorsement, the logo that he used said endorsed by Trump. He incorporated Trump's name in his own Senate logo. And Brooks was an ally of Trump. He was one of the originators of this idea that somehow Congress could block the electors being certified. And this was something that Trump was obviously very enamored with back at the end of his administration, when it was clear he had lost the White House and didn't want to have lost the White House.

And so in some ways, he was a natural fit for Trump to support for Senate. But in other ways, it was a surprise because Mo Brooks was not known as a powerhouse fundraiser or necessarily a particularly strong statewide candidate in Alabama. And that's sort of what happened. So in the intervening months, two other candidates - prominent candidates - got into the race and passed Mo Brooks in the polls. Now, neither of those candidates were particularly Trumpian by heritage. You know, one of them was the chief of staff to the sitting senator who's leaving, Richard Shelby, you know, who's sort of a classic Republican, you know, of the old school. And yet Trump, watching his endorsements, knowing that his power is being measured by how successful his candidates he supports are, recently withdrew his endorsement of Brooks altogether.

And the reasons he gave - he said basically that Brooks went squishy on this election lie; that he said at one point at a rally, which is true, that voters should move on because Brooks did say that voters should move on. But Brooks has still said that the election was stolen, and he's still about as pro-Trump as you can be. That's the reason Trump gave. But sort of the real reason seems to be that Brooks has been struggling in this race, and Trump has been complaining privately for months about Brooks' struggles and saying, I endorse this guy and why isn't he winning yet? And so he's sort of, like, cutting his losses early, saying he's going to lose this race, I don't want to be taken down with him.

GROSS: Meanwhile, after Trump rescinded his endorsement of Mo Brooks, Mo Brooks spoke out against Trump. Refresh our memory about what Mo Brooks had to say about Trump.

GOLDMACHER: Yeah. So the same day that Trump rescinded his endorsement of Mo Brooks, Brooks went public and said that Trump had asked him to sort of pursue some way to rescind the 2020 election result and reinstall Trump into power. This is something that, you know, Trump has denied saying specifically, although he has floated this idea publicly of somehow he could come back into power.

But what's interesting is the idea that Trump was somehow asking an ally in Congress to - even after he was out of office, even after Biden has been sworn in, even after months in the White House, to somehow reverse the election. And you hear Trump say these ideas publicly. He talks about, you know, the election was stolen and if you stole something from Tiffany's and you were caught with the jewels, well, you'd have to give it back, which I kind of love as a frame of reference for what Trump thinks of as things that are getting stolen, you know. And so somehow for him, an election that wasn't stolen is akin to jewels taken from Tiffany's, and it should be rightfully returned to him. And so Mo Brooks basically said that Trump had asked him to pursue ways to do this and that he said that was unconstitutional and he wouldn't do it. You know, part of this is sort of a feud between these two people who, you know, obviously were disappointed to have lost the endorsement that had been so central to the Brooks campaign.

If I can, I do want to give you one extra little thing that has happened since Trump rescinded that endorsement, which is back to that litmus test question of was the 2020 election stolen? And so one of those two candidates who's running, Mike Durant, had basically dodged that question. He wouldn't give a complete answer. You know, you say some things - it wasn't decided, but he wouldn't say that Biden was wrongfully the president. So it was on March 23 that Trump rescinded the Brooks endorsement. And two days later, on March 25, there's Mike Durant for the first time flipping his stance and saying, quote, "I don't think Joe Biden won."

GROSS: You know, so we've been talking about how the Republican congressman from Alabama, Mo Brooks, says that Trump asked him to say that Biden lost the election and to try to call for a new special election that would help reinstall Trump in the White House. So that's a quid pro quo. And Brooks isn't the only candidate who's said that Trump basically wants something in return for an endorsement. What else have you heard about what candidates say Trump has wanted in return?

