Steve Schmidt, the co-founder of the powerful Lincoln Project that has battled Donald Trump, has resigned from the organization’s board amid allegations against another co-founder of sexual harassment.
The resignation Friday was first reported by Axios.
The move comes after co-founder John Weaver was accused of sending sexually explicit messages via email or in phone calls to some 20 men, including to employees of The Lincoln Project. The organization — and Schmidt — have come under fire for not taking immediate action when the accusations reportedly surfaced months ago.
Schmidt, a longtime Republican strategist, said he was “incandescently angry” about Weaver’s actions in a long, startling statement he posted Friday on Twitter in which Schmidt revealed he was the victim of a sexual assault as a boy at camp. “I detest John Weaver in a way I can’t articulate,” he added. Schmidt said he first learned of Weaver’s behavior last month.
Referring to the man he said assaulted him, Schmidt added: “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.”
He added: “My heart breaks for the young men who felt unseen and unheard in an organization that I started. I promise that we will release the full findings of what we discover through an independent investigation.”
Regardless of his feelings about Weaver, Schmidt also said he was “enormously proud” of what The Lincoln Project accomplished.
Schmidt said he’s giving up his seat on the board to make way for a woman, and appeared to leave open the possibility of continuing to work with the organization after “much-needed” time off.
“Presently, the Lincoln Project board is made up of four middle-aged white men. That composition doesn’t reflect our nation, nor our movement,” he wrote. “I am resigning my seat on the Lincoln Project board to make room for the appointment of a female board member as the first step to reform and professionalize the Lincoln Project.”
Some top workers in the organization have quit in the wake of the Weaver news, and others are demanding to be released from their nondisclosure agreements to be free to discuss what happened.
Lincoln Project officials said in a statement Thursday that they were hiring an outside professional to investigate the situation, saying that Weaver’s conduct “must be reckoned with.”
Weaver told Axios last month: “To the men I made uncomfortable through my messages that I viewed as consensual, mutual conversations at the time: I am truly sorry. They were inappropriate and it was because of my failings that this discomfort was brought on you,” he added.
In the wake of the Weaver accusations, The Lincoln Project has come under increasing scrutiny in other matters. The Associated Press reported Thursday that the mostly Republican-led organization has spent about $50 million mostly on firms controlled by its leaders.