Lincoln Project sparks backlash for suggesting ‘independent’ probe absolves co-founders in John Weaver scandal

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The disgraced anti-Trump PAC The Lincoln Project has sparked intense backlash appearing to absolve its co-founders in what was dubbed an “independent” probe into the sexual harassment allegations against John Weaver.

In a memo sent to its supporters on Tuesday, Lincoln Project’s “Transition Advisory Committee” chair Tara Setmayer and vice chair Fred Wellman revealed that an investigation conducted by the law firm Paul Hastings LLP that launched in February “has now concluded.”

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“The investigation was initiated after news reports in January 2021 alleged that Mr. Weaver had, previous to his tenure at The Lincoln Project, engaged in inappropriate conversations with underage individuals,” Setmayer and Wellman wrote. “The investigation found no evidence that anyone at The Lincoln Project was aware of any inappropriate communications with any underage individuals at the time prior to the publication of those news reports.”

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They continued, “Additionally, the investigation found no communications nor conduct reported to The Lincoln Project or its leadership involving Mr. Weaver and any employee, contractor, or volunteer that would rise to the level of actionable sexual harassment.”

The memo didn’t mention how several lawyers at Paul Hastings were previously donors to The Lincoln Project last year, according to FEC filings. 

More than 20 young men accused Weaver of online harassment, including at least two minors. It was previously reported that Lincoln Project leadership was made aware of the allegations as early as March 2020, nearly a year before the bombshell reporting.

Ryan Girdusky, who was one of the first journalists who broke the Weaver scandal, blasted the memo by highlighting its carefully-worded language regarding the Lincoln Project co-founders’ specific knowledge of minors being harassed while evading alleged knowledge of any harassment committed by their colleague.  

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“The Lincoln Project independent investigation did NOT state if the group’s leadership were aware of any allegations of misconduct against Weaver before January 2021. Multiple reporters from many outlets concluded they did,” Girdusky wrote. 

Amanda Becker, the 19th reporter who authored an explosive report about the inner turmoil at The Lincoln Project and revealed its leaders knew about the Weaver allegations far sooner than they publicly claimed, also had questions.

“My question right now would be this: What is the definition of ‘actionable’ in this statement? If what they were told about as early as March 2020 was not ‘actionable’ sexual harassment, why the strong-armed tactics?” Becker wondered.

Others knocked the Lincoln Project’s memo absolving itself. 

“Consultants hired by Lincoln Project say they found no evidence anyone in the organization knew about any behavior by John Weaver that ‘would rise to the level of actionable sexual harassment.’ Report does not cover separate issue of the group’s finances,” Washington Examiner chief political correspondent Byron York wrote. 

“The Lincoln Project’s Investigation of itself shockingly finds the group did absolutely, positively nothing wrong nor engaged in a coverup of co-founder Weaver’s behavior. Donate today! Ugh,” The Hill columnist Joe Concha reacted.

Weaver, who formally left the organization in the summer for 2020, was accused of sending sexually explicit messages on social media to young men, often leveraging his status as a veteran political consultant and dangling potential career opportunities in exchange for sexual favors. 

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Lincoln Project co-founder George Conway, who parted ways with the PAC in August, called for the group to shut down amid damning reports involving the Weaver allegations as well as questions over the group’s finances, which critics have said have lined the pockets of the group’s leaders.