GOLDMACHER: I mean, I think that the No. 1 thing he wants is loyalty and the promise to amplify the mistruth that the 2020 election was stolen. There's been a lot of specific things that he's sort of pushed for. One of the ones that struck me was in the Alaska governor's race where he issued what I can only call a conditional endorsement of the sitting Republican governor. And his endorsement was conditional on the governor not supporting the sitting senator from Alaska, Lisa Murkowski, because Murkowski had supported his removal from office for impeachment for his role in the Capitol riot.

And so so much of what Trump is demanding of Republicans comes back to, first, buying his lie about the 2020 election and, second, sort of cleansing the party of the people who are critical of him in the aftermath of the election and the riot on January 6. I don't know that it's a specific quid pro quo in a lot of instances. What it is, is Trump saying the only way you can be a Trump Republican, which is the dominant share of the Republican Party today, is to echo what he says about the 2020 election.

GROSS: Let me reintroduce you here. If you're just joining us, my guest is New York Times national political correspondent Shane Goldmacher. We'll be right back after a short break. This is FRESH AIR.

(SOUNDBITE OF AMY RIGBY'S "PLAYING PITTSBURGH")

GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. Let's get back to my interview with Shane Goldmacher, a national political correspondent for The New York Times. He's been writing about the midterms and what they're revealing about divisions within the Republican Party, new dark money groups trying to wield power, Trump's attempts to prove he's a Republican kingmaker, and the ways Trump continues to cash in on his post-presidency, as well as his possible run in 2024.

When Trump endorses a candidate, what does that candidate typically get? Is it easier to attract money with Trump's endorsement?

GOLDMACHER: I mean, this is the fascinating thing, which is it's not so clear exactly what they get. They get a statement from Donald Trump and sort of do with it what you will. For all the energy and effort that goes into winning his endorsement - and there are people flying down to Mar-a-Lago for meetings; there are even candidates showing up at Mar-a-Lago at fundraisers for others to sort of wave their hands and shout at Trump and get a picture with him. But if you win his endorsement, you basically get a paper statement that he says, you have a complete and total endorsement from Donald Trump. He sends them a $5,000 check in most cases from his PAC, which again is sitting on $120 million. So this is a pittance of a financial contribution. But what you get is his imprimatur. What you get is the ability to, as Dr. Oz did days after Trump endorsed him, put up a television ad saying, I'm the Trump candidate, and I have Trump's endorsement. You know, some candidates get a rally in their state, which is extremely valuable. You get thousands of people in one place. You get national media attention and local media attention. You know, Trump continues to be an earned media magnet. He makes more news than most politicians. And when he comes to town, he brings all of the cameras.

But again, he's endorsed - now I think the number is 130 candidates across the country. And for most of them, they just get a statement from him. And, you know, you got to raise your own money to advance it. And there are many people around Trump who think, you know, he's probably overextended himself in this primary season. Why endorse in some of these races where you're looking at three pro-Trump candidates, when whoever wins is going to be a Trump-y person? You didn't need to put your own name on the line and risk a loss, especially since you're not going to really do that much for the person you endorse.

GROSS: I think you say that the candidates who Trump endorses can hold events at Mar-a-Lago, or at least some of them do that. But those are probably really costly events, no?

GOLDMACHER: These are costly events. So he has turned Mar-a-Lago into a fundraising hot spot for other candidates. And look; there is an entire Republican donor set in Palm Beach that likes to engage in politics. But what Trump has done is said, OK, you're a pro-Trump candidate, you know, running against one of the people who voted to impeach him. You get my endorsement, and you get to come to Mar-a-Lago and do a fundraiser. But by the way, you have to pay for Mar-a-Lago. It's not free. You have to pay for the food and the catering and the like. And this is not small amounts of money. You know, we will get new reports on how much has been spent just in the coming days, but last year alone, just payments to Mar-a-Lago, let alone other Trump properties, I think we're on the order of $650,000 for various candidates.

Now, some went and held an event there even before Trump had endorsed them because, look; one of the best ways to get in front of Donald Trump, you do an event at his property, and he's likelier to swing by. Or maybe you get a private meeting with him afterwards or beforehand. You know, the role that Mar-a-Lago is playing in the Republican Party right now as a place that people are being drawn to is totally fascinating and really unlike anything I can recall seeing in American politics.

