The Fall Of The Lincoln Project


The Lincoln Project. A group of former and present Republicans focused on preventing the re-election of President Donald Trump. The committee was announced on December 17, 2019, by George Conway, Steve Schmidt, John Weaver, and Rick Wilson. Schmidt and Weaver were former associates of John McCain’s presidential campaign in 2000. On April 15, 2020, the members of the Lincoln Project, Conway, Schmidt, Weaver, and Wilson, endorsed Joe Biden. The group would go on raising millions to be directed at mocking and criticizing the Trump Administration. 

However, on January 11th, 2021, journalist Ryan Girdusky would publish a story in the American Conservative about allegations on co-founder John Weaver, who has a wife and two children, in which he harassed and groomed dozens of young men for sexual favors and gratification in return for political job opportunities and favors. Weaver then would attempt to alleviate the severity of his actions by stating that his sexual orientation contradicting his love for his family led to his, “inability to reconcile those two truths,” leading to an “agonizing place."

The Lincoln Project would then state that "John's statement speaks for itself.” The New York Times would then release an article on January 31, 2021, putting the heinous actions of Weaver into the mainstream. It wasn’t until the attention garnered that the Lincoln Project would release a statement properly condemning John Weaver’s actions. One of them being unsolicited messages sent to a 14 -year-old boy asking about his body and then stating, “I want to come to Vegas and take you to dinner and drinks and spoil you!!” once the boy turned 18. The Lincoln Project would go on to state that Weaver is "a predator, a liar, and an abuser", and denounced his "deplorable and predatory behavior." This statement was released weeks after the Axios article and only after the story had received massive attention.

However, this was not the first time the Lincoln project members heard about Weaver’s actions. 

In fact, The Lincoln Project knew about allegations of sexual harassment against co-founder John Weaver way before the Axios article. On June 17, a person working at the Lincoln Project sent an email to co-founder Ron Steslow reporting ten allegations of Weaver harassing men, including at least one employee at the Lincoln Project. Steslow also discussed the email with corporate counsel Matthew Sanderson and advocated for Weaver to be removed from the organization.

In September, a large portion of the Lincoln Project staff convened in Park City, Utah, where they stayed down in a COVID-safe pod until Election Day. At this time, the allegations against Weaver were an open secret in the company, according to a former employee his boss warned him to avoid Weaver. “When I was told, it was almost in passing that I did not want to be involved with Weaver specifically because I am a young man.”

On Thursday Intelligencer released an article containing another vivid example of John Weaver’s heinous behavior. Alex Johnson a senior at the University of Texas at Austin, was invited to work for the Lincoln Project by John Weaver when he had co-founded it. Weaver would offer to introduce Alex to some of their “folks” and would then state, “On [your] walk, think about worshipping a big cock and having yours worshipped and you rimmed till you beg!” Weaver would also make many phone calls to Johnson once talking about advertising strategies and ways to get him involved, Johnson then said Weaver asked him “When’s the last time you jacked off?’” 

Another Lincoln Project Co-Founder, Jennifer Horn, says the group knew of sexual harassment allegations. Horn stated she had raised “objections and concerns” about the statement that The Lincoln Project had released after the Times story broke but was “yelled at, demeaned, and lied to” by another co-founder. 

John Weaver officially left in January. As of now Steve Schmidt, the most visible face of the Lincoln Project, resigned from the organization on Friday evening. Earlier that day, the company’s chief spokesperson, Kurt Bardella, also stepped down.

The night before Schmidt tweeted from the Lincoln Project’s account’s private messages to a recently departed co-founder, accusing her and a reporter of preparing a “hit job.” In a lengthy statement shared with Intelligencer on Friday following his resignation, Schmidt claimed he had no knowledge prior to January of allegations against Weaver. 

Another founder, George Conway, stated in a series of tweets, “For the record:  No one ever told me of these complaints being made to the Lincoln project, and the first I ever heard that Weaver may have done anything questionable were rumors I heard well after the election, and long after I ceased active involvement with the organization.” and “I am disappointed in the handling of Weaver, if this report is accurate, and hope it does not detract from the fine work that so many people did on behalf of the Lincoln Project to help rid the country of the scourge of Donald Trump.”

Though the Lincoln Project and its co-founders deny any knowledge of the accusations against Weaver until this year, the warning in June was sent to co-founder Ron Steslow, who shared it with co-founder Reed Galen and the company’s corporate counsel. This raises questions to Schmidt’s statement, “there were zero allegations, complaints, media interrogatories directed to the Lincoln Project with any specificity, at any time about, any misconduct, towards any person.”

Multiple former employees and associates have also demanded the Lincoln Project release them from nondisclosure agreements so they may speak openly about the company and Weaver.

Some of the group’s wealthiest backers said they are considering cutting off contributions until they see the results of an independent investigation Schmidt claimed he has authorized.

John McCain’s daughter, Meghan McCain has come out and stated, 'I've been very hesitant to comment but since my deceased father keeps getting invoked I will say this: John Weaver and Steve Schmidt were so despised by my Dad he made it a point to ban them from his funeral. Since 2008, no McCain would have spit on them if they were on fire,” and, 'What disgusts me so much is that anyone who would engage in such awful and potentially illegal behavior would use their media associations with my father to gain opportunities. My dad was betrayed by you, hated you for it, and we all know it.” Weaver and Schmidt had both formerly worked with McCain during his presidential campaigns.

The organization said, “like so many,” they had been “betrayed and deceived” by Weaver despite members of the organization’s leadership being informed in writing and subsequent phone calls from at least 10 specific allegations of harassment against co-founder John Weaver, including two Lincoln Project employees in June 2020. Despite this initial warning, the group took no action against Weaver. 


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