Former President Donald Trump on Monday attacked a New York Times story that reported his campaign was forced to pay back $122 million to donors who got roped into making recurring donations during critical weeks of his 2020 campaign.
He released the scathing statement as aide Stephen Miller showed off the first glimpse of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago office, where he could be planning a 2024 run for the White House.
It shows Trump grinning and leaning over the Rupert Murdoch-owned Wall Street Journal and sitting behind a large wooden desk that is somewhat smaller than the Resolute Desk he occupied in the Oval Office.
Surrounding him was a photo of Air Force One flying over DC, and of photo Marine One in front of Mt. Rushmore – a monument of which he once tweeted he wanted to be a part.
The desk also shows off his military challenge coins, which he brought from the Oval Office
All presidents since Bill Clinton have carried distinctly-designed challenge coins to present to foreign dignitaries and military personnel. President George W. Bush often gave them to injured troops returning from the Middle East; President Barack Obama made a tradition of passing them to service members stationed at the stairs of Air Force One.
The coins were initially used by military commanders, who gave pocket-size medallions to service members as a mark of camaraderie. A commander’s unique coin — often copper, bronze or nickel — carries symbols and mottos denoting the unit or office. Coins are usually circular, but also can be pentagons, spades or even dog tags to be worn around the neck.
Trump also had photos of his family, a Border Patrol plaque mounted on a section of his wall and carefully placed glass bottle behind his phone.
The former president, who is a known Diet Coke fan, called for a boycott of Coca Cola over the weekend because of their criticism of the Georgia voting rights bill.
Trump aide Stephen Miller revealed the first glimpse inside the former president’s Mar-a-Lago office
The photo revealed Trump’s military challenge coins that he had in the Oval Office and a photo of Air Force One flying over DC. A well-placed bottle was seen hidden behind his phone, just two days after he called for a boycott of Coca Cola for their criticism of Georgia’s voting laws
Trump’s side table featured a picture of his father (back left), him as a young man (back right), wife Melania (center) and son Barron, 15 (center, middle). To the left at the front appeared to be his mother, Mary, who died in 2000
Also seen on the desk are a pair of reading glasses and a smart phone, in a room that has some of the memorabilia Trump displayed in the Oval Office. One new piece that wasn’t there is a small statue of Trump himself.
Trump in August tweeted that it would be a ‘good idea’ to have his face on Mt. Rushmore, after a report that aides had contacted South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, a Trump loyalist, about having his face added to the monument.
Trump also has a photo of Marine One flying past Mt. Rushmore in the summer of 2020. He tweeted in August 2020 that he wanted to be added to the South Dakota monument
‘Never suggested it although, based on all of the many things accomplished during the first 3 1/2 years, perhaps more than any other Presidency, sounds like a good idea to me!’ he wrote.
The desk features an award to ’45’ – Trump is the 45th person to serve as president and uses the number as his official title rather than calling himself ‘former president’ – that appears to be from a border patrol group.
Former presidents receive a stipend as well as Secret Service protection, as well as funding for staff for an official office.
In his latest statement on the campaign refunds story, Trump repeated his claim there was ‘massive voter fraud’ and that he won the election – while trumpeting enthusiastic supporters whom he said ‘gave over and over’ to support his effort.
The former president acknowledged that some of his donors ended up on the hook for more than they realized, but said in those cases ‘we would promptly refund their contributions.’
He did not address elements of the story that calculated his campaign’s return rates were many multiples higher of what Joe Biden’s campaign gave back or than political norms, nor did he directly address parts of the story that said his campaign website was modified during the campaign to obscure boxes that required people to affirmatively check a box to avoid recurring donations.
‘Our support in 2020 was so big—never before seen (received more votes than any sitting President in history, by far), that it has become a major threat to the Democrat Party, which explains why the New York Times immediately rushed to defend their Radical Left allies,’ Trump said in a statement from his ‘Save America’ PAC.
Location, location: Trump at his old desk, the historic Resolute Desk that belongs to the government, in the Oval Office
View of Donald Trump’s office in Trump Tower, New York, New York, November 21, 2016. The photo was taken during a shoot, for a CNN book cover, which was Trump’s first formal portrait after winning the presidential election. The same chair is believed to have followed him to the Oval Office and his new setup at Mar-a-Lago
Donald Trump’s response to New York Times story on campaign refunds
‘In yet another highly partisan story, the failing New York Times wrote a completely misleading, one-sided attack piece this weekend that tried to disparage our record-setting grassroots fundraising operation during the 2020 campaign. Except for massive voter fraud, this was a campaign that was easily won by your favorite Republican President, me!
Our support in 2020 was so big—never before seen (received more votes than any sitting President in history, by far), that it has become a major threat to the Democrat Party, which explains why the New York Times immediately rushed to defend their Radical Left allies. Before our two campaigns, 2016 and 2020, Republicans would always lose small dollar donations. Now we win, or do very well, because we are the Party of Working Americans, and we beat the Democrats at their own game. We learned from liberal ActBlue—and now we’re better than they are! In fact, many people were so enthusiastic that they gave over and over, and in certain cases where they would give too much, we would promptly refund their contributions. Our overall dispute rate was less than 1% of total online donations, a very low number. This is done by Dems also.
The New York Times knew this but buried these details in their story—they didn’t talk about, however, how the CHEATING Democrats circumvented State Legislatures (approval is required by the U.S. Constitution) in Swing States to rig the 2020 Presidential Election, or how Democrats paid for votes in many Urban Centers, in a little thing called ‘walking around money,’ how Democrats threatened Union Members with the loss of their jobs if they didn’t vote Democrat, massive Fake Mail-In Ballots, illegal immigrants and dead people who voted (for Dems), and much more. Our fundraising efforts, working together with the Republican party, were all done legally, and all with the goal of ensuring that my Administration could continue to Make America Great Again. The Election on the other hand, was massively rigged and stolen—and now look what is happening to our Country, and in particular at our southern border.
