Leaders of the Lincoln Project - a cadre of anti-Trump Republicans who raised $87 million to oppose the former president's reelection - knew about co-founder John Weaver's sexual harassment allegations involving young men after being warned multiple times last year, yet Weaver remained at the organization for at least seven months after the first report, according to an in-depth investigation by the New York Times' Danny Hakim, Maggie Astor and Jo Becker.
Citing a mix of anonymous sources and former employees, the Times found that the group knew about Weaver's aggressive harassment of young men since at least January, 2020, when an employee for the group's digital marketing firm, Tusk, told board member and contractor Ron Steslow that Weaver "had a history of flirting with gentlemen over Twitter in an inappropriate fashion."
Months later, another employee at Tusk told Steslow about a range of allegations against Weaver dating from 2014 - 2020, which included a "bait-and-switch situation" whereby Weaver allegedly waved promises of a political job with a young man, only to try and bring him to his hotel room instead.
Last June, an employee for a company hired by the Lincoln Project warned in an email that Mr. Weaver’s conduct was “potentially fatal” to the organization’s image. The email, sent to a board member and circulated to other leaders, described multiple instances of harassment. It said Mr. Weaver’s behavior was already damaging relationships with vendors and offered to put leaders in contact with some of the men involved. -New York Times
"I’m writing regarding a pattern of concerning behavior by Weaver that has been brought to my attention by multiple people," begins a June email. "In addition to being morally and potentially legally wrong, I believe what I’m going to outline poses an immediate threat to the reputation of the organization, and is potentially fatal to our public image."
Steslow unsuccessfully attempted to force Weaver out following the allegations, despite TLP's decision to launch a review after June which the Times says was limited in scope and failed to reach out to all the accusers. Weaver eventually acknowledged sending "inappropriate" messages to men and took medical leave from the group in August while he was still involved in a now-defunct media deal with TLP's other three co-founders, Steve Schmidt, Rick Wilson and Reed Galen.
By Oct. 30, Mr. Steslow, Mr. Madrid and Ms. Horn were already on edge as they gathered at Mr. Schmidt’s Utah house, listening as he outlined his vision for a media company. And it was soon made clear to them that they would not be equal partners. Though Mr. Schmidt had already brought Mr. Weaver in on the media deal, he referred to him indirectly as a “black box” that needed to be resolved, but didn’t give details.
What Mr. Schmidt didn’t say was that the four original principals had already signed a 27-page agreement for TLP Media that named Mr. Schmidt as manager and required each to chip in $100,000 for an equal share, according to a copy reviewed by The Times. -New York Times
The Lincoln Project was the most obvious and glaring fraud in modern history but also -- due to the utter gullibility of #Resistance liberals -- one of the most successful. They enriched some of the worst slime in the country and got nothing in return but videos made for liberals https://t.co/Qs2ceDweW3— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) March 8, 2021
There are conflicting accounts of who knew what about Weaver, and when. Co-founder Steve Schmidt, a former political adviser to John McCain and Arnold Schwarzenegger, insists he had "no awareness or insinuations of any type of inappropriate behavior," just rumors that Weaver was gay - "even as concerns about harassment were percolating within the organization he was helping run," according to the report. Reed Galen was made aware of accusations against Weaver from the June email. George Conway, husband to former Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway and Project Lincoln consultant, says he learned about the accusations against Weaver during mediation over an internal dispute involving the new media venture.
It was only during the course of that mediation, Mr. Conway added, that he first learned something about Mr. Weaver’s behavior. Mr. Steslow and Mr. Madrid told him they were concerned that Mr. Weaver might still be getting paid despite having sent inappropriate messages to young political consultants, Mr. Conway said, though he added that he wasn’t given details or told that it involved people who worked with the project. -New York Times
Who could have possibly known that the Lincoln Project was a gigantic scam and fraud that had no purpose but to enrich its founders off the backs of their #Resistance victims -- except for the thousands of people repeatedly saying this?https://t.co/efeH9lnNrC— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) March 8, 2021
Following reports of Weaver's conduct, several board members and other TLP leaders, such as former New Hampshire Republican Party Chairwoman Jennifer Horn, left the group.
"When I spoke to one of the founders to raise my objections and concerns, I was yelled at, demeaned and lied to," says Horn.
Meanwhile, the Times also raises questions over private financial deals between the project's four founders - who earned undisclosed amounts from $27 million funneled to the consulting firm of co-founder Reed Galen. According to the report, their private arrangement protected them from revealing the size of the payments they received.
As it stands now, TLP is still led by Schmidt, Galen and Wilson - who hope that their more than 500,000 donors will remain loyal and keep them afloat.
"I want the Lincoln Project to be one of the premier pro-democracy organizations," said Schmidt shortly before he took a February leave of absence - stepping down from the board but remaining with the organization. "We believe there is a real autocratic movement that is a threat to democracy and has a floor of 40 percent in the next election. And the pro-democracy side cannot be the gentle side of the debate."
Let's see if the group can survive until midterm elections.