GROSS: You write that some of Trump's own advisers have warned him that he's making some risky endorsements and that his endorsements, instead of proving he's a kingmaker, might backfire on him.

GOLDMACHER: Absolutely. This is a real concern. Why endorse in some of these races where there are multiple candidates who are pro-Trump? And I do think that it's worth noting, regardless of how Trump does personally with his endorsement picks, the way that the 2022 primaries are unfolding, Trumpism, the sort of movement that he's led, is definitely winning. There's extremely few races where people are openly breaking with his approach to government, who don't want to build Trump's wall, who don't want to do all the things that he said he wants to do, who aren't running sort of these grievance campaigns. His brand of the Republican Party is the new brand of the Republican Party, and his own personal power may get diminished in this primary process in certain races, but his approach to politics very much feels like it's already being validated.

GROSS: So you said that you think Trumpism is winning out in the Republican Party. What does Trumpism mean today aside from supporting Trump?

GOLDMACHER: I think it's not a specific policy agenda so much as an attitude and an approach to politics that is culture based and grievance based and trying to do things like build the wall and, you know, focus on these sort of, you know, transgender rights fights. And you look at the person who has most risen in the post-Trump White House era in the Republican Party, you know, it's Ron DeSantis, the governor of Florida, who has picked the same kind of fights that Trump did. It's having the right enemies. It's fighting with the media. It's attacking Anthony Fauci. It's, you know, signing bills that make liberals angry. There's an us-against-them attitude among, chiefly, white voters that Trump had tapped into that isn't going away, that remains the dominant strain of the Republican Party, both the media apparatus that supports the party and the leading party officials themselves.

GROSS: Let me reintroduce you again. If you're just joining us, my guest is New York Times national political correspondent Shane Goldmacher. We'll be right back after a short break. I'm Terry Gross, and this is FRESH AIR.

(SOUNDBITE OF TAYLOR HASKINS' "ALBERTO BALSAM")

GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. Let's get back to my interview with Shane Goldmacher, national political correspondent for The New York Times. He's been writing about the midterms and what they're revealing about divisions within the Republican Party - new dark money groups trying to wield power, Trump's attempts to prove he's a Republican kingmaker and the ways Trump continues to cash in on his post-presidency as well as his possible run in 2024.

So we've been talking about how Trump wants to be the Republican Party's kingmaker. Does he have any rivals for kingmaker within the party?

GOLDMACHER: More than he used to. I think that there has been an increased willingness for Republicans to make their own waves and their own separation from him. You know, you have his former vice president, Mike Pence, who's been out there making some speeches, who has broken with Trump on a couple of notable issues after years of basically standing by his side through everything. You have Ron DeSantis, the governor of Florida, who has not sort of ruled out running whether Trump runs or not and who has been second in most of this sort of way-too-early polls of the 2024 field.

You've got Chris Christie, a former ally and adviser, the New Jersey governor - the former New Jersey governor who recently was in New Hampshire and gave a speech very critical of Trump and talked about his efforts to reach Trump on January 6 and the unacceptable behavior that day. You've got Mike Pompeo, his former secretary of state, who's been traveling in Iowa. You've got Senator Tom Cotton, who recently gave a speech and was critical of Trump on a specific issue of crime on a bill that he had signed that Trump had sort of touted that he called the worst mistake of the Trump presidency.

These kind of breaks with Trump weren't happening when he was in the White House. And, you know, I think each person who does it pushes a little farther and sees those Trump comments snap back at them. Is there an audience for maybe not an anti-Trump but a non-Trump? There are people sort of more clearly in the anti-Trump lane. The governor of Maryland, Larry Hogan, has been a Trump critic who sort of created a group in laying the groundwork for a potential presidential run as an anti-Trump Republican.

So, yeah, there's definitely some challengers to a potential 2024 campaign of Donald Trump. That said, there isn't a poll that doesn't show Trump as the most popular Republican in the party still. And a lot of these are people just, you know, dipping their toes in the water and seeing how far the ripples go.