If you are one of the record-setting 75 million Americans who voted for me, donated or volunteered, THANK YOU! The best is yet to come!’
‘Before our two campaigns, 2016 and 2020, Republicans would always lose small dollar donations. Now we win, or do very well, because we are the Party of Working Americans, and we beat the Democrats at their own game. We learned from liberal ActBlue—and now we’re better than they are!’ he wrote.
‘In fact, many people were so enthusiastic that they gave over and over, and in certain cases where they would give too much, we would promptly refund their contributions,’ Trump said. ‘Our overall dispute rate was less than 1% of total online donations, a very low number. This is done by Dems also,’ he said.
The Times reported that in the final two and a half months of the campaign, Trump and the Republican National Committee made 530,000 refunds worth $64 million, while Biden’s campaign and party committees made 37,000 refunds totaling $5.6 million – or more than 11 times the return rate.
Trump then raised a series of allegations against Democrats and accused the times of having ‘buried the details’ in its story.
He accused Democrats of ‘CHEATING’ in order to ‘rig the 2020 Presidential Election,’ and claimed without offering evidence that they ‘paid for votes in many Urban Centers, in a little thing called ‘walking around money.’
He then railed against ‘Fake Mail-In Ballots, illegal immigrants and dead people who voted (for Dems), some of the same charges he raised during his election overturn effort that was rejected by a series of federal courts.
‘Our fundraising efforts, working together with the Republican party, were all done legally, and all with the goal of ensuring that my Administration could continue to Make America Great Again. The Election on the other hand, was massively rigged and stolen—and now look what is happening to our Country, and in particular at our southern border,’ he said.
Trump has been forced to pay back $122 million to donors who were tricked into making recurring payments to his 2020 reelection campaign.
A New York Times investigation found Trump’s fundraising campaign employed deceptive fundraising tactics that saw thousands of his supporters unwittingly sign up to give repeat contributions, when they had only intended to make a one-off payment.
The ‘scam’, which involves pre-ticked boxes on fundraising emails often buried under lines of fine print, sparked thousands of complaints to banks and credit card companies.
Among the victims were elderly and military veterans, as well as some experienced political operatives, and many have been left with overdraft fees and busted credit card limits.
Complaints from donors prompted the Trump campaign to eventually reimburse $122 million in contributions.
One victim, Stacy Blatt, was battling cancer and living in a hospice in Kansas City when he donated $500 last September, the New York Times reported.
Blatt was charged another $500 the next day, and then $500 each week until October, and it was only after his rent and utility bills bounced that his family discovered what had happened.
‘It felt like it was a scam,’ his brother Russell, who helped Stacy get to the bottom of what had happened, told the Times.
Blatt died in February.
The Trump campaigns dubious pre-checked emails first appeared in March 2020.
A bright yellow box began appearing in emails with the words: ‘Make this a monthly recurring donation.’
Anyone making a donation would have to opt-out to avoid being charged repeatedly.
Three months later in June, a second pre-checked box was added to Trump campaign fundraising emails.
Known as a ‘money bomb’, the second box had a much greater degree of success in ensnaring unsuspecting donors to sign up, as most thought unticking one box would avoid any additional charges.
Then in September, after learning he had been out-raised by his opponent, the Democratic nominee Joseph Biden, by $150 million in one month, the Trump campaign became more aggressive, The Times reported.
The recurring donation would now be taken out every week, instead of monthly.
Gloria Chavez, Chief Patrol Agent for the El Centro Sector, presents a section of the border barrier, from Agents and employees of the Border Patrol’s El Centro Sector to Trump in April 2019. It now proudly sits on his desk
Thousands of people among Trump’s devoted fan base ended up out of pocket, and fighting banks or credit card companies for refunds
Pre-checked boxes, like the ones above, began appearing in Trump campaign emails in March 2020. In June, the emails included a second pre-checked box – known as a ‘money bomb’ – which duped thousands of donors into making recurring payments. When the campaign learned it had been out-fundraised by Biden’s team by $150 million in a single month, it began adding lines of bolded, capitalized text
Stacy Blatt, 63, was battling cancer in a hospice in Kansas City when he donated $500 to Trump’s campaign in September. He would end up being charged $3000
And the campaign later added large blocks of bold, capitalized text to the boxes to make them harder to decipher.
Soon after Election Day, banks and credit card companies became inundated with complaints.
‘It started to go absolutely wild,’ a Wells Fargo fraud investigator told the New York Times.
In all, Trump has had to pay back $122 million in donations made to five organizations: Donald J. Trump for President, Trump Victory, Trump Make America Great Again Committee, Save America, and the Republican National Committee.
Another reason Trump had to refund such large amounts of money was because many of his individual donors exceeded the legally-allowed cap of $2,800.
This dwarfed the $21m refunded to donors by the Biden campaign.
All of the donations were made via the Republican-linked for-profit donation-processing company WinRed, which charges 30 cents of every donation, plus 3.8 percent of the amount given.
Ira Rheingold, the executive director of the National Association of Consumer Advocates, told the New York Times the scheme was ‘unfair’, ‘unethical’ and ‘inappropriate.’
A Trump spokesman, Jason Miller, pointed to internal campaign records which showed less than 1 percent of total donations to WinRed had been subjected to complaints.
‘Our campaign was built by the hardworking men and women of America and cherishing their investments was paramount to anything else we did,’ Miller told The Times.