News & Politics

Time to Lincoln-Lawyer Up? FBI Investigates as the Lincoln Project's Troubles Mount

AP Photo/Charles Krupa

The world of the anti-Republican Super PAC, the Lincoln Project, is quickly collapsing. The fallout is now coming fast and furious for the group this week following earlier allegations of sexual misconduct by one of its principal co-founders, John Weaver.

Over the last 24 hours, the body blows continue against the group led by former Republican operatives Steve Schmidt, Reed Galen, and Rick Wilson.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is now reportedly looking into the allegations against Weaver.

The FBI is investigating allegations against longtime GOP political consultant and Lincoln Project co-founder John Weaver, according to two sources who said they were contacted by FBI agents. Those sources told me the agents inquired whether Weaver ever touched them inappropriately or sent or requested sexually explicit material when they were underage.

The FBI asking potential witnesses about allegations of illegal conduct does not necessarily mean that someone is the subject or a target of a federal investigation. It’s also unclear what the scope of the FBI’s inquiry is; the sources who spoke to me said the questions they were asked were narrow in scope.

The news of the FBI investigation this morning comes on the heels of the Associated Press reporting that current Lincoln Project officials knew of, and tried to hide, the sexual misconduct allegations against their colleague.

In June 2020, members of the organization’s leadership were informed in writing and in subsequent phone calls of at least 10 specific allegations of harassment against co-founder John Weaver, including two involving Lincoln Project employees, according to multiple people with direct knowledge of the situation. The email and phone calls raise questions about the Lincoln Project’s statement last month that it was “shocked” when accusations surfaced publicly this year. It’s also the first known suggestion that Weaver targeted a Lincoln Project staffer.

The organization announced Thursday evening, after the new details were reported by The Associated Press, that its board had decided to “retain a best-in-class outside professional” to review Weaver’s tenure “to establish both accountability and best practices going forward for The Lincoln Project.”

Former staffers at the Lincoln Project are also reportedly wanting to speak freely about John Weaver’s predatory behavior and wish to be released from their non-disclosure agreements. In her attempts to expose the truth about the Weaver allegations, former Lincoln Project co-founder Jennifer Horn resigned from the group this week and is now being targeted by her former colleagues.

On top of all of this, the focus on Weaver’s behavior and a potential cover-up by his colleagues is resulting in new scrutiny into the group’s fundraising and spending.

Backed by its founders’ commanding social media presence, the organization quickly attracted a massive following of Trump critics in both parties that exceeded even its own founders’ expectations.

Since its creation, the Lincoln Project has raised $90 million. But only about a third of the money, roughly $27 million, directly paid for advertisements that aired on broadcast and cable, or appeared online, during the 2020 campaign, according to an analysis of campaign finance disclosures and data from the ad tracking firm Kantar/CMAG.

That leaves tens of millions of dollars that went toward expenses like production costs, overhead — and exorbitant consulting fees collected by members of the group.

The AP report further details the financial struggles of the Lincoln Project’s principals raising the question of the legality of the group’s expenses.

Public records reveal that the unexpected success of the Lincoln Project has extended a lifeline to some founders who have spent much of the past decade under financial distress.

Over the past decade, Weaver has repeatedly failed to pay taxes, defaulted on loans and faced lawsuits from creditors seeking to collect. In October, he paid off $313,000 in back taxes owed to the IRS dating back to 2011, records show. A separate case in Texas is still pending over $340,000 back rent his family owes after shuttering a children’s boutique they operated, records show.

Others used the money earned during their time with Lincoln Project to refinance homes, or purchase a new one. Schmidt purchased a $1.4 million “Mountain Modern” custom home in Kamas, Utah, with five bedrooms, seven baths and a “stunning” view of the Uinta Mountains, according to property records and real estate listings. He is currently trying to resell the home for $2.9 million.

The Lincoln Project scandals are apparently not a topic for discussion at CNN. Anderson Cooper has twice interviewed another of the disgraced group’s co-founders, George Conway, over the past week without bringing up the Weaver and financial issues plaguing the organization.

Bombshell reports published Thursday by the Associated Press and New York magazine allege that the leaders of the anti-Trump PAC were made aware in June 2020 of at least 10 sexual harassment allegations against their disgraced colleague John Weaver, including two involving Lincoln Project employees. The reports also detail the sexually-charged messages Weaver sent to young men.

Conway, who left The Lincoln Project in August 2020, called the New York magazine report “disturbing and appalling” before offering the group some legal advice.

Conway later appeared on CNN for more than ten minutes to talk about the second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump.

However, the “Anderson Cooper 360” anchor did not even mention the controversies plaguing Conway’s erstwhile colleagues.

Last week, Cooper similarly invited Conway onto his show and skipped over the Weaver allegations, instead keeping the subject on the embattled freshman Georgia GOP lawmaker Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene.

Aside from the legal problems Weaver and the Lincoln Project faces, donors now have to be asking themselves if they were tricked into funding a grifting operation to pay off long-standing debts by Lincoln Project founders.

Lincoln Project Co-Founder Departs as Weaver Accusations Rock It to Its Foundations