GROSS: I'd love to know if you can tell us anything about what the leaders of the Republican Party in Congress really think about Trump and what they say behind the scenes compared to what they say in public. And I'm thinking here of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and also of Kevin McCarthy in the House. Like, where do they really stand on Trump? Do you know?

GOLDMACHER: I think Mitch McConnell's been pretty clear where he stands on Trump. You know, he spoke extremely forcefully after January 6 about how unacceptable the behavior was.

GROSS: And then he voted to keep him in office.

GOLDMACHER: Exactly. And then at the same time, he voted to keep him in office. And he said that if Trump's the nominee again in 2024, he would support him. There was a recently a terrific interview that Jonathan Swan of Axios did with McConnell in person on stage. And he asked him about, you know, do you have any moral red lines that you won't cross? And McConnell really just didn't want to answer that question. And it's clear that, you know, for so many of these Republicans, it's party first.

You know, there are people who write these tell-all books that are anti-Trump. You know, Bill Barr, his former attorney general, wrote a very critical book of the former president and then afterwards went on television and said, well, if he's the nominee again in 2024, of course I would support the Republican nominee. Even though he had described Trump as basically just short of a threat to democracy, he would still support him again. And I think that there's a lot of, you know, private disagreement and, in some cases like Bill Barr and McConnell, public disagreement but an unwillingness to break from somebody who controls such a big part of the loyalty of the Republican base.

I don't know about you or your listeners, but I sign up for as many fundraising email lists as possible. It's part of my job to track who's raising money from whom. And the volume of emails from the Senate Republican Committee and the Republican National Committee and the House Republican Committee that invoke Donald Trump's name and at times even masquerade as if they appear like they're coming from Trump is overwhelming. The way to raise money from people today is by invoking Trump among Republicans and, frankly, sometimes among the Democrats who get outraged by Trump. But that tells you where they are.

So Mitch McConnell and Kevin McCarthy - they're going to struggle to come to any real breaks from Donald Trump because their supporters still love him. And, you know, you can make a strong argument that leaders should lead their supporters where they think they should go. But pretty often in Congress, leaders lead by going where they think the supporters are already going.

GROSS: Well, let me reintroduce you here. If you're just joining us, my guest is New York Times national political correspondent Shane Goldmacher. We'll be right back. This is FRESH AIR.

(SOUNDBITE OF HOWARD FISHMAN SONG, "DIRTY")

GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. Let's get back to my interview with Shane Goldmacher, national political correspondent for The New York Times.

So you've been writing about ways that Trump is cashing in on his post-presidency. What are some of the ways he's doing that?

GOLDMACHER: Oh, let me just count the ways.

(LAUGHTER)

GOLDMACHER: You know, it's a long list - no, truthfully. I mean, one of the ones that's most interesting to me - and this is not the big money. The biggest money away is this SPAC, this effort to create a social media company called Truth Social that has lured in $1 billion of outside investments and has the potential to be a huge cash cow for Trump. It also has lots of signs of failure. This app that wants to compete with Twitter launched, you know, a month ago. And there were weeks of people being on wait lists. Trump himself has only sent one, quote-unquote, truth. Instead of a tweet, they call it truths. You know, there has not been a - you know, the download charts have been dropping and dropping. There's been a lot of signs of lack of success. But that's the big money.

But the little-money stuff is the stuff that really fascinates me. He's been doing everything from holding an event last December that looked like a political fundraiser, but in which the money went, in part, directly to him. He gave a speech, people came. There was, you know, a lectern, all that stuff. And instead of paying $10,000 to his political account, it just went to a entity that was paying him directly. He's published a coffee table book, a $75 coffee table book self-published through a new company that his son has co-founded with another former aide, selling it directly to his supporters. And, you know, my colleagues have since reported that there was actually a different photo book that had been planned by his White House photographer, that he basically front ran that book and got his own book out because photographs of the White House are public domain from the White House photographer. They're put on the Flickr page. And they're public documents.

