The disaster engulfing the anti-Trump group the Lincoln Project deepened on Friday when Steve Schmidt, a co-founder, resigned abruptly from the board and former workers renewed calls for to be launched from nondisclosure agreements as a way to present extra details about the group’s dealing with of harassment allegations in opposition to one other co-founder, John Weaver.
Mr. Schmidt will stay with the group in an govt capability after he takes a short lived go away. He stepped down from the board to quell a rising furor across the Lincoln Project, however had solely joined the board after the November election.
In an extraordinary statement Friday night, Mr. Schmidt described being sexually assaulted as a young person, evoking his personal expertise as he sought to clarify his extensively criticized response to the allegations in opposition to Mr. Weaver.
“I am incandescently angry about it,” he mentioned of Mr. Weaver’s actions, which concerned undesirable sexual messages to quite a few younger males. He added, referring to the person he mentioned 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.”
Mr. Schmidt reiterated his declare that he had not identified of Mr. Weaver’s habits till final month. However, a former Lincoln Project worker informed The New York Times that Mr. Schmidt had identified by October 2020 on the newest. The former worker described being within the room when Mr. Schmidt spoke about it.
Mr. Schmidt issued his assertion Friday evening after a lawyer for a 3rd co-founder, Jennifer Horn, despatched the Lincoln Project a discover instructing it to protect paperwork in anticipation of a lawsuit, in response to an individual accustomed to the communication.
The turmoil this week has been deeply damaging to the Lincoln Project, which emerged over the past yr because the main group of Republicans against the presidency of Donald J. Trump. It skewered Mr. Trump with mocking adverts and drew a big following on the left.
But the group’s management has fractured for the reason that election. Two board members, Ron Steslow and Mike Madrid, left in December. George T. Conway III, one other key determine, has additionally departed. Ms. Horn lately resigned, issuing a scathing statement, and on Thursday, the group tweeted her non-public Twitter messages with a reporter.
Those tweets had been subsequently deleted, and Mr. Schmidt mentioned in his assertion: “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.”
Also on Friday, the host of a program on the group’s media arm resigned after less than one week. And a high worldwide affairs skilled, the outstanding anti-Trump conservative Tom Nichols, mentioned he was stepping down as an unpaid adviser to the group.
The backlash in opposition to the Lincoln Project started with the revelation final month that Mr. Weaver had repeatedly harassed younger males and no less than one minor. It intensified on Thursday with printed experiences that leaders had identified in regards to the harassment final yr and didn’t act, the demand by former staff to be launched from their N.D.A.s, and the unauthorized posting of Ms. Horn’s Twitter messages.
Top Lincoln Project officers mentioned on Thursday evening that they had been hiring an out of doors investigator to evaluate Mr. Weaver’s tenure, promising transparency and saying that Mr. Weaver’s conduct “must be reckoned with.”
Ms. Horn, who resigned from the Lincoln Project final week, mentioned in an announcement Thursday that she had lately discovered that different leaders of the group had ignored warnings about Mr. Weaver’s conduct. In addition to the previous worker who mentioned Mr. Schmidt had identified by October, a number of different individuals who labored for the group have mentioned leaders knew even earlier.
The younger males Ms. Horn spoke with had been “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 assertion. “When I spoke to one of the founders to raise my objections and concerns, I was yelled at, demeaned and lied to.”
More disclosures might be imminent. Eight former workers and associates — six on Thursday evening, and two extra on Friday — have now signed the letter asking for launch from their N.D.A.s. The signers haven’t but spoken publicly, however they offered a duplicate of the letter to The New York Times, and their identities are identified to The Times.
They mentioned they weren’t snug contacting the group on to be launched from their N.D.A.s, as Lincoln Project leaders prompt in a statement.
“Expecting victims and those close to victims to contact and engage the people and organization accused of protecting the very predator at issue is absurd, unreasonable and insensitive,” they wrote.
Further controversy erupted late Thursday evening when the Lincoln Project posted screenshots from Ms. Horn’s Twitter account, revealing her direct messages with a reporter, after which shortly took them down. Unauthorized access of a social media account could be unlawful, relying on the circumstances.
Those posts had been the final straw for Mr. Nichols, a world affairs skilled on the U.S. Naval War College, who announced on Friday that he was ending his ties to the group.
“I have been thinking about whether to continue my association for a while,” Mr. Nichols mentioned in an electronic mail 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 mentioned that as a volunteer, he had no perception into the group’s inside governance.
Mr. Weaver, 61, is a longtime Republican presidential marketing campaign adviser who gained prominence throughout John McCain’s runs in 2000 and 2008 and in addition labored for John Kasich in 2016. The Times reported final month, based mostly on interviews with 21 younger males, that Mr. Weaver had for years despatched unsolicited and sexually provocative messages on-line.
The youngest individual The Times interviewed was 14 when Mr. Weaver first contacted him; the messages grew to become overtly sexual after he turned 18.
On Thursday, The Associated Press and New York magazine, citing unidentified former workers, reported that Lincoln Project leaders knew about Mr. Weaver’s habits final summer time, which Mr. Schmidt has continued to disclaim. Mr. Weaver took a medical go away from the group in August and introduced final month that he wouldn’t return.
In its assertion on Thursday, the Lincoln Project mentioned 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 identical time, the group’s leaders have repeatedly dismissed reporting about after they discovered of Mr. Weaver’s habits, and about Ms. Horn’s resignation, as hit jobs from supporters of former President Donald J. Trump.
The eight former workers and associates expressed anger at that of their open letter. To insinuate that their efforts constituted a right-wing assault, 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.”