The Lincoln Project’s co-founders reportedly included John Weaver in its plans for a new media venture after he went on leave amid sexual misconduct allegations

John Weaver
In this Jan. 20, 2016 file photo, John Weaver is shown on a campaign bus in Bow, N.H.

  • Embattled former Lincoln Project leader John Weaver was included in plans for a new media venture.
  • The New York Times reports that Weaver signed on to be a part of TLP Media in October 2020.
  • Weaver had gone on leave in August 2020 after an internal review of inappropriate behavior.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

The Lincoln Project, an anti-Trump political action committee created by a group of Republican political strategists, had plans to include embattled co-founder John Weaver in its plans to build a media venture while Weaver was on leave amid sexual harassment allegations, according to The New York Times.

Weaver, a former campaign strategist for 2008 presidential candidate John McCain and former Ohio Gov. John Kasich, was involved in the Lincoln Project from its inception. He had been distanced from the project since August 2020 but still had a hand in the creation of the media project.

The Times reported that in late October 2020, shortly before the presidential election, Weaver and fellow co-founders Steve Schmidt, Reed Galen, and Rick Wilson started making moves to establish a new venture together, called TLP Media. Weaver was formally still on leave but all four signed a “27-page agreement” to each put in $100,000 for TLP Media.

The Times reported that in the late October pitch meeting for the media venture, Schmidt referred to Weaver as a “black box.”

A Lincoln Project spokeswoman told The Times that TLP Media “is an inactive company – it only ever existed on paper, never conducted any business, and was never capitalized by its due date, making it null. There are no plans to use this business in the future.”

Beginning in late 2020, news outlets, including the American Conservative, Forensic News, The Times, and others, published accounts of dozens of young men who said Weaver communicated with them in sexually inappropriate ways, including offering them job opportunities and other professional perks in exchange for sex.

In a January 2021 statement, Weaver apologized for those communications with young men and came out as gay, saying of the messages he sent to the men, “They were inappropriate and it was because of my failings that this discomfort was brought on you.”

Following the publicizing of the allegations, the Associated Press reported that the Lincoln Project’s leadership team had been made aware of the claims via an email in June 2020.

However, The Times on Monday reported that the top brass at the Lincoln Project were made aware of the allegations as early as January 2020, and only conducted a limited review of the claims in the summer. The allegations against Weaver are now being investigated by an independent law firm hired by the Lincoln Project.

As Vanity Fair reported, the Lincoln Project’s ambitious plans for a media empire, including potential movie, TV, podcast, and book projects, fizzled out amid the Weaver allegations and scrutiny over the group’s finances and leadership structure. The Times reported that $27 million of the group’s fundraising haul directly flowed to Galen’s consulting firm and from there, to the co-founders themselves.

Those factors led to immense turmoil among the group’s top leadership and members, some of which played out in the public sphere. One former adviser, lawyer George Conway, called for the project to be disbanded altogether.

Schmidt, for his part, stepped down from the board after a public dispute with another former Lincoln Project leader Jennifer Horn, which included the group sending out a scathing public statement about Horn and then leaking Horn’s private Twitter messages with a reporter from the 19th News.

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The Lincoln Project condemns co-founder John Weaver after allegations of sexual misconduct towards young men

john weaver
John McCain (L) looks over some documents with then-campaign advisor John Weaver (R) while flying from Virginia Beach to Bismarck, North Dakota on February 28, 2000.

The Lincoln Project condemned its co-founder John Weaver after 21 men alleged he sent them unsolicited sexual overtures online. 

“John Weaver led a secret life that was built on a foundation of deception at every level. He is a predator, a liar, and an abuser. We extend our deepest sympathies to those who were targeted by his deplorable and predatory behavior,” the group said in a statement.

The New York Times reported f Sunday that 21 men have alleged Weaver sent them unsolicited and sexually provocative messages, including at one point to a 14-year-old boy. He sent overt sexual solicitations to at least 10 of the men over a period of years.

Weaver allegedly asked Cole Trickle Miele about his body when he was 14, but asked more direct questions after he turned 18. 

Miele had followed Weaver on Twitter in 2015 and immediately got a private message from him but didn’t think anything was strange about the situation. 

“I remember being a 14-year-old kid interested in politics and being semi-starstruck by John Weaver engaging in a conversation with me,” Miele told the Times. 

None of the men accused him of unlawful conduct. The messages led to just one consensual encounter, the Times reported. 

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Weaver also offered professional help in exchange for sex, telling one man he would “spoil you when we see each other,” the Times reported. 

“Help you other times. Give advice, counsel, help with bills. You help me…sensually,” Weaver allegedly wrote. 

Weaver was a former advisor to the late Senator John McCain and in 2019 co-founded The Lincoln Project, a group of GOP operatives who opposed former President Donald Trump. They achieved notoriety last year for campaigning against Trump and his allies, with billboards in New York City mocking Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner.

Earlier this month, Axios reported that men had accused Weaver of sending inappropriate messages. 

At the time, Weaver told Axios: “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.” 

“The truth is that I’m gay,” Weaver added. “And that I have a wife and two kids who I love. My inability to reconcile those two truths has led to this agonizing place.”

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Weaver took a “medical leave of absence” from the group last summer and “will not be returning to the group,” Axios said earlier this month. 

In their statement, The Lincoln Project said it was grateful Weaver was never around other members.

“The totality of his deceptions are beyond anything any of us could have imagined and we are absolutely shocked and sickened by it. Like so many, we have been betrayed and deceived by John Weaver,” the group said. “We are grateful beyond words that at no time was John Weaver in the physical presence of any member of The Lincoln Project.”

However, Ryan Girdusky, a writer for  The American Conservative who first reported on the allegations on January 11, told The Washington Post that the group’s statement was false and The Lincoln Project has known about the allegations since last year. 

The Lincoln Project did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

Co-founder Steve Schmidt told the Times that the group was aware Weaver could be having relationships with men. However, he said: “There was no awareness or insinuations of any type of inappropriate behavior when we became aware of the chatter at the time.”

Read the original article on Business Insider