So there's just a number of ways in which he is, you know, tapping almost this direct-to-consumer base and continuing to bring in money in his post-presidency. Trump Tower remodeled the bar in the lobby, you know? I've been down there, you know? It looks very sort of, you know, what you would imagine, presidential. You've got, you know, mahogany and dark leather and very expensive drinks and, you know, big, big pictures of him as president and some memorabilia there, you know? It's been rebranded the 45 Wine & Whiskey Bar. So there's just a lot of different small things he's doing, as ever the businessman, ever looking for ways to squeeze an extra dollar out of his supporters in his post-presidency, that really just hasn't been done before.

GROSS: He's been marketing messages to people on his 2020 campaign email list in order to sell MAGA merchandise. Is that legal?

GOLDMACHER: Yeah. This is another thing. His Trump store - so it's, like - I don't remember the exact URL. But he has his own private store that he launched while he was in the White House. And, you know, they sell, like, trinkets and Trump things. It's not technically political stuff. Although, they have begun selling those sort of signature red caps. And, yeah, so what they've done is the Trump store has, through intermediaries, rented portions of his campaign supporter list, because who's likeliest to buy overpriced Mar-a-Lago Christmas ornaments or, you know, Trump gold whatever, you know? It's probably the people who signed up for his political email list. And, you know, it's a private business renting out this thing. And then that money in turn raises money for his political operation. It's not illegal. It is definitely unusual.

GROSS: So while we're talking about Trump and money, Trump's 2020 campaign led to millions of dollars that actually had to be refunded to Trump donors. There were complaints of fraud. Can you explain those complaints?

GOLDMACHER: Yeah. This is a story that I wrote last spring. And it's pretty fascinating. If you've ever donated money to a political campaign, you know, there's often a box that says, would you like to make this a monthly recurring political donation? And you check the box. And it's just clearly labeled. What the Trump campaign did is earlier in the year, they began pre-checking the box. And so people automatically were making those donations monthly if you didn't notice that it was pre-checked.

GROSS: So let me stop you. So in order to not make monthly donations, you had to notice that there was a pre-checked box saying you were making monthly donations. And you had to uncheck that box. You had to take action (laughter) if you didn't want to make monthly donations?

GOLDMACHER: Exactly. That's what they did earlier in the campaign. And then they made the box more complicated. They added a second box to take out a bonus donation a few days later. And they added all kinds of extraneous text in each of these boxes. And so by the end of the race, the disclosure that this box that was pre-checked would withdraw a monthly donation was buried beneath seven lines of other text that had nothing to do with the fact that it was going to take this money out every month, and seven lines of text saying there's going to be a second donation. So if you sign up to give $25, you gave that day, they took out another $25 a few days later. And then it took out $25 every month.

And then this is what they did at the end of the race which caused such a spike in refund requests. They didn't take the money out every month, they started taking it out every week. And so while somebody might miss that their donation happened a second time the next month or they take a couple of months on their credit card to miss, you don't usually miss that suddenly, your credit card has four contributions in a single month when you intended to only make one. And so what happened in the reporting that I did was that there was a huge surge of complaints to credit card companies of fraud, saying, this is wrong. I didn't sign up for these kinds of donations.

And you can track the spike pretty clearly through the Internet Archive to how this disclosure box changed at the end of the 2020 race, and how the boxes were pre-checked and then disguised and then made weekly. And at the end of the day, more than $130 million was refunded by the Trump operation with the party to donors in the course of the campaign. And this just dwarfed how much was refunded by the Biden operation, which is a small fraction of that. And percentage wise, it's more than 10%. So 10 cents of every dollar that was raised online in the 2020 campaign by Trump eventually was refunded to his supporters.

GROSS: Shane Goldmacher, thank you so much for coming on our show. And thanks for your reporting.

GOLDMACHER: Thanks for having me on.

GROSS: Shane Goldmacher is a national political correspondent for The New York Times. Our interview was recorded yesterday. After we take a short break, we'll listen back to my 1992 interview with comic Gilbert Gottfried. He died Tuesday at the age of 67. This is FRESH AIR.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSETTE EXPLOSION'S "DOUCE JOIE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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