NEW YORK – Veteran Republican strategist Steve Schmidt, one of the faces of the so-called Never Trump movement, announced Friday that he has resigned from the board of the Lincoln Project.
The move comes after a tumultuous week in which revelations surfaced that the organization, an influential critic of former President Donald Trump, knew about allegations of sexual harassment involving one of its co-founders several months before acknowledging them publicly.
Schmidt made the announcement in a lengthy post on Twitter in which he shared a personal account of sexual abuse from a Boy Scout medic, a yearslong fight with depression and an apology for posting the private messages of a former Lincoln Project official a day earlier.
“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,” Schmidt wrote.
Spiraling allegations of misconduct have rocked the well-funded super PAC over the last 48 hours, raising existential questions about the organization's future while undercutting its message at a bad time. Having long claimed the moral high ground in its fight against Trump, the Lincoln Project is working to pressure Senate Republicans to convict the former president in this week's impeachment trial.
The Lincoln Project also played a major role in pushing Republican-friendly businesses to stop donating money to Trump's Republican allies in Congress.
Schmidt's statement came less than an hour after an attorney for former Lincoln Project official Jennifer Horn sent a note to the Lincoln Project counsel informing them that they should preserve documents and communications in anticipation of litigation.
In his statement, Schmidt acknowledged playing a role in the public release of a series of private messages between Horn and a reporter the night before.
“I am not the daily manager of the Lincoln Project, but I am the senior leader. As the senior leader, it is my responsibility to set an example and to assume accountability," he wrote.
“I would like to apologize to Jennifer Horn,” he continued. “She deserved better from me. She deserved a leader who could restrain his anger.”
While he stepped down from the four-member board, Schmidt is expected to maintain a role at the Lincoln Project. His statement did not address what he or other leaders may have known about co-founder John Weaver's misconduct before it became public late last month.
Last June, members of the organization’s leadership were informed in writing and in subsequent phone calls of at least 10 specific allegations of harassment against Weaver, including two involving Lincoln Project employees, according to multiple people with direct knowledge of the situation. The email and phone calls raised questions about the Lincoln Project’s statement last month that it was “shocked” when accusations surfaced publicly this year.
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.”
The Lincoln Project launched in November 2019 and quickly emerged as a powerful player in the political fight against Trump and his allies in Congress.
Since its creation, the organization 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.