Lincoln Project Co-Founder Steve Schmidt Resigns

Lincoln Project

Lincoln Project Co-Founder Steve Schmidt Resigns

Steve Schmidt said he was stepping down from the board but remaining with the organization, and eight former workers said they wanted to share information …

Lincoln Project Co-Founder Steve Schmidt Resigns – The New York Times

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Lincoln Project Co-Founder Resigns From Board Amid a Deepening Crisis

Steve Schmidt said he was stepping down from the board but remaining with the organization, and eight former workers said they wanted to share information about the handling of harassment allegations against another co-founder.

Steve Schmidt, a Lincoln Project co-founder, during a summit in Beverly Hills, Calif., in 2018. He resigned from the group’s board on Friday.Credit…Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images

By and

Feb. 12, 2021

The crisis engulfing the anti-Trump group the Lincoln Project deepened on Friday when Steve Schmidt, a co-founder, resigned abruptly from the board and former employees renewed demands to be released from nondisclosure agreements in order to provide more information about the organization’s handling of harassment allegations against another co-founder, John Weaver.

Mr. Schmidt will remain with the organization in an executive capacity after he takes a temporary leave. He stepped down from the board to quell a growing furor around the Lincoln Project, but had only joined the board after the November election.

In an Friday evening, Mr. Schmidt described being sexually assaulted as a teenager, evoking his own experience as he sought to explain his widely criticized response to the allegations against Mr. Weaver.

“I am incandescently angry about it,” he said of Mr. Weaver’s actions, which involved . He added, referring to the man he said assaulted him, “I am angry because I know the damage that he caused to me, and I know the journey that lies ahead for every young man that trusted, feared and was abused by John Weaver.”

. George T. Conway III, another key figure, has also departed. Ms. Horn recently resigned, issuing , and on Thursday, the group tweeted her private Twitter messages with a reporter.

Those tweets were subsequently deleted, and Mr. Schmidt said in his statement: “That direct message should never have been made public. It is my job as the senior leader to accept responsibility for the tremendous misjudgment to release it.” He apologized to Ms. Horn, calling her “an important and valuable member of our team.”

. And a top international affairs expert, the prominent anti-Trump conservative Tom Nichols, said he was stepping down as an unpaid adviser to the group.

The backlash against the Lincoln Project began with the revelation last month that Mr. Weaver had and at least one minor. It intensified on Thursday with published reports that leaders had known about the harassment last year and failed to act, the demand by former workers to be released from their N.D.A.s, and the unauthorized posting of Ms. Horn’s Twitter messages.

Top Lincoln Project officials said on Thursday night that they were hiring an outside investigator to review Mr. Weaver’s tenure, promising transparency and saying that Mr. Weaver’s conduct “must be reckoned with.”

Ms. Horn, who , said in a statement Thursday that she had recently learned that other leaders of the group had ignored warnings about Mr. Weaver’s conduct. In addition to the former employee who said Mr. Schmidt had known by October, several other people who worked for the group have said leaders knew even earlier.

The young men Ms. Horn spoke with were “hurt that their experiences were being denied, angry that they had been used and lied to, and fearful that they would be targeted again,” she wrote in her statement. “When I spoke to one of the founders to raise my objections and concerns, I was yelled at, demeaned and lied to.”

More disclosures could be imminent. Eight former employees and associates — six on Thursday night, and two more on Friday — have now signed the letter asking for release from their N.D.A.s. The signers have not yet spoken publicly, but they provided a copy of the letter to The New York Times, and their identities are known to The Times.

They said they were not comfortable contacting the organization directly to be released from their N.D.A.s, as Lincoln Project leaders suggested .

from Ms. Horn’s Twitter account, revealing her direct messages with a reporter, and then quickly took them down. can be illegal, depending on the circumstances.

Those posts were the last straw for Mr. Nichols, an international affairs expert at the U.S. Naval War College, who that he was ending his ties to the organization.

“I have been thinking about whether to continue my association for a while,” Mr. Nichols said in an email to The Times. “I was upset by John Weaver’s despicable behavior and concerned about the ongoing public conflict among the principals, but I made my final decision yesterday when Jennifer Horn’s personal messages were published. I’m glad they’re bringing in an outside adviser to help them sort through everything, and I hope there is accountability for what happened with Weaver.”

Mr. Nichols said that as a volunteer, he had no insight into the group’s internal governance.

, based on interviews with 21 young men, that Mr. Weaver had for years sent unsolicited and sexually provocative messages online.

and , citing unidentified former employees, reported that Lincoln Project leaders knew about Mr. Weaver’s behavior last summer, which Mr. Schmidt has continued to deny. Mr. Weaver took a medical leave from the group in August and announced last month that he would not return.

In its statement on Thursday, the Lincoln Project said that Mr. Weaver had “betrayed all of us” and that it was bringing in “a best-in-class outside professional” to “establish both accountability and best practices going forward.”

At the same time, the group’s leaders have repeatedly dismissed reporting about when they learned of Mr. Weaver’s behavior, and about Ms. Horn’s resignation, as hit jobs from supporters of former President Donald J. Trump.

The eight former employees and associates expressed anger at that in their open letter. To insinuate that their efforts constituted a right-wing attack, they wrote, “is not in keeping with the values we signed up to uphold, and resembles the tactics and behavior we joined the Lincoln Project to defeat